By Juliane Sterzl, VP of UK&I, CoachHub
Remote working has been on the rise for a number of years, and many small businesses use it as a way to offer staff flexibility while minimising costly overheads. But until recently, it has almost always been an occasional or voluntary option; far from the standard in a working culture still dominated by the office. Now though, as the world adapts to new norms of social distancing and isolation, entire teams and workforces are having to cope with working remotely, separated from their colleagues.
While this won’t signal the death of the office in the long term, businesses are facing an entirely new challenge of how to ensure their employees are still able to safely and successfully do their jobs. The health and well-being of employees is always the number one priority, so as businesses, large and small, switch to remote working models, here are some tips to effectively managing your teams:
This might sound a little redundant, but in times of change, ensuring continuity where possible is invaluable. ‘Business as usual’ is entirely unlikely in such unprecedented circumstances, but one major challenge founders face is how to make sure that as many business functions as possible continue undisrupted.
When employees’ regular routines are being turned upside down, businesses should do what they can to impart as much normality as possible. Keeping regular meetings in the diary and sticking to pre-arranged schedules can be as important as providing the required flexibility, particularly when it comes to mitigating disruption and staving off the chaos.
Take it online
We live in a golden age of technology, and entrepreneurs have for years been developing technological alternatives to almost all of our business processes. Whether it’s video and conferencing calls in place of meetings, instant messaging services instead of the office chat, or digital project management tools instead of that large meeting room wall-chart, it is possible to migrate much of your day-to-day online. Turn to digital tools to ensure that your workforce is still equipped with the necessary support to achieve success.
The human touch
Remote working sounds instantly less appealing when framed in the context of words like ‘lockdown’ and ‘quarantine’. It’s important to remember that for many employees, being ‘remote’ poses a number of new difficulties. This is a vast challenge for founders and HR functions, as entire workforces will have to operate without meaningful human interaction. It shouldn’t be underestimated how much we subconsciously gain from body language and voice cues.
Where possible, businesses should encourage video calls over phone calls, and phone calls over instant messages. Digitalised HR resources, such as digital coaching and employee feedback solutions, can help manage employee well-being and mentoring processes in difficult, or remote, situations. Tech products can solve so many problems, but there is often no substitute for adding a human touch.
Adjust your expectations
For many employees, operating remotely will lead to working in sub-optimal conditions; whether it’s noisy houses, uncomfortable furniture, unreliable internet connections or just extended periods of isolation and loneliness. Very few will be able to replicate an office environment at home, and extended periods of remote working can lead to boredom, stagnated productivity and added emotional strain on employees. The context is crucial, and businesses should always remember there is a human behind every screen and every email. In such extraordinary circumstances, adjusting expectations is absolutely necessary.
Be visible and communicate
Remote workforces can quickly become isolated workforces if not managed properly. In lieu of human interactions in the office, it is key to make sure that everyone still feels like part of a wider team. Founders should lead by example and, where possible, increase the amount of face-time with individual employees. Not only will this help tackle concerns head on as soon as they arise, but will help reassure staff that the understanding and empathy mentioned above is there, and that they are still a crucial part of a successful and sociable team.
The most important thing for businesses to remember in this ever-changing situation is that there is more to life than the bottom line. Employees are humans, with individual circumstances and concerns, and should always be treated as such. Increasing tailored and personalised support is the best way to ensure that people are happy and healthy at work, which will in turn increase productivity, reduce staff turnover, and ultimately get the best out of your workforce, no matter how remote they have to be.