By Josette Olivera:
If your office is larger than 25 employees, your team may be missing each other, and you might be feeling eager to get everyone back together, but that doesn’t mean a return is in the company’s best interest right now. From layers of logistics to staff fears and anxieties, planning to bring people back to the office could actually end up being more complicated than maintaining a WFH lifestyle for a few more months.
Here are five reasons your team should remain remote, along with tips for how to use tools like employee appreciation gifts and incentives to keep them productive even while they’re home.
- It could be logistically difficult to manage hybrid schedules and ensure teams are both safe and socially distant while in the office.
There are federal guidelines for a safe and healthy return to office work, and depending on where you’re located, there are likely state and regional rules and regulations as well. If your office is part of a bigger building, then there are probably building restrictions and capacity limits, too. That leaves the company responsible for assigning schedules, taking temperatures, requiring masks, regulating ventilation, limiting interactions between employees, orchestrating enhanced cleaning and more. Sound exhausting and time consuming? It is, and if you don’t have the resources to ensure all of this can be managed well, your team should remain remote.
- You’ve already heavily invested in remote tools and technologies.
The transition to remote work happened rather abruptly for many companies when stay at home orders were put into effect in certain states, in some instances requiring unexpected investments in technologies. Whether you equipped the team with laptops and cell phones and all of their associated software, had to set up a VPN for security, invested in virtual meeting technologies and chat rooms, provided stipends for home office tools or offered a combination of all of these resources, this process likely cost a lot of time and money. Why rush back to the office before making the most of this investment?
- Some people might be very scared about returning to the office.
With reports that half of American professionals are afraid to go back to the office during COVID-19, it’s not unlikely that at least a few members of your team are experiencing this fear. That can put a damper on company morale and possibly even negatively affect overall productivity. If you sense there is some apprehension about a return and everything seems to be going quite smoothly while remote, your team will breathe easier knowing they don’t have to go back just yet.
- Parents might still be balancing childcare and online schooling while at home.
While everyone has had to find ways to adapt their schedules during this new normal, many working parents have been forced to juggle multiple roles throughout the pandemic, serving not only as remote employees, but also as parents, caregivers and teachers. For those who have gotten into some form of a rhythm with their duties, a forced return could wreak havoc on the delicate balance they’ve created. Especially since schools are still figuring out their return plans, the added stress of managing childcare and commutes could make things extra difficult on the working parents at the company.
- Everyone might end up quarantined at home if a second wave hits in the fall.
In certain states, case numbers are still rising, but even in the places that have managed to limit the spread throughout the summer, there’s still a risk of another spike once the weather gets colder and people aren’t able to gather as comfortably outdoors. If you bring people back to the office prematurely, you might end up needing to send everyone back home anyway. The constant switching of work styles is bound to put a damper on team morale.
Staying Productive While WFH
If you’ve committed to keeping your larger team at home for the foreseeable future, it makes sense to want to learn how to support employee well-being and do what you can to keep the team productive and happy. After all, increasing employee productivity and job satisfaction go hand in hand. It’s worth it to make an effort to surprise and delight the team even when things feel busy and challenging.
- Host a virtual happy hour to give team members the chance to relax and blow off some steam. It’ll be refreshing to connect with their colleagues and talk about things other than work.
- Plan a team trivia night to inspire a little bit of healthy competition. Use the breakout rooms feature on Zoom to let the teams collaborate on their answers.
- Incentivize reaching performance goals with the promise of some fun company swag. Whether it’s a pair of custom socks that feature your logo or a motivational poster, prizes can include items that will help them get comfortable in their at-home office space.
- Surprise the team by shipping employee appreciation gifts right to their doors. Whether you send a gift card for lunch on the company’s dime, some new office supplies to help encourage creativity or a big ‘ol bottle of vino to “wine” down with after hours, employees will appreciate that you’ve thought of them during these times.
There are many ways you can inspire camaraderie amongst the team, and the most important part of establishing an effective initiative is to be mindful of all of the wonderful things that make your employees and the company they work for unique.
Safer and Happier at Home
If you have a good thing going with your temporarily-remote workforce, there’s really no need to send people back if they don’t have a good reason to be working out of the office. Especially when times are scary, your teams will appreciate that you’re not only taking steps to help them stay productive and happy, but also doing what you can to ensure they’re safe and healthy throughout all of this.
About the Author: Josette Olivera is the Marketing Director for The Sock Drawer.