Lessons Learned about Working Remotely During the Pandemic
In one of the toughest years in recent memory, Canadian credit unions transitioned to remote work in order to continue to support their members and communities through these tough times.
With the spread of COVID-19, many employees across Canada have been asked to work from home and practice social distancing. Employers and employees have worked together to protect the health of employees and clients, and to keep the workplace delivering its essential services. We know that credit unions in Canada often rely on in-person interactions with co-workers and members, so the shift to working from home can be challenging for many. Now that we are year and a half into the pandemic, Celero wanted to reflect on what we have learned throughout the year while working remotely during Covid-19.
Wants Setting Expectations for Employees
Celero has had almost half of its employee base working from home for the past seven years, and with COVID-19, we’ve been able to pivot to our entire workforce being remote. Firstly, Celero has learned it’s important to set expectations for employees. Working from home doesn't change the employee’s day-to-day work or performance expectations; it just means that they’ll be doing it from a different environment.
Creating a Positive Work Environment
To attract and retain top talent, it has become imperative for organizations to offer employees the ability to work from home or provide a hybrid work environment. Here are some further ideas that have enabled Celero to have a successful remote workforce:
- Ensure employees know how to fully use remote working technology, such as VPN access and collaboration software like Microsoft Teams
- Recommend employees have a dedicated workspace in the home – ideally, a separate room with a closed door
- Encourage employees to maintain regular working schedule as though in the office and track hours as usual, including taking breaks during the day and a designated lunch break
- Reward employees for working hard and being flexible throughout the pandemic (e.g. extra 1-2 days off or a no meetings on Friday policy)
- Ensure branches/offices are safe when coming back to the office or hybrid working
Multiple Communication Channels are Essential
Staying connected with your colleagues and direct reports while working from home can be very challenging – especially when you are used to working two feet from each other. Here are some techniques that work for Celero:
- Create opportunities for engagement with others
- Share moments with co-workers that are fun and light-hearted
- Ensure a consistent and positive experience for direct reports working from home. (e.g. schedule regular team check-ins to advance key priorities and ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate)
- Host all-staff webinars (Q&A’s in advance) as well as daily/weekly communications
- 30-minute call once per week to chat (no shop talk; ask about family; keep it light and fun)
- Virtual coffee breaks to celebrate team accomplishments, anniversaries, birthdays etc.
- Opt for video calls instead of conference calls
Considerations for Your HR Policies
How businesses treat their employees during this unprecedented time is essential to the long-term success of the business. The following HR policies have enabled Celero to balance business priorities with the long-term stamina and health and wellness of employees.
- Flex-place – position, location, tools, costs, legal considerations
- Flex-schedule – hours of work
- Performance management – regular engagement, measuring results, coaching/feedback
- Leave programs
- Benefits – extended health coverage, telemedicine, employee and family assistance programs, crisis lines
- Travel - domestic, international, client considerations
Mental Health Considerations for Employees
Meaningful social connections help protect our mental health. Under these challenging and uncertain circumstances, it is perfectly normal if employees are feeling angry, anxious, lonely, sad or worried. It is important to acknowledge these feelings and the disruptions caused by COVID-19 to our personal and working lives. By encouraging your employees to engage in an open dialogue about our emotional well-being with family members, friends and colleagues, it can help to improve and maintain mental health in uncertain times. Below are some tips from the Government of Canada to help address isolation and loneliness some employees may experience while working from home.
Set a Schedule While Working From Home
Humans are creatures of habit and routine helps us physically and mentally prepare for our day.
- Get ready for work. Shower. Get dressed. Eat breakfast. Keep the same routine as when heading into the office.
- “Commute” to work. If possible, have a dedicated workspace that minimizes distractions and helps reduce the blurring of lines between your work and home life.
- Schedule your time. Set regular working hours, including breaks and self-care practices between different tasks. Check-in regularly with your manager and colleagues.
- Respect your limits. Resist the temptation to keep working beyond your established work hours. Know, respect and share your limits with those around you to avoid burnout.
Make Time for Self-care
- Get sufficient sleep. Aim for 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep. Maintain proper sleep hygiene for the rest you need.
- Eat healthy and stay hydrated. Ensure proper, balanced nutrition throughout your workday.
- Exercise regularly. Get outside for a daily 20-30 minute walk.
Know how to Manage and Cope with Stress
Stress is a fact of daily life and is the result of both the good and bad things that happen. Too much stress can cause serious health concerns, but there are many ways of dealing with stress that can reduce your risk. Symptoms of stress:
- Feelings of irritability, sadness or guilt
- Change in sleep patterns
- Change in weight or appetite
- Difficulty in concentrating or making decisions
- Negative thinking
- Loss of interest, enjoyment or energy in something you used to enjoy
Everyone is different so there is not a single way to cope with stress. However, there are a number of approaches you can share with your employees to deal with short and long term stress. How to cope with stress:
- Identify the problems. What is causing your stress? Is an unimportant surface problem masking a deeper one? Awareness of the problem enables actions.
- Work on solutions. Encourage your employees to start thinking about what they can do to relieve the problem. Take control over the issues they can manage. This might mean talking with a health professional about personal problems or a financial counsellor. By making changes to deal with the issue, employees may experience a relief in the pressure.
- Talk about your problems. First of all, just by venting feelings, employees may relieve some stress and hear some solutions. If they need to talk to someone outside their circle of family and friends, a family physician, employee assistance program or mental health professional are good resources.
- Offer resources for stress management. In addition to health professionals who specialize in stress, there are many helpful books, films, videos, courses and workshops available to help employees learn stress management techniques.
Please reach out to your Celero Account Executive or chat with us on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), if Celero can do anything to help your credit union through these uncertain times.
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Editors note: this post was originally published in April, 2020, and has been completely revamped for and updated for accuracy.
Celero is a leading provider of digital technology and integration solutions to credit unions and financial institutions across Canada. Clients trust Celero’s proven track record delivering innovative banking technologies, digital and payment solutions, cloud computing, outsourcing, IT and advisory services.
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