Helping managers address the workplace from home

By Amanda M. Perez

Helping managers address the workplace from home

By Amanda M. Perez
A University of Miami faculty member offers tips on how to preserve healthy work-life practices as we face the challenges that come with a global pandemic.

For many Americans across the country, their new office space is at home. As we adapt to working from home, the lines have been blurred as to when a person is on and off the clock. 

According to Linda Neider, department chair and professor of management at the University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School, “It is necessary to establish clear work boundaries and make it clear to your manager when you can work and when you do not.” 

Neider believes that managers and leaders with high emotional intelligence and empathy are even more important in managing a remote workforce during these times of long-term disruptions. She recommends for managers to “reach out to employees individually and check in with each person to find out how they are handling the new COVID reality.” 

She advocates for managers to provide employees with contact data on how to access information they may need to complete their activities. She also thinks it is important to set clear expectations for employees and teams, letting them know what the deliverables are and what is expected of each person. Neider also believes that respecting their employees’ time is key. 

“Schedule phone calls and video conferences in advance and keep in mind that employees do not work seven days a week. They are entitled to take breaks and lunch time and may need to work at hours scheduled around children’s lesson times or elder care requirements,” Neider said. 

In order to keep a healthy workplace culture and morale during telecommuting, she also encourages fun work activities as well. 

“For example, for a member birthday, have cupcakes delivered to each member of a team and then get together via Microsoft Teams or Zoom at a set time to celebrate. 

She emphasizes that it is necessary for people to keep in mind that a healthy work-life balance is even more important during this disruptive period. Neider said that ironically, one of the reasons employees originally sought jobs with telecommuting options was for better work-life balance. Employees with telecommuting options were able to choose when to do their work and schedule it around other time constraints. This does not seem to be the case during the spread of COVID-19. 

“Remote work in the time of COVID-19 has actually led to less work-life balance for many,” she explained. “For instance, working parents now must balance their own work demands with parental and/or elderly care responsibilities. This is especially difficult for working moms who find themselves with considerably more caretaking activities at home.” 

While these new circumstances are taxing, there are ways to reduce the demands that come with this new way of life. 

“A few techniques that may help in achieving a work-life balance include building into your daily schedule some type of exercise or meditation time for yourself, even if it’s just 20 minutes a day,” said Neider. 

For those who have children, she explains that developing a schedule and sticking to it is key. 

“If you have a partner and young children, take shifts handling the parental duties and the other basic household maintenance tasks. If your children are older, work together to construct a color-coded daily schedule that you post in a prominent place in the house,” she added.

In order to keep normal social interactions, she recommends scheduling virtual playdates for your children and for yourself. 

“Try to plan virtual happy hours or lunch times with co-workers or friends. For example, one night a week, schedule time for a social activity like a book club or an online webinar,” said Neider. “My friends and I found an online mah-jongg game that all of us play together when we are not doing a virtual happy hour!”