The Covid-19 pandemic has massively impacted the daily working lives of millions around the world, including those of us in Singapore. Because of the infectious nature of the disease, all non-essential business employees must work from home, in line with the Singapore government’s latest orders1.
Telecommuting reduces the risk of exposure to the virus, especially during peak hour commutes and crowded lunches. However, it also creates new concerns, the most common one being that employees might be less productive working from home. This seems logical, there are more distractions at home that can reduce productivity. In the same vein, the lack of physical accountability to one’s employers also contributes to the problem.
Yet, contrary to popular belief, more than two-thirds of employers reported an increase in productivity from their remote employees2. This implies that telecommuting, when done right, doesn’t necessarily reduce productivity. To help you ease into the transition, here are 3 tips to keep your employees healthy and productive when working from home.
1. Have a dedicated workspace
Our first recommendation is an important, but often overlooked tip. In our minds, working from home often comes with the benefit of more comfortable working environments. We have the luxury of being able to work from makeshift locations such as our couches, dining tables, or even our beds. However, such comfort may come at the cost of lowered productivity due to the myriad of distractions available.
When your employees telecommute, the space that they work in needs to be as conducive as much as it is comfortable. Having a dedicated area that is free from distractions can help immensely with focus and productivity. As much as possible, advise them to work in an uncluttered space that is quiet and sparingly used. While this differs for each individual, doing so will allow them to distance themselves from potential diversions, like snacks, chores, and other leisurely activities.
Simply holding this conversation with your employees can help a great deal, as it will prompt them to formulate a plan that they can follow. If you believe that there is a need to, you can even request for them to send you photos of their designated workspace for greater accountability.
2. Adapt management styles
Our next recommendation is to adapt existing management styles. After all, working from home is an entirely different work dynamic that creates new challenges, resulting in a need to adapt one’s management style accordingly.
The most obvious problem when telecommuting is the lack of physical communication between colleagues. WIthout this, it is harder for employees working in teams to be as productive, since constant collaboration is needed. Employees could also feel lonelier, affecting their morale negatively.
Thankfully, technology allows us to get around the problem. By blocking off fixed time periods each day for meetings via video conferencing or productivity softwares, teams can continue to work seamlessly together. This helps maintain a sense of team spirit to keep morale high, and also allows employers to monitor the productivity of their employees.
Another issue stemming from the lack of physical interaction is the loss of important social cues, such as gestures and body language3. We often glean important information from these cues, but telecommuting prevents this, making it easier for miscommunications and conflicts to arise. Such issues hinder progress and create more stress for employees. This has to be avoided, especially as most of us are already stressed and worried due to the global pandemic.
As employers, ensuring that communication with our employees is as clear as possible is the least that we can do to prevent undue stress. If necessary, we should also work with our HR department to offer additional mental health support to specific employees who are more adversely affected by the current situation.
3. Allow for flexible schedules if possible
The last tip is one that ought to be familiar: allowing for flexible schedules. We previously mentioned that having such an option available can help employees get work done more efficiently, which further results in stress reduction and improved job satisfaction. Telecommuting enables this to be more easily implemented.
With adjustable hours, employees can have greater control of their own time. This permits them to schedule their professional and personal commitments according to what suits them best for better individual productivity4. If your company has never had the chance to, or was in the middle of considering implementing flexible working hours, now might just be the perfect time to give it a shot.
As of 7 April 2020, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has made it mandatory for non-essential businesses to have their employees telecommute, as part of a larger “circuit breaker” ruling to curb the spread of Covid-19, with stop-work orders and fines being used to ensure compliance5. As most businesses will be affected by this new ruling, we hope that this article can be of some help to you as we adapt to new measures in a bid to keep the people important to us safe. Together, we can overcome this crisis for a safer, healthier tomorrow.
1 Gov.sg. (2020). COVID-19 circuit breaker: Closure of workplace premises.
2 Loubier, A. (2017). Benefits Of Telecommuting For The Future Of Work. Forbes.
3 Roulet, T. (2020). Coronavirus: five ways to be a better manager when working from home. The Conversation.
4 Heathfield, S. (2019). The Pros and Cons of a Flexible Work Schedule. The Balance Careers.
5 Gov.sg. (2020). COVID-19 circuit breaker: Closure of workplace premises.