These are unprecedented times. Thanks to COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, many industries that normally work on a job site or in an office are trying to find ways to work remotely. All organizations other than businesses considered essential are expected to close their doors or limit interaction with the general public to try and slow the spread of the virus.
For many supervisors, managers and business owners, this means struggling to keep their team connected as they all weather the storm in their own homes. What can businesses do to keep their teams connected during these trying times?
Help Them Upgrade Their Tech
One of the biggest challenges facing employees who find themselves suddenly thrust into the world of remote work is that they don't have the equipment to stay connected or complete their work. For those who don't spend a lot of time on their computers, there's no need to upgrade things unless they break down.
To keep their teams connected, managers and business owners can start by offering to help team members upgrade their home office. This doesn't have to be a dramatic upgrade — even providing an extra monitor or the ability to grab a comfortable chair from the office can help. Springing for top-of-the-line gaming computers isn't necessary, but giving team members the ability to stay connected is worth the investment.
Create a Digital Water Cooler
While socialization isn't the point of working in an office, it's often a pleasant side effect. People are happy to take a break from their work schedule to have a conversation or exchange small talk with their coworkers and colleagues. This often inadvertently works as an unofficial team-building exercise, creating bonds that keep employees connected.
Create a digital water cooler. This could be a Discord chat server, a Zoom meeting, a Google Hangouts room or an old-school forum. It just needs to be a place where colleagues can converse outside of a professional setting. It also allows people to stay connected with their "work family" without worrying about social distancing.
Invest in Industry-Specific Technology
Some industries have taken to remote work more naturally than others. Business owners in the construction industry or others that normally require in-person work, but have transitioned to remote models, may wish to consider investing in some industry-specific software or hardware that will enable them to continue to work from home.
The exact applications will vary from business to business and from industry to industry. A construction company may utilize a site positioning system that allows them to monitor their job site remotely, even if they're not actively working on it. Teams may also continue their investment in project management software, cloud communication platforms and other tools that allow employees to connect and collaborate on projects from anywhere.
Consider Providing Digital Training
Remote work doesn't have to be downtime for companies that find themselves struggling to adapt to this new model. This could be a fantastic opportunity for employers to offer continuing education programs and new training to their team members. Digital training can keep team members engaged and give them the skills they'll need to thrive in their field when things start to return to normal.
Many training software platforms are already offering training for people who have been laid off during this pandemic. But if they aren't offering the kinds of classes that will mesh well with a particular industry, there are plenty of other options. Leaders can consider sharing resources via online documents, videos and courses for their team — giving them access to ongoing learning opportunities while their work may be limited.
Host a Digital Happy Hour
Even if they're all stuck at home, employees need the opportunity to blow off some steam with their work friends and colleagues. With that in mind, consider hosting a digital happy hour. Team members can join a Zoom chat or another video chat and just have fun chatting and hanging out, even if it's only in a virtual space.
For those concerned about the behavior of their team members where alcohol is involved, the best advice is to implement the same sort of rules that would be in place during an in-person happy hour. As an added bonus, if someone chooses to misbehave during a virtual happy hour, it's much easier to click the kick button than it is to convince them to take an Uber home.
Make It a Point to Stay in Touch
Right now, there is no telling how long social distancing and remote work will be necessary, so we need to make the best of it. Make it a point to stay in touch through digital chat rooms, video meetings or phone calls. The best thing a manager can do right now for their team is to let them know that those lines of communication are still open.