The Internet is (understandably) full of tips for working from home these days. For many businesses and employees, WFH is brand-new territory, and let’s face it: some of what we’re experiencing could become the new norm.

But how are you and your employees really doing with working from home? Two months of this trial by fire is enough time to know what’s working for you…and what’s not. 

We’ve gathered a list of concerns we’ve heard from our clients who are figuring this out, too, along with some ideas to show your team you care (and practice self care). This is not a to-do list or a how-to guide. Think of it as an open-ended care package that you can pick from now, or refer to later as issues pop up.

LACKING COHESION

  • “I feel like we’re all operating in silos.”
  • “I can’t tell if what’s working for me is helping or hindering others.”
  • “I’m not totally sure I know what’s going on or if I’m interpreting it right.”

Ideas:

  • Host weekly or bi-weekly town hall-style meetings
    • Have leaders share state-of-the-company updates
    • Be transparent about business planning and any recalibrating
    • Address any potential issues 
    • Invite questions and give honest answers
  • Don’t be afraid to craft new norms (or help instigate that discussion) for company’s best practices. What still works, and what needs to change?
  • As new laws like the FFCRA and CARES act pass, share information with your teams and discuss how it might impact them.
  • Look for opportunities to encourage leadership from unexpected sources–give new people an opportunity to shine in these unique circumstances.
  • Designate executive and HR office hours for check-ins.
  • Use pulse surveys or other tools to check in with team members regularly.
  • Don’t wait for people to come to you with issues. Being proactive builds trust.
  • Don’t settle for lack of response. We all run into overlooked emails, turned off notifications, or a buried thread on Slack, but your projects and deadlines still matter. It’s ok to keep following up. If a particular person remains unavailable, work with other team members to get the answers you need.
  • Also see Four Ways to Make Working Remotely Work for Your Team.

VIDEO CALL BURNOUT

  • “It just gets so draining.”
  • “I’m so stressed out by Internet connectivity issues.”
  • “It feels like a quick phone call would be more productive.”
  • “There are so many interruptions–kids barging in, dog barking, the leaf blower next door….”

Ideas:

  • Give people the option of logging on 5-10 minutes before a meeting starts to touch base informally and chat. (Remember, we used to have that time when we were waiting for in-person meetings to start.)
  • Try mixing in some more informal team coffee breaks or lunches. Remember, it’s okay to eat on camera.
  • If you use Slack or Microsoft Teams, create channels dedicated to socializing: Pets, Parenting, Humor, Self Care, etc.
  • Carve out some dedicated weekly social time. The key is not to overdo it, because many people have plenty to juggle already. Pick one “extracurricular” meetup to start and see how it goes.
    • Happy hours
    • Game time
    • Cooking challenges
    • Mindfulness exercises
    • “Show and tell” (music, art, cooking and baking, gardens, etc.)
  • Create on online spot for colleagues to share what’s helping and hindering their WFH
  • If you’re feeling lonely, try podcasts instead of music for background sound that can replicate that extra bit of conversation you once used to hear over your shoulder or across the room.
  • Make it a priority to reach out to another coworker at least once a week for non-work-related reasons. It’s good for you both!

FEELING “OFF”

  • “We’re trying to act normal, but this is not normal.”
  • “I still can’t get into the groove of working from home.”
  • “I’m anxious about the future.”
  • “I’m worried I don’t appear ‘professional’ enough.”

Ideas:

  • Encourage leaders to model “keeping it real” by talking about how they’re feeling, holding a pet on their lap during a Zoom call, sharing their self-care strategies, or otherwise showing vulnerability.
  • Openly and regularly acknowledge the difficult nature of these circumstances, and give people permission to have an honest dialog as a team.
  • Try getting real and building trust with questions that go deeper than “How are you doing?” 
  • Make additional channels for support available. Experiment with a once-a-week personal check-in as a team, or virtual 1:1s with managers.
  • If you’re feeling frustrated, about work, life, or the world, just let it out. Enjoy the perk of being remote! Blast that song, dance, yell, strike a yoga pose, whatever helps.

DIFFICULTY FOCUSING

  • “There’s so much on my plate right now.”
  • “I’m finding it hard to focus on anything 100%.”
  • “I feel like I always have to be ‘on.’”

Ideas:

  • Create a venue for swapping ideas about setting up an effective work space.
  • Take regular breaks, and make sure leaders model that behavior, too.
  • Communicate that it’s ok to block out time on your work calendar for other responsibilities, including self care time—it’s important!
  • At the beginning of the day, gather your water bottle, coffee thermos, and snacks. Then you won’t be tempted to wander down to the kitchen and get distracted by kids, pets, watering the plants, etc.
  • Take the time to make your work space comfortable, from your chair to the lighting to nice headphones or a cozy sweater.
  • Switch up your surroundings with something that brings you joy: a new drawing from your kids, a pleasant candle, flowers from your yard, etc. 
  • Get outside daily. With varying levels of restrictions this can be trickier than usual, but even if you can’t go for a walk, sit on your porch, watch birds out the window, or even just deep breaths of fresh air to refuel.
  • If your phone is a distraction, try putting it on airplane mode, sticking it in a drawer, or leaving it in another room while you’re working. 

NEW TOOLS OVERLOAD

  • “Working from home is hard enough without figuring out new technology.”
  • “I know I’m supposed to be using that, but I don’t really know how.”
  • “Is this necessary, or is it just creating busy work?”

Ideas:

  • Do a needs assessment and make sure each tool is filling a need that actually exists. Is there an easier way to achieve your purpose?
  • Clarify (in writing) how and when tools (especially communication tools) should and should not be used. 
  • Take the time to really train your team on it, or it won’t get used. 
  • Online meeting tools like Zoom can be used effectively for remote training. Make sure the trainee is familiar with how to share their screen. Having the trainee show their screen while they work will allow you to point them in the right direction if they have trouble. 
  • First show the trainees how to do certain tasks, then have them try it.
  • Many online meeting tools also allow the trainee to give the trainer remote control of their computer, which can be super helpful..
  • Have a set of planned exercises using dummy accounts that will take them through the basic protocols they will normally be using. Don’t overwhelm them with all the possible features. You can follow up later with details about some of the extra goodies. You could even have a specific channel on Slack or Teams for pushing out this kind of information. 
  • Offer optional follow-up meetings for updates and questions. 
  • Be sure to check out our guide to choosing the right tools for remote work.

 We’d love to hear about your experience. What new or unexpected challenges are you facing? What’s working, and what’s not? Let us know in the comments!