With further UK lockdowns, the Government is encouraging employees to continue (or begin) working from home. Many find themselves remote working for what can only be described as the ‘long-haul’. We look at how organisations support most of their workforce still working remotely and ensure teams remain productive during this time.
Employees are creating new expectations on flexibility, working conditions and their work/life balance. Staff are championing a hybrid remote-office model for the post-coronavirus working world. With the ongoing pandemic and latest lockdown many offices have remained open for employees who need a different working space other than their own homes. Businesses have kept occupancy levels level low and continued to offer coronavirus secure alternative spaces. This has been particularly beneficial for workers with an environment not totally conducive to work and who can access their office safely.
The wider remote workforce has faced new challenges such as suffering from a form of ‘virtual fatigue’ (spending extra time online and participating in regular virtual meetings and communications) and continuing to feel pressure to work hard at home whilst threatened by burnout. Many employers have reacted with simple steps to support the workforce and protect positive wellbeing. The CIPD has published a long list of top tips for managing remote working but here are just a few for managers to consider during these unusual times.
- Agree ways of working - how will tasks be delegated, how will progress be monitored, what support will be in place to ensure more junior members of the team have access to more experienced team colleagues when they need it.
- Show the big picture but prepare to flex - if there is some work that is more pressing help teams to make that a priority by making sure they are clear on the deliverables attached to the work. Help them to reorganise other parts of their role that can be re-distributed to ensure all of the Company’s goals are achieved. Review and revise plans if they need to change and communicate this openly with teams.
- Set expectations and then trust - if goals are clear then trust your team members to do the job. There is nothing more de-motivating than micromanaging for individuals who are responsible and accountable already.
- ‘Meet up’ - be it a virtual team huddle, or a smaller group meeting on Teams, or when times permit it a walk and talk either in person or remotely. Organisations have embraced the technology platforms, but many have reported feeling ‘zoomed out’. Some platforms are also mobile so dial in occasionally as it can stop team members from feeling like they are stuck at their desks for extended periods. It can be refreshing to connect in different ways so be creative.
- ‘Read the room’ - look out for how people are feeling, this can be in the way the act, the way they say things or the things they don’t say. Home in on what’s not being said and check regularly people are okay and keep talking not just about work but make time for actual conversations away from work. This can help to keep the social bonds that many are missing from seeing each other every day. It can also help to prevent loneliness especially for those who do not live with others or who may be forced to isolate.
Although many may look back at 2020 as the chance to have a ‘leisure wear’ work wardrobe, the larger consequence of a societal and cultural shift of remote working will only be fully realised in time. This amplifies the importance for employers to support and manage their staff to keep them engaged and efficient both now and post-pandemic.