Work from home: 3 tips for a successful telecommuting strategy

Kim Klosak | Apr 15, 2020 Kim Klosak 04/15/20

With the sudden rise in employees working from home, many organizations are navigating unchartered territory and adjusting to a “new normal” workday. This abrupt pivot is even more complicated when you consider factors like children at home and partners also in the household telecommuting for their jobs.  

This shared living—and now professional—space can present some challenges, but a proper company-wide strategy can help set guidelines and foster an engaged and productive work environment. At SMG, we’ve implemented a work-from-home strategy for many years now and have some experience in how to most productively implement telecommuting into your company culture. Here are 3 of our top tips:

1. Provide clear + frequent communication
Now is not the time to worry about oversharing—it’s more important than ever for your organization to keep employees in the loop. Your messaging should include a clear-cut plan of action that provides transparency and evolves as needed. It’s also vital to provide a two-way method of communication so employees have the capability to provide feedback, address concerns, and trust they are being heard.

Consider implementing daily team stand-up meetings to touch base and ensure everyone is set up with what they need for the day. These can be very short—just 15 minutes or less—and be an open platform for employees to discuss any obstacles they are facing. And even if there is little “business” to cover, it can be helpful for team members to just get the chance to connect with coworkers and not feel so isolated.

In addition to departmental team support, it’s just as important for employees to feel connected with their leadership team. A weekly company-wide check-in—led by your c-suite—will help ensure each member of your organization is aware of current company policies, updated industry trends, and future plans. It’s also a great opportunity for cross-departmental communication and a way to maintain a cohesive unity within your organization.

Pro tip: Right now, your employees could use a little light-hearted fun in their day-to-day. Team standups are a great opportunity for this. Here are a few activities that have infiltrated our Zoom meetings at SMG and kept us laughing together as we work apart:

  • Show and Tell: Show your workspaces, pets, kids, or anything else that you want to show off.
  • Coffee breaks and happy hours: Get together for 30 minutes with your favorite beverage to chat with your team.
  • Move breaks: Get together with your teams to move during the day. Follow popular videos that can be done in 5–15 minutes. You can even include others in your home.
  • Spirit week or day: Throw back to your elementary school days and hold a pajama day, crazy hair day, or all wear the same color day.

2. Offer professional development support
While some industries have seen a recent influx in workload, many are experiencing a slowdown and finding themselves with less daily responsibilities. SMG research shows employees value rewarding work above all else, so it’s critical for organizations to provide professional growth opportunities to keep associates engaged and feeling valued. Here are a few ways to drive employee engagement:

  • Provide industry share groups across departments: Consumer trends are currently changing at a breakneck pace. To stay on top of the constantly evolving landscape, SMG holds multiple share groups each week to discuss industry trends, provide timely insights, and share best practices. This not only ensures our teams are armed with the most current information, but also provides them with ideas to better serve our clients.
  • Encourage continuing education opportunities: If team members are finding themselves with more free time, suggest these free online courses to productively fill the gap. There are also a variety of free webinars available, catered to your specific industry and current trends that are impacting your business. Do some research on the ones most applicable to your team and send specific links for employees to check out.
  • Get involved in Toastmasters International: Toastmasters—a non-profit organization that hones public speaking and leadership skills—is a great professional growth opportunity. If your company currently has a Toastmasters Club, send an open invitation for your next virtual meeting to drum up interest across your organization. If your company doesn’t have a club, consider starting one or find an existing club to join.

Pro tip: Our first SMG Top Box Toastmasters virtual meeting was a huge success. Several participants gave impromptu speeches on finding a “silver lining” in today’s virtual world. And with the meeting opened up to all our global offices, participants included SMG employees from Kansas City, Boston, and London—providing a unique opportunity for us all to have some fun together.

3. Be flexible + accommodating to varying circumstances
These are uncertain times, and many of your employees are facing daily disruptions and challenges that are new—and likely overwhelming—to them. While it’s important to always treat employees with empathy and patience, it’s even more necessary right now. Be understanding if there’s a toddler running around in the background of your Zoom call. Move a meeting if an unforeseen familial obligation pops up. Throw a virtual team happy hour if morale is feeling a little low.

What worked for your team a month ago isn’t necessarily going to fly right now. Evaluate the needs of your employees and keep their well-being, value, and engagement top-of-mind as you establish your team’s new operational plan.

Pro tip: Our COVID Tiger Team and c-suite meet on a daily basis to ensure SMG is constantly evaluating and adjusting to changes brought on by this pandemic. We regularly provide clear and transparent communication to all our employees and ask for feedback. Make sure every person in your organization feels supported and offer reassurance as best you can.

The best-performing companies make employee engagement a top priority
Your biggest asset is your employees and setting them up for success should be your number one objective. A major change in work environment can be a difficult thing to adjust to, and your employees need to feel supported. Organizations who implement a concise and agile work-from-home strategy will come out on top.

Kim Klosak | VP, Human Resources

Customer Experience Update