Working From Home – Is This the New Normal?
Six months ago, ‘Zoom’ was a word used by camera enthusiasts or by a toddler to explain how fast a toy car moved. ‘Working from home’ generally meant taking work home that wasn’t able to get finished during working hours. Oh, and talking of working hours, 95% of office workers took part in the 9-5 routine, complete with 8 hours of sitting at a stuffy desk, a dry lunchtime sandwich, traffic jams or a crowded train at commute time and of course numerous meetings.
Suddenly the events of the last few months have seen (according to some estimates), at least 50% of office workers working from home. Companies who have enjoyed a more flexible approach to home working over the last few years report the following benefits:
Benefits for employers
Benefits for employees
· Potential savings of office space
· Improved productivity
· Improved staff retention
· Higher attendance at meetings
· Saving of travel expenses
· Saving of commuter time
· Saving of food costs (no coffee on way to work, canteen lunch etc)
· If done flexibly, parents may be able to reduce childcare costs
Of course, we know there are challenges and this type of working does not suit every individual as well as it does not suit every organisation. Some staff have reported loneliness, finding it hard to unplug at the end of the day, too many distractions at home and poor wifi or office equipment at home.
Many experts believe that the future of the workplace has changed forever. Although teams will gradually migrate back to the office, working from home, if even on a part-time basis will become much more common place.
Managing Remote Teams
The CIPD recently published the following suggested guidelines for managing remote teams
- Agree ways of working. Make sure every team member is clear about how you will work together remotely, how you keep each other updated, and how frequently.
- Show the big picture but prepare to flex. Remind your team about the big picture and how their work fits into it. Review short-term goals regularly and adjust as needed. If some members can’t carry out all their usual work, consider other skills they can lend to others to meet team goals.
- Set expectations and trust your team. Be clear about mutual expectations and trust your team to get on without micromanaging. Focus on results rather than activity.
- Make sure team members have the support and equipment they need. This includes any coaching they might need to use online systems or work remotely. Keep your calendar visible and maintain a virtual open door.
- Have a daily virtual huddle. This is essential for keeping connected as a team, to check in on each other’s well-being and keep workflow on track. It needn’t be long, but regularity is key.
- Keep the rhythm of regular one-to-ones and team meetings. This maintains a sense of structure and continuity for all.
- Share information and encourage your team to do the same. Without physical ‘water-cooler conversations’, opportunities to pick up information in passing are more limited. Share appropriate updates or learnings from other meetings and projects and invite your team to do the same.
- Tailor feedback and communications. People can be more sensitive if they’re feeling isolated or anxious, so take this into account when talking or writing. Communicate regularly, not just when things go wrong, whether it is information, praise or criticism.
- Listen closely and read between the lines. Not being in the same room means you don't have extra information from body language or tone to get the sense of what people are thinking or feeling, particularly in more difficult conversations. Home in on what’s not being said and ask questions to clarify your interpretation.
- Help foster relationships and well-being. Make time for social conversations. This increases rapport and eases communication between people who may not meet often. It also reduces feelings of isolation.
We would also add the following points:
- Can the work you are asking employees to do from home be done safely? Reasonable adjustments will need to be made for employees with disabilities.
- Health and safety risk assessments should normally be carried out at the employee’s home, you could therefore request that employees complete a workstation assessment.
- Ensure employees have the correct equipment to enable them to work at home.
- Do you have the right insurance to protect employees and business equipment at their home?
- Consider who will provide IT support and how this will be administered.
- Data protection rules must be considered. How will employees comply with these regulations whilst at home?
- How will you keep in touch with team members and at what frequency?
- How will targets be set?
- How will performance be managed?
- How will you keep your employees motivated?
- How will you ensure employees are complying with the law regarding working hours?
There are lots of sources of advice in this area:
- Your IT Company
- Your Health and Safety Advisor
- ACAS guidelines
- HSE website
But as always, feel free to call or email us if you have any questions.
Tel: 01656 336097
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