Working from Home – Behind the Screens

We are all living in a digital reality, and keeping your staff engaged, present, and accounted for, from varying locations, in spite of the physical boundaries set between us, is key to the success of your team and overall business.

The Staff Success Story

Staff engagement determines how passionate employees feel about their roles, how much effort they put into their work, and how dedicated they are to the business as a whole. As David MacLeod stated: “This is about how we create the conditions in which employees offer more of their capability and potential”. The right working culture will encourage all members of staff to give their absolute best each day, to want to actively contribute to the success of the organisation, and to enhance both the company and their own individual well-being in the process.

If your workforce is functioning at a higher level of productivity, with more dedication and motivation channelled into their work, this can have a huge positive impact on your output and overall business success. Custom Insight evidences that: ‘Organizations with an engaged workforce outperform their competition. They have a higher earning per share (EPS) and recover more quickly after recessions and financial setbacks. Engagement is a key differentiator when it comes to growth and innovation.’[1] Putting time, effort and money into your staff is a worthwhile investment: create a workplace that not only works, but thrives.

Working from home (WFH): The Digital Detriments

As the pandemic and lockdowns continue on, we are uncovering many detrimental effects on the health, well-being and engagement of employees working from home. In losing the social interaction of a busy office, vital support systems have fallen away. Without the overarching team mentality and consistently affirmed support system of a communal workplace, working from home can become very isolating and engagement levels can take a drastic dip. The direct systems driving group effort, responsibility, and motivation disappear, and staff members are left dependent on themselves to self-motivate and engage. These of which can seem near impossible in an isolating, and often distracting, home environment.

Neglecting these issues can have direct consequences for your business, developing a poor staff retention rate and driving a high turnover of staff, as employees become unhappy and find little incentive to stay. This is a recurring drain on a business’ resources and time, being forced to perpetually go through the recruitment process and teach new employees the ropes. A high turnover also hinders the ability to form a cohesive team, and further damages the well-being of remaining staff. It prevents employees from establishing bonds, a sense of community or solidarity, and generally inhibits a stable, consistent, positive working environment.


Building Blocks to Engagement

Here are a number of ways to improve staff engagement, and to overcome the barriers of WFH, in this digital age:

Target Practice

Purpose is key to human well-being, and it is key to keeping your staff feeling engaged, valued and fulfilled. Give your staff personalised targets and short-term deadlines to meet. This keeps a constant turnover of purpose (and the sense of achievement that comes with completion), as well as allowing staff to maintain a set structure to their work days. Set clear expectations, and make sure they are fully aware of what they are expected to do, to assign direct purpose and prevent any level of miscommunication.

Micromanaging No-no’s

In the world of WFH, you too need to adjust to the digital method of managing. With the distance and boundary of a screen, it is hard to ensure your staff are making the most out of their working time. Be supportive, trust your employees, and resist the urge to micromanage projects. Make the check-ins brief, positive and informal interactions, centering around supporting them, keeping them in the loop, and helping them to feel part of a whole project.

Top and Tail the day

Keep in contact with your team as much as you would in the office, get comfortable with video calls and use them to keep interactions as frequent as necessary. Team meetings to start and end the day are a great way to keep everybody in the loop without taking up too much time, to give an element of responsibility and purpose, and to retain a sense of structure to your team’s WFH days. It also works to employ that support system, to affirm a feeling of community, and to make your staff feel like they are part of a bigger project than solely their isolated, individual tasks.

An Open Desktop Policy

If you haven’t already, you should implement a loud and proud mental health policy that is very vocal about your support for employees. This will help to form an open, comfortable and assured working space for staff, which can produce a more productive, loyal and dedicated workforce. Send out content that shows your support and your open stance on mental health. This could be written posts, articles, or even videos from managers and team leaders, shared to your team communications hub.

