Teleworking in Uncharted Territory: Tips to Help Teleworking Employees During the Pandemic

In the blink of an eye, millions of employees have become full-time teleworkers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the blink of an eye, millions of employees have become full-time teleworkers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And if that wasn’t disruptive enough, many have simultaneously landed new positions as schoolteacher for their children and caregiver to little ones and older relatives. Outsourcing is no longer a viable household business strategy.

How we understood teleworking before COVID-19 and previous tips to help improve employee well-being don’t necessarily apply anymore. During this time of stress and uncertainly, how can employers and managers support the well-being of teleworking employees? This article provides relevant tips from our Telework & Well-being Integration Guide to help employees adjust to the new telework reality.

  • 1 | Stay Connected: Promote investing extra time at the beginning of meetings to make sure people can connect to one another, as well as to the meeting’s purpose. Spending the extra effort to connect interpersonally is vital for building social connection and trust, while connecting around the purpose helps attendees focus on the task at hand. Urge managers to regularly check in with employees to keep a pulse on the morale of their team, and remember to highlight and celebrate successes through emails, phone calls and group chats. Within your well-being or benefits department, explore ways you can facilitate random acts of kindness and/or gratitude campaigns through virtual platforms.
  • 2 | Establish Daily Habits: A routine can offer a needed sense of normalcy. Encourage employees to schedule breaks and use calendar alarms to stand and move, or to relax and recharge, throughout the day; create separate work and home spaces to reinforce work/life boundaries; and decide on a way to signify the transition away from work at the end of the day. Examples include changing outfits or going for a walk outside (carefully!). Most importantly, remind employees to be flexible and have empathy for themselves and their colleagues. A new 2-year old co-worker can often be demanding and exceedingly unreasonable.
  • 3 | Appreciate the Financial Impact: Teleworking typically saves employees money, but at the moment, due to COVID-19 many families are experiencing intense short- and long-term financial instability. Employers can help by providing an online financial well-being assessment and virtual financial planning or coaching via phone or video. When considering how to support financial well-being, make sure to focus your efforts on action instead of education (e.g., developing a new budget or focusing more on building short-term savings). Our resource, Measuring the Impact of Financial Well-being Initiatives, can provides more tips for strengthening your financial well-being strategy.
  • 4 | Don’t Forget About Physical Health: Find ways to transition your wellness activities to a virtual world. For example, offer a virtual fitness challenge, access to fitness apps or a subsidy to purchase fitness equipment or virtual fitness classes. You can also offer virtual ergonomic assessments of telework spaces and educate teleworkers about ergonomics through online trainings and resources, such as a safety checklist (U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Telework Safety Checklist, Telework!VA Office Safety Checklist). If possible, provide workers with equipment or a stipend to improve their telework space or ability to workout at home.

Your employees are experiencing an incredible amount of rapid and confusing change right now. One thing that you can do to help is to reaffirm the overriding purpose of their role in the company and the values behind their efforts. Beyond just daily work objectives, purpose is the “why” employees care about the work they do. In a moment of unprecedented uncertainty, clarifying a purpose acts as a guiding light for employees as they weather the storm.

Our Telework & Well-being Integration Guide provides more teleworking best practices. The Business Group also has a new resource showing all state and local leave/telework laws developed in response to COVID-19.

For more employer resources on managing the pandemic, visit our COVID-19 Resource Page.