Editor’s Note: Gary Shapiro, President and CEO at Consumer Technology Association, recently shared this insight article on LinkedIn. To read more articles By Mr. Shapiro, visit his LinkedIn page here.
Cities and states across America are beginning to reopen – but many employees will not be back in the office this summer. At the end of May, 53% of employees were still working from home. At the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), we are working remotely until Labor Day; we chose this date to give employees some sense of structure to their summers and allow them to plan for childcare and other transitions.
According to a Willis Towers Watson survey, U.S. companies expect the percentage of remote full-time employees after the coronavirus pandemic will be three times what it was in 2019. Some of America’s leading technology companies are giving their employees permission to work from home indefinitely. Other employees will continue working from home to care for children or protect high-risk family members, even as their colleagues return to the office.
Most companies are continuing some form of remote work this summer. Here are some ways we can support them as they remain at home:
Rethink remote conferencing. Zoom fatigue is real. While video calls can be helpful in certain situations, often a phone call will serve just as well. For one-on-one calls, especially with direct reports, I often give the other person the option. The advantage of non-video calls is we can focus on the substantive conversation rather than the artwork or cat in the background. However, group calls are almost always better by video, and for newer groups, they have the benefit of name ID and provide quicker camaraderie. Dress respectfully but reserve anything above business casual for job and media interviews.
It helps to make a video call less than a half-hour or hour to create a hard ending expectation and allow transition time between meetings. Also, hosts of group video calls should allow participants who jump on before start time to chat and catch up, rather than keeping them in the virtual “waiting room.” These kinds of informal moments can boost camaraderie and morale for remote workers.
Plan for summer childcare challenges. Most summer camps have been shortened or canceled completely, meaning parents face the challenge of juggling childcare and working from home. Support your employees with children by encouraging them to take breaks from their screens, so that they can do the same for their kids. Be understanding of flexible schedules; some employees might have to work at night after their kids are asleep so that they can be caretakers during the day.
Stay mindful of your employees’ mental health needs. Undoubtedly, it’s easier to tell how your employees are managing stress and balancing their personal and professional lives when you can see them in person. That’s why it’s important for managers to make sure they’re helping their employees take care of themselves, both physically and mentally. For example, CTA has prioritized mental health by providing employee assistance programs that include Teladoc mental health appointments and setting up wellness challenges through wearable fitness devices.
Managers can also make a point of checking in one-on-one with the employees who need to work from home longer than their colleagues. They may feel isolated and disconnected as other colleagues return to the office.
All companies, no matter their size or industry, will encounter challenges as they adopt summer remote work policies to protect their employees’ health, safety and families. But by thinking strategically and compassionately, we can create the kind of flexible workplace that increases employee well-being not just in the short term but in the long term.
This article originally ran on LinkedIn.com. To read more articles By Mr. Shapiro, visit his LinkedIn page here.