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COVID-19 has created a new normal: knowledge workers setting up their offices at home, juggling child care, homeschooling, and household chores even as they try to maintain and develop business relationships over video links.
All this comes following years marked by declining employee engagement and rising levels of stress in the workplace. Now the sudden and unexpected shift to home working has caused unprecedented levels of disruption to the lives of workers.
No surprise, most organizations were caught cold by the pandemic. The question now becomes, how can they support their teams as the world structurally shifts to a work-from-home model?
Supporting the Distributed Workplace
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a scramble to upgrade and align central IT infrastructures—from security approaches and software deployment models to the adoption of user-facing solutions like intranets and workplace technologies like chat, file sharing, and digital whiteboards.
But those efforts won’t fruit if employees at home aren’t properly equipped. It’s vital that organizations commit to supporting their workers with their home setup—certainly, more than most companies have done in the past, when working from home was typically an ad hoc arrangement. Start by examining the challenges faced by each team member and making sure they have the things they need to succeed:
- Hardware: Is their home laptop and phone good enough? Do they need an upgraded webcam, larger monitor, or an ergonomic keyboard/mouse setup?
- Software: Does each team member have the permissions and licenses needed to complete their work?
- Access: Are multiple members of the home consuming bandwidth or competing for a landline phone, perhaps requiring a service upgrade?
The rapid adjustment to working from home has made long-term planning difficult, but if this becomes a structural shift, support for home workers will become a vital part of employee and facilities management.
The perspectives of employees determine their likely trajectory as members of an organization. Their sense of belonging, their trust in the capability of leaders to meet the challenges of the pandemic, and their belief that the business offers a career development path in uncertain times all feed into their sense of belonging, worth, and desire.
Employees that believe in the business and feel the business believes and supports them will be more productive, creative, and inspired as time goes on. Organizations can address this question dynamic with three simple steps:
- Set clear goals for each team and team member
- Clarify how each team member’s role has changed (or, if not, confirm their role is unchanged)
- Leverage tools that allow team members to work together remotely with no friction
Going back to basics—communicating well with teams, assigning clearly defined roles, and providing the tools that they need to succeed—will be the key to engaged and productive dispersed teams.
The shift to working from home has changed the lives of many knowledge workers, but organizations can help their employees shift to the new ways of working. Through the right infrastructure, tools, and support for team members, it’s possible to build an enterprise that is stronger and more resilient, agile, and ready for challenge than before the great disruption of the pandemic.