The COVID-19 pandemic is having a drastic effect on the way we all live our lives.
From having to put those all-important social occasions on hold to having to live without the thrill of regular sporting events; the coronavirus’s grip on normality is one that we’re all having to adapt to quickly.
The world of work is no different.
Those traditional office 9-5ers are now finding themselves in unfamiliar waters. Instead of commuting everyday to a single place of work or continuing a routine built up over years, work is now – for the next few weeks at least – an intrinsic part of home life; and this can throw up some unforeseen problems…
WORKING REMOTELY? OR NOT REMOTELY WORKING?
Let’s be honest: when someone mentions they’re working from home, what are your first thoughts? Is it an image of them hard at work, beavering away on important tasks in an immaculate home office? Or is it them occasionally popping up sporadically online in-between Netflix boxset binges?
If you said the second answer, don’t worry: it’s a common misconception. In fact, according to remote working platform LogMeIn, almost half (46%) of UK employees feel the need to combat the perception that working from home is less productive than being in their place of work. Worse still, 36% of workers admitted to suffering from pressure to appear 'more responsive' on email while working remotely, and 23% also felt pressure to work more hours as a result to working from home.
Clearly, there is a stigma to working anywhere else than the usual place of work – which is actually quite strange when you think about it. Remote or flexible working can have a demonstrable and positive effect on both people and businesses, so it makes sense that it should be encouraged.
However, for places of work that have not had the infrastructure to allow their employees to work remotely, or perhaps simply never had the confidence in their workforce to carry out their duties away from the office before, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing their hands for the sake of the most vulnerable in our society.
If you’re one of the businesses joining the brave new world of having employees working remotely, we’re here to help! Here are some top tips to help manage your team from a distance…
TRUST IN YOUR EMPLOYEES
First and foremost, you need to let go of the stigma we mentioned earlier. If your idea of working productively is being at your desk dawn till dusk, sorry: those days are long, long gone!
The COVID-19 pandemic means that we all must drastically cut down our social contact; so, for the next few weeks and months, those familiar buzzing office spaces are going to be off limits for everyone – and how you deal with it successfully is going to involve a good deal of trust.
The best way to build this trust with your people is to implement working from home guidelines that ensure standards of work remain high and everyone stays focused and motivated on their jobs.
Don’t fall into the trap of watching their online activity like a hawk or questioning them if they don’t respond to messages instantly. Your employees may have to contend with looking after children or dealing with issues at home that need their immediate attention.
As long as you agree what work needs to be completed and when it needs to be done by, you can just let them get on with it! Which leads onto…
SET REGULAR GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS
One of the main issues that people who are inexperienced with managing remote teams is the fear their people will be sat around watching TV or indulging in their hobbies; rather than actually doing their jobs!
You can get around this very easily by at the start of each week (or each morning), set clear expectations and goals for the day or week ahead. It’s at this point you can agree what tasks need completing, what takes priority, any challenges that could impact delivery and when you can expect work to be completed by.
By doing this, you can let your team get on with their work and get on with your own day, too!
Even though working remotely means you’re technically no longer in work, communication is a key part to maintaining an engaged and productive workforce – and that’s going to be critical in the coming weeks!
Always aim to agree with your people an appropriate number of catch ups and any formal reporting that might be required. By doing this, you’re maintain a feeling of normality but also adding to that all-important trust element, too.
Working from home means that you can’t just pop over to someone’s desk for a quick catchup or to discuss potential challenges. Luckily, there are a huge number of networking tools out there that make communicating with your people easy; be it MS Teams, Skype, BlueJeans, even WhatsApp! Trust us: there’s something out there that’ll suit.
… AND ENCOURAGE DIALOGUE
Of course, being at work isn’t always about work, work, work. Social interactions play a huge part in a healthy and happy working environment. So, whilst working from home may offer certain comforts your office can’t compete with, your employees will still be missing out on interacting with their friends and colleagues; and if this goes on for a prolonged period, this can be seriously detrimental to your wellbeing.
Using those networking tools we mentioned earlier, encourage your teams to talk to each other – and not just over email! The more they interact with each other remotely will help maintain that social interactions which is so important to healthy, happy company cultures and also aid in getting back to normality when it’s safe to do so.
DON’T GET HUNG UP ON USUAL WORKING HOURS
If your employees have everything they need to complete their work remotely, have no prior work commitments (telecons, for example) or are perhaps not customer-facing, then ask yourself: is it completely necessary for them to be online and working in your usual working hours?
Think about it: if you’ve agreed what work needs doing, when it’s required and the standard it needs to be delivered, does it matter if it’s done at 8pm as opposed to 8am?
Some of your employees may feel more comfortable working irregular or even compressed hours – for example, those with young children may appreciate doing their work in the evenings as opposed to the day when their children may require more attention!
The best way to find out? Ask!
Finally, it might be the case that the type of work your organisation does isn’t compatible with working from home. Those workforces who deal with sensitive data, for example, may find themselves with extremely limited workloads, especially if a business is running on a skeleton staff or partial shutdown; so, what about them?
If continuing regular duties simply isn’t possible, encourage your workforce to get involved with online learning and skills advancement.
With today’s modern workforce now primarily focused on career development, allowing the chance for your employees to develop or learn new skills can be just what you need to maintain an engaged workforce – especially if they’re tied into your own company’s vision, mission and values!
HOW'S THE WELLBEING OF YOUR WORKFORCE?
With all of us being asked to limit our social contact or isolate completely, keeping tabs on your employees wellbeing has never been more important!
Many forward-thinking employers are now offering Employee Assistance Programmes which give their employees access to professional mental health support; including 24-hour, 365-day counselling services - either face-to-face, online, or via phone and email. Meaning your employees have the support they need while they are working remotely.
Click here to learn more and see how easily you can support your employees during the Covid-19 pandemic and any personal problems they may face in the future.