This article originally appeared on KardasLarson and is a collaboration with Carol Kardas

Many employees are now working from home for the first time. They have always been able to talk with someone who is right next to them or at least walk down the hall to get support when needed. This is a very different time for employees and it will take some time for them to get used to this new way to work. Hopefully this won’t last long, but as long as we are doing this now, here are some thoughts about keeping employees engaged.

KardasLarson has been a virtual organization since its inception. We work with our clients via telephone or other technology that is available in order to keep lines of communication open to help with Human Resource issues. Here are some of our thoughts on how to maintain contact with your remote staff and to help alleviate social isolation.

We encourage you to take advantage of all the technology that is available for little or no cost. Since there are five generations in the workplace, each of the generations relates differently to the tools. It is a great time to introduce the most up-to-date techniques to all your employees. In doing so, follow best practices in terms of holding virtual meetings, using collaboration tools and adopting preferred applications for communication between employees and the company. Cybersecurity is still a #1 priority.

Coordinate Calendars

Whether your organization is using Outlook and Office365 or Google platforms, get your team up to speed with sending calendar invites that everyone can sync with their preferred apps and devices. Nothing will run smoothly until everyone’s on the same page. If you need to figure out when everyone will be available, try Doodle instead of never-ending chain emails and text message threads.

Video Conferencing

Then think about employing Zoom for face-to-face meetings where everyone can join in at once and work on a project together. It is a good idea to have an agenda, along with a time-frame in mind so that employees can plan their day. Remember, employees are working differently and may not be working the standard office hours because of other responsibilities that working from home brings – children, meals, pets, etc. Consider a 15-minute stand-up meeting each morning.

FaceTime, Skype, GoToMeeting and other applications can all work as well. Every organization is made up of different people with their own unique preferences, devices, and experiences. Catering to what your team is most comfortable with is likely the winning scenario.

Chat Apps

Consider leveraging Slack or Microsoft Teams workplace chatrooms for your organization. These apps provide employees with a digital space to conduct ongoing conversations. They are built for business, so they’re more professional than alternatives, faster-paced than email, and packed with functionality to help your team be more productive.

WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, and other chat applications all have their place. Again it comes down to what your team members prefer using. All of the options mentioned here are encrypted by default which makes them more secure choices than SMS texts.

Don’t Forget to Be Social!

Companies should also think about the social aspect that is missing from working remotely. Set up a time for employees to join-up virtually and just have a “happy hour” where they can talk about what is happening in their daily lives, share a picture of their children or pets or just have some general conversation. Employees can choose to be part of this or not. At least the organization is encouraging contact and communication. Discord has upped the limit of the number of people who can be on line together to 50. Take advantage of this by encouraging employees to join hobby forums or get involved in a specific game that they are interested in. Organizations should make it clear that work does come first, but that they can help their teams through this transition.

How about a virtual book club, movie discussion group, trivia challenges, morning coffee chats, exercise routine lead by one of your employees, celebrating someone’s birthday or suggest a podcast that would interest your employees? Think outside the box. What is it that your employees will respond to? Ask them!

We at KardasLarson are always here to help you with your Human Resource needs, or just to chat during these trying times. If you have a question or need some support on a particular issue, get in touch. We are used to working remotely and always enjoy talking with our clients.