How to establish a positive work-from-home environment

The COVID-19 pandemic rolled out a new era for the working world. As physical distancing, lockdowns and quarantines swept the globe, working from home became the “new normal” for millions of people. And while many workplaces are re-opening, it looks like remote work, in one form or another, is here to stay for a large percentage of employers.

A survey from Enterprise Technology Research showed that the percentage of workers around the globe permanently working from home is expected to double, as many organizations have seen an increase in productivity during the pandemic.

And while remote work does come with its own unique set of challenges, Global University Systems (GUS) Canada was able to transition most of its workforce of staff and faculty to working remotely, while limiting any interruption to classes and student services.

Here are a few tips for establishing a positive work-from-home environment:

Foster a positive and proactive mindset

Largescale changes in the workplace can negatively affect employee morale so any communication from a leadership team must show a positive and proactive mindset.

This means, among other things, focusing on the future and what the organization can control.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada in March 2020, GUS Canada quickly put an action plan into place for faculty, staff and its operations across all its institutions.

And while a small number of essential staff continued to work on-campus, most employees moved to working from home with clear procedures in place.

Communication is key

While having strong communication with employees is important at any time, it’s essential in times of uncertainty. This means timely and frequent updates with clear messages, including directives or an action plan, if needed.

From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, GUS Canada ensured communication with staff and faculty was clear and consistent. GUS Canada’s senior leadership closely monitored the rapidly changing situation and put a communication plan in place to notify staff and faculty of frequent changes and updates.

Training and support

Switching to working from home can be a big transition for employees who are used to working in an office environment. It can involve new technology or software to remain connected to colleagues and other systems and require setting up office space at home. 

At GUS Canada, discussion groups were set up and webinar training was provided to ensure all employees were familiar with any new systems needed to continue working from home. And GUS Canada created a Teaching and Learning Centre for faculty to provide tech tools and other Learning Management Systems to ensure classes could continue.

Recognizing that the switch to working from home could lead to increased personal expenses, a system was set up where staff and faculty could request reimbursement for equipment and other related expenses, such as telephone and internet costs.

Mitigate potential drawbacks

While remote work has many benefits and has led to increased productivity for many organizations, it does have its drawbacks, including feelings of isolation in employees, especially those who live alone.

GUS Canada institutions have made communication a key component of the work-from-home strategy. Departments are encouraged to use the available technology to meet virtually regularly. GUS Canada’s leadership holds regular town hall meetings to share updates with staff and faculty, and virtual social events to help keep employees connected.

As a result of its efforts to successfully transition to having a significant portion of employees working from home, GUS Canada institutions continued to see growth, with enrolment numbers not just holding steady but increasing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

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