If your business had already dipped its toe into a remote working regime before the pandemic, the transition to working entirely from home would have perhaps been a reasonably smooth one… but given that only 30% of the UK workforce ever worked from home in 2019, it’s likely that your business has faced a steep learning curve over the last four weeks.
Now that your employees are settling into their new way of working life, you can focus on ensuring they work as effectively and productively as they do whilst in the office. To achieve this, we have outlined how your workforce can successfully do their jobs remotely, all whilst maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
There are always expectations that come as part of any job and being absent from the office environment does not change that fundamental rule of employment. During times of crisis, your workforce needs to know what is expected of them and whether there are due to be any changes to how they work until things return to how they were prior to the lock-down.
You must be clear about what you want from each employee whilst they are working remotely, so ensure that you define expectations on the following:
Prioritise Collaboration on Projects
You can’t claim to have much of a team without teamwork. Your employees might not be able to collaborate in the same way they did just a few months ago, but that does not mean collaboration is out altogether!
Collaboration is vital in times of crisis, and putting numerous heads together for a task or project will enable your business to solve problems a lot quicker. Video conferencing can easily take the place of boardroom meetings and brainstorming as a means to solve issues is still as effective as it’s always been.
Collaboration is also a fantastic way to bring your team together and build morale. With over a month having passed since the lock-down begun, it is probable that your employees will be feeling a little demotivated at times. Putting an emphasis on your employees collaborating will boost team morale, improve results and instil a feeling of determination to push ahead, even when times get tough.
Employees Should Create A Designated Workspace
It is crucial that your workers can separate work from home life, and that is a growing concern during this worldwide pandemic. In the initial days of the lock-down, many businesses were left reeling and rushing to figure out a way to transition seamlessly to remote working.
Many employees were not fully prepared to work from home, leaving businesses scrambling to ensure all workers had what they require to continue working effectively. It is a good idea to check in with your workforce to establish whether they have a productive workspace. Send round a quick survey to ask whether your employees have a desk space, reliable internet connection and any other query, such as additional screens or a phone system. Where the work setups fall short for any employees, do your best to help provide the right support and equipment as this will have a direct result on their ability to do their job properly.
Encourage Employees to Stick to Their Usual Working Hours
Whilst the lack of commute has been a welcome addition to our lives, it has meant that many are unintentionally spending more time behind their computer screen. Recent data suggests that UK employees are working an extra two hours per day during the mass quarantine.
For your employees and perhaps even yourself, the days may have started to blur into one. But it is vital that those working for your business can separate work life and home life. It might be tempting to organise an evening Zoom call with your team, because hey, it’s not like anyone has anywhere to be… but doing so could mean that your employees start to burn out and this, in turn, will actually see their productivity plummet.
There will be occasions where employees clock in for an extra few hours to get an important project finished, and when deadlines are fast approaching, we are all guilty of a few late nights to reach the finish line. But keep an eye out for any persistent late workers and if necessary, reach out and encourage individuals to take time away from work in the evenings and weekends.
Make Communication A Key Part of Every Day
It might feel strange running a business from your home, but despite not having the usual backdrop for work, it is important to continue with as much normality as possible. Your business still needs to do what it always does, whether that is offering a service or products – for businesses that have had to stop operation altogether due to the lock-down, take a look at What Government Support Is Available For Your Small Business to help alleviate financial struggles. Alternatively, explore the funding options available to your business as using your assets could help address any pitfalls in finances whilst the Coronavirus situation continues to unravel.
A big part of normality is communication and your employees should be talking regularly, even if it can’t be face to face right now. Social connection is vital for the well-being of your workforce and encouraging it will help reinforce the positive attitude needed for your employees to work effectively during the lock-down.
There are various tools and pieces of software that your business can utilise to make communicating remotely a whole lot easier. We talked about some of the best communication tools in our blog: Technology To Help Your SME Operate Efficiently During The Lock-down.
Build A Culture of Accountability
Of course, remote working comes with its own set of challenges and the main problem businesses must contend with is the sheer freedom the lock-down has caused – and the speed of which that freedom came to be. The lack of visibility and ability to manage teams can suffer when working remotely, which is why there needs to be an emphasis on building a culture of accountability.
If you’re a small business with a small team to manage, this culture won’t be difficult to build. Weekly one-on-ones will help you understand the workload of each of your employees, and it will also provide the perfect opportunity for any of your members of staff to highlight any concerns they have. You and your employees can work together to ensure that operations are running as smoothly as possible during the pandemic and if any obstacles arise during the lock-down, you will hear about them promptly rather than only when they’ve snowballed and become a much bigger problem to tackle.
If you run a business with various teams, ensure that your team leaders have everything they need to manage their teams effectively. Work with key leaders in your business to successfully align long-term goals with projects and people. Every team should have clear goals in place, well-defined project plans, deadlines and members with individual responsibilities. By having and tracking key metrics, you will be able to manage each area within your business and will face less of a headache upon returning to the office once it's safe to do so.
To establish whether your company has successfully implemented a remote working environment, your business should invest in software and tools that help to monitor productivity levels amongst its workforce.
There are so many ways to use project management technology in your day-to-day operations, and it will help to boost results collectively across all teams. It is good practice to concentrate on the results produced by your employees whilst they are working remotely, rather than only focusing on the hours worked - rewarding quality work should always be the priority.
The lock-down has taught us many things, and despite many businesses previously resisting the pull of technology, it plays an important role both now and, in the future, so organisations must embrace it to avoid falling behind.
However, technology does not come cheap… Your business might be in a position where it needs the support provided by tech to work efficiently in a remote manner, but it can’t afford to invest after the economic climate drastically changed without warning. There are several loans available to help businesses with these kinds of investments, such as Cash Flow Finance and Invoice Finance. Explore the potential finance available to unlock additional funds to help alleviate the pressure caused by the ongoing world pandemic.
For more SME advice regarding the Coronavirus situation, take a look at the additional resources on our Coronavirus Hub.
5 May, 2020