Ask any EHS professional and they’ll tell you: relationships are so important for morale and safety. There’s a direct correlation between positive relationships and safer, more productive workplaces.
But now, as many safety leaders find themselves working remotely, maintaining a strong safety presence and staying connected with employees and colleagues is a challenge.
The good news is there are more ways than ever for remote workers to keep in touch. Here are eight fun ways to stay connected when working remotely.
1. Schedule a virtual coffee break
While people can't gather in-person, friends and families are getting together online to celebrate a birthday, share a meal, or catch up over a cup of coffee. So why not do the same with your co-workers?
Book time in your calendar to connect with your desk neighbor, or the shift supervisor you’re used to seeing every day. Keep it short — ten minutes is plenty — and make sure you’ve got a fresh cup of coffee (or tea, if that’s your thing).
2. Add a personal touch to your Zoom office
With the rise of videoconferencing, we’ve gotten a peek into the homes of the people we work with. We’ve seen their bookshelves, patios, pets, and even kids. These little details tell us a lot about each other, both personally and professionally. So what does your home office say about you?
Adding one or two personal items — like a photo from your favorite vacation destination, or a banner from your beloved sports team — allows you to share a bit about yourself with the people on the other side of the screen. And it can be a great conversation starter for those awkward moments while you’re waiting for everyone to show up on the call.
3. Host a contest
Everyone loves a little friendly competition! Contests are a great way to get people involved in your safety program. Not only that, they lend themselves well to a virtual setting. For example, you might host a photo contest and challenge workers to snap a picture of safety and health. These images can be shared on your company’s social media networks or in your newsletter to spread the word about safety.
4. Pick up the phone
We’re all busier than ever. Email is convenient, so naturally our tendency is to fire off an email when we have an idea or need something. But while sending an email might be efficient, it can also be impersonal. It doesn’t let you ask questions, build rapport, or even hear the other person’s tone of voice.
Next time you’re thinking of sending an email, ask yourself if a quick phone call might be better instead. Similarly, if you receive an email from an employee, pick up the phone and call them right back. Just hearing a friendly voice on the other end of the line might be exactly what they needed that day.
5. Try a virtual workout
What better way to promote healthy behavior than to host a virtual workout? Many employers are offering yoga, aerobics, and other fitness classes over Zoom or Google hangouts. It’s a great way to get people together when in-person activities aren’t an option. Workers can even bring their kids — giving everyone an opportunity to get moving and make sure wellness stays in the spotlight.
6. Celebrate successes
Safety professionals are often responsible for enforcing rules and holding people accountable. Not every interaction you have with employees will be positive, so it’s important to find opportunities for positive interactions where you can. This is true all the time, but it’s even more vital when you or your employees are working remotely.
Taking the time to acknowledge people’s contributions can go a long way toward building a culture of safety. You might not be able to get together for a celebratory lunch with balloons and cake, but you can hold an awards ceremony on Zoom. Send an email thanking workers for their participation in a safety audit. Or, praise an employee for recognizing and reporting a potential hazard.
7. Send out a newsletter
An email newsletter is a relatively easy and inexpensive (or free) way to connect with employees, share information, and keep safety top-of-mind. Depending on your internal resources, this can take many different forms — from a fully designed publication with articles and images, to an informal email message from the EHS team. (You can find ideas and inspiration for your next newsletter in our monthly safety topic archives.)
8. Ask for feedback
Communication is a two-way street. With EHS working remotely, employees may have a harder time knowing when (or how) to reach out. So it’s important for EHS to actively seek out feedback from employees on potential issues and concerns.
The good news is you can still have an “open door” policy - even if you don’t have a physical door anymore! First, make sure employees know how to reach you when you’re teleworking. Encourage both remote and non-remote employees to contact you — whether by email, text, or Skype. You can also establish a reporting system that allows workers to share their safety concerns and suggestions anonymously. Many people may find it easier to express their ideas when their name isn’t attached.
Remote work is the new normal. As the nature of their work evolves, EHS professionals will be faced with the challenge of finding ways to stay connected and build a safety culture while working from home. It may take a bit of creativity, but it will be well worth the effort.
Next, check out our best tips for working from home successfully.