Planning for more staff to start working from home?

Thursday 12th March 2020

Here’s our top 5 tips to help you manage this transition effectively.

With the numbers of known cases of Coronavirus continuing to grow daily, management teams will be starting to implement contingency plans that will include the ability to allow staff to work from home and maintain a “business as usual” approach.

We will explore 5 strategies to consider that will assist managers and their teams to continue to work transparently and operate effectively, regardless of the location of their staff.

Co-ordinate goals and objectives for both individuals and teams, and communicate them effectively

Even though your staff may not be together in the office, they will still be expected to undertake their usual job roles remotely, so ensure that every staff member is aware of what is expected of them and what they are expected to achieve. Make timeslots in everyone’s calendar to hold regular telephone or video conference calls with all of your team members, to verify individual and group objectives for the day, or week. This will also help them to remain focused, especially if they are feeling anxious, at this disruptive time.

Also ensure that each staff member can work remotely in their new makeshift environments, and make sure that they know how to operate any new devices or applications that may be necessary to work remotely but may be unfamiliar to them. They will also need to be shown how to obtain access remotely to all the usual business tools that they need to use in the course of their job.

Ascertain your Team’s skills and capability

If a crisis occurs, and the level of available personnel starts to ebb and flow, the need for multi-tasking and collaboration will be necessary during this period. In order to manage these potential troughs, conduct a review of your Team’s required and actual skills and capabilities, then identify where these skill sets can be utilised to help others deal with the increased work loads and additional requirements outside of their usual job functions and roles, as well as arrange and conduct specific coaching and refresher training sessions, or a process for escalation and management intervention, so that staff members can pick up any skills gaps and undertake other’s tasks, without feeling stressed or bewildered, if the workforce begins to deplete.

Conduct an audit of your internal processes and procedures too, to see if they can be streamlined or simplified, so that everyone can follow them, especially in areas of more complexity, expertise or skills-based knowledge.

Most importantly, offer continual support and assistance to your staff, so that they realise that everyone must continue to work together to help each other through this time of heightened disruption and ensure that the work continues to get done together, regardless.

Emphasize Personal Interactions

If homeworking is not a usual work pattern for your staff, then adjusting to this new environment may take time for some team members, and they may feel isolated and lonely, as well as stressed and anxious. It is therefore important to ensure that regular, personal contact is made between everyone in the Company, not only via email but by video conferences, web chats, etc. so that you everyone can ascertain how each other is coping, by being able to see them, as well as hear them and can then identify more coherently, if they need help or assistance at any time. It is important for all members to keep in touch with each other and encourage two-way communication throughout the day, to aid positive wellbeing and camaraderie throughout this period.  

Promote the use of management approved messaging apps too, like slack and WhatsApp, for example, so that everyone continues to be able to communicate with each other, and understand what they are expected to do and be able to carry out their tasks seamlessly, regardless of their location. These apps offer an element of historical referencing too, so that everyone can keep informed, but they can historically look back through chat’s to verify information, if required.

Help Each-other To Settle In To Their New Work Environments

Working from home can require more distractions and disruptions than when working in the office, so make sure that all the team are aware of each other’s new working environments and outside commitments. Who is at home with them? What time of the day may they receive the most disruption? Do they have any regular duties like dog walking or childcare drop offs etc. that they need to do, whilst they are working from home? Understanding each other’s new working environments and any associated commitments and adaptations to the usual working day is only achieved from free flowing, comprehensive disclosure and information gathering between all parties, so actively encourage this.

Encourage safe working environments and regular breaks

Whilst there is a potential need to allow people to work from home at this current time, as an employer you still have a duty of care for your staff, regardless of whether they work remotely or in the office, so with this in mind, make sure that you conduct a risk assessment for each team member, to ensure that it is safe for them to work from home, that they are using equipment that is safe and fit for purpose and that they abide by your usual health and safety rules and regulations, even when they are at home,  like adhering to guidelines on how long you should look at laptop screens or monitors for, without a break, using methods of secure access to Company equipment and preventing others in the household from gaining access to Company property too, etc.

Adopting a role call process to encourage all staff members to inform not only their manager’s but each other when they are logging on and off from work, and when they are taking breaks, will also promote camaraderie and encourage everyone to keep an eye on each other, as well as allowing the Business to continue to operate customer facing services like helpdesks and service desks, effectively.

Ensure that your staff take regular breaks throughout the day, as in some cases, people tend to work in a more focused manner when they work from home and will work vigorously and constantly, without breaks, to get a task done.

Also, be prepared to consider a more flexible approach to how people meet their quota of working hours, to conduct their job roles, and meet deadlines and workloads. They may need to adopt a change to their usual working hours or patterns, at short notice, so that they can attempt to maintain their business activities, with minimal disruption, if other outside factors occur.

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