How to Help Employees Stay Engaged While Working From Home

Photo of a woman in front of her laptop working at home

By Dean Duncan, Workplace Possibilities Coordinator

Are your employees staying engaged — or losing focus the longer they work from home due to COVID-19 restrictions? Now that the “new” is wearing off the situation, morale could start to falter.

It’s important for employers to keep reaching out to support employees' behavioral health. Help them stay positive and engaged with these strategies and practical tips about sticking to routines — and being creative.

Strategy 1: Continuity Is Key

Most people feel more comfortable when they’re functioning within known routines. They may also feel less anxious when they can anticipate challenges and control more variables in their lives than not. Here’s how to apply these principles during this challenging time.

Start by maintaining the same workday routine and schedule:

  • Wake up every day at the same time as a normal work day.
  • Shower, groom and dress as usual — without cutting corners. Resist the urge to work in pjs and slippers! This step may seem unnecessary, but it will signal the mind that it’s business as usual.
  • Schedule work breaks for coffee or tea, snacks and bathroom breaks, just like in the workplace.
  • Keep up with regular morning conversations by using instant messaging, e-mail, phone calls or video chats.
  • Have lunch at the same time as usual — not longer or shorter.
  • Take a regular walking break during the day — following the six-foot rule for social distancing.
  • Interact often with co-workers throughout the day. Embrace technology rather than seeing it as a roadblock.
  • End the work day as usual and plan a transition time that’s comparable to what you do normally.
  • Replace a morning and evening commute with a walk, sitting on the porch or some activity that takes as long as a typical commute. Be sure to listen to your regular radio station, music playlist or audiobook. If you usually talk to someone during your commute, call someone. The key is to maintain your normal routine and separate your workday from your personal at-home time.
  • Finally, stick to usual meal prep and dinner times, followed by evening activities and a regular bedtime routine.

Anyone who has let routines slide can reboot them now — and see the difference that continuity can make to mental and physical health.

Strategy 2: Guard Against Social Isolation

Be creative about remaining in touch with friends, family, and neighbors. Aim to maintain your normal level of interactions electronically — or by singing or talking to others. With so many apps and online options, physical distance doesn’t have to decrease connectedness.

Miss eating out or having friends over? Support favorite restaurants by ordering take-out or delivery and setting the table to mimic the experience of dining out. Use a social networking app to invite friends to join you for dinner.

Continue to plan and make meals. Use time at home to try different recipes. While nurturing routines feel good and can help relieve stress — cooking something new can feel creative and adventurous.

Use a social networking platform and schedule dinner dates. Many programs like Google Friend Connect, Zoom, Facebook Group Video Chat, and others allow people to virtually dine, date and hang out together. Use these methods to maintain a consistent social life and interactions with family and friends.

Tired of watching TV or videos alone? Try resources like Netflix Party or Discord to watch shows while simultaneously interacting with others. Sharing excitement or critiques in real time helps replicate the experience of going to a movie or sports event.

Focus on Connections Vs. Challenges

Overall, employees can best support their mental health by keeping their work and home life as normal as possible. Encourage everyone to focus on the goal of staying productive and connected, versus the accommodations needed to make it happen.

What strategies and tips are you using to help keep your workforce engaged and productive during this tough time? Please share your ideas.