Top Tips to feel Tip-Top

Send out a set of tips to your staff members, encouraging them to maintain healthy WFH practices that will keep them engaged and mentally supported. Here are some examples of tips you could suggest:

  • Act like you’re going into the office – Get yourself in the right mindset by still getting dressed and ready as if you are going to work. Go on your daily morning commute with a walk around the block. End your day with a walk too, this will help you to unwind from work and to give a distinct close to your work day.
  • Give yourself breaks – Get some fresh air on your breaks. If you used to go out and grab a coffee at lunchtime, replace this by going for a walk with a coffee in a flask.
  • Set a hard close to your day – Maintain a healthy work/life balance, and try to set definitive boundaries between your work and home life.
  • Assign a dedicated workspace – This will help you to keep work separate, as you can physically leave your workspace at the end of your working hours.
  • Steer away from social media – social media is a distraction and engagement sponge, that decreases your ability to concentrate and engage with your work. Too much screen-time spread over both your work and personal life can be detrimental to your mental, physical, and emotional health.
  • Keep connected with your colleagues, friends and family – keeping your personal support system is integral to maintaining a life outside of work, to feeling valued and to your overall well-being.
  • Take care of yourself! – Give yourself routines, eat a balanced diet to stop you from crashing, exercise regularly to improve your mood and even practice mindfulness: set up the right conditions for happy, healthy living.

Virtual Team Building

The pandemic has led to vast restrictions on people’s abilities to socialise, with colleagues, friends and family alike, and so providing a socialising outlet for your employees has become more critical than ever. Virtual team building activities are an excellent way of digitally delivering this social fix to staff. These actively work to supply a social support network, orchestrating virtual activities that make your employees feel heard, seen, engaged and connected. Most popular team building activities have already been digitised, with virtual options of Crystal Maze and Escape Rooms available. Setting up virtual book clubs and activities such as yoga classes are great for socialisation purposes, as well as for focussing on the enhancement of mental and physical well-being.

Another idea is to introduce after-work virtual drinks to finish off every Friday, to retain a sense of normality and reinstate the social routines that were in place prior to lockdown. You could host Virtual Dinner Parties, by having your team prepare any meal, and sit down together on a call to eat and chat. These open up socialising opportunities for your WFH employees, giving them much needed bonding time that doesn’t centre entirely around work. Virtual Drink Tasting Events, Virtual Pub Trivia or even Virtual Pub Crawls are activities you could involve in these after-work sessions. For the Virtual Pub Crawl, you join a virtual meeting with your team members, using an interesting website as a backdrop. Chat about the content over a drink (or end up very off-topic like you would rambling on in a normal pub). Move to a new website every 15 minutes, moving virtual sites in the same way you would move venues. For the Virtual Pub Trivia, you invite everyone to a call with a pint of their favourite tipple: be it beer, wine or tea. Much like a standard pub quiz, the host delegates people into smaller teams, and in these teams they answer trivia questions. You could do themed trivia like scientific or historical facts, music rounds with soundbite clues, or Netflix shows.

You can also get your staff involved in fun activities that filter into their work day, through your chosen team communication platform. For instance, mini scavenger hunts, light-hearted competitions and tasks for small fun prizes. Online Team Building Bingo is an idea that encourages motivation and staff engagement, giving employees silly WFH action items or accomplishments to check off on their bingo board over the course of the work day. For bingo card templates, and for further virtual team building ideas, you can look on:

Video recordings directly from the CEO, perhaps hosting these competitions, announcing updates, or just generally sending well wishes and support to staff members, are also a prime way to retain a sense of community, inclusion and involvement with the organisation as a whole. It makes employees feel connected to the bigger picture.

New Normal

We are still adapting to the new digital norm that we have all been thrown into, but in supporting each other and keeping remotely connected, we can continue to bond, grow and thrive in the now joint work/home environment. In using the digital landscape to our advantage, we can establish new ways to work, socialise, live, with open, engaged, healthy minds. This goes for every digital worker, whether you’re a WFH CEO or an intern: clock out, close your laptop screen, go for your commuting walk around the block, and return to your household, your family, your housemates, renewed with a sense of purpose, and engage with the people available to you.


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