By Sandy Lucas is Chief People Officer & Director of Operations at Alexander Mann Solutions.

The Coronavirus pandemic has led to an overnight exodus from the office, and for certain industries, created a world-wide remote workforce. These are unprecedented times and even the most experienced home workers are facing extraordinary challenges. It is now more important than ever that businesses have strong leaders in place to guide people through this uncertain and testing period.

Having the tools to continue business as usual

Alexander Mann Solutions embraces work life balance and as a pioneer in flexible working already has strong systems and structures in place to support remote working and is very aware of the challenges that can arise. However, for many employees, this will be their first time working from home and a completely new experience.

To ensure that workers are able to continue business as usual, it’s important that firms have the right tools and technology in place. For example, online files should be organised so that they are easy to find and accessible by everyone

Whilst there is a wealth of technology out there to assist home workers, however, what’s really important is that business leaders help their teams understand the technology, ensuring they know how to log on for example and where to find information or support. In times of stress colleagues can be overwhelmed and need to have easily accessible tools that are easy to understand. Having video run throughs, easy-to-digest user guides and top tips available will make the process simple and stress-free. Help train your people leaders on leading remotely and getting the best out of the technology.

Communication is key

Communicate , communicate , communicate. In times of challenge, no news is often viewed as bad news so always communicate even if you have nothing to update on.

During times of crisis, it’s particularly important that there is thoughtful, clear and frequent communication. If employees have clarity on what they need to do and what is expected from them while working remotely, there will not be any need for micromanagement.

It’s best practice to start each day with a video meeting. Not only will this help the team get organised, but it will also provide much-needed face-to-face interaction too. Managers should encourage their teams to favour video communication, rather than relying on calls or emails in order to keep the sense of team ‘togetherness’ going.

Managers should also schedule creative meetings such as “walk & talk”, which are meetings where both parties go for a walk where feasible and safe, for the duration of the call. This will help the company keep active and productive. Team members should also be encouraged to have virtual ‘coffee and chat’ sessions to keep relationships strong.

With many individuals now feeling stressed and anxious about the pandemic and how it will impact themselves and their families, it’s particularly important that team leaders are aware of how their people are feeling, keeping an eye on their situation and adjusting their responses as they learn more. Being empathetic is important.

For every day banter – and for replacing the water cooler moments – it’s also a good idea to build informal opportunities for questions, such as team WhatsApp groups which is great for not only disseminating “breaking news”, but also answering quick questions. Keeping your instant messaging open helps you be ‘visible and present’ and maintaining the banter - it’s important not to forget the fun!

Wellbeing comes first

Without being physically in front of your employees, it can be more difficult than usual to know how well they truly are. However, with clear and thoughtful communication, and the right training to pick up on cues, managers will be able to spot the signs of stress and anxiety.

Employees need to know where to seek help – such as employee assistance programmes – and that it’s ok not to be ok. Companies can also create a space where wellbeing information is shared, identify Wellbeing Ambassadors and offer information on best practices for remote working to keep spirits lifted. Team leaders should also encourage their people to read these documents and share any of their own input or ideas.

The current situation due to the coronavirus is not the typical working-from-home life. It’s understandable that individuals may be worried about their health or of their families, while many may be feeling lonely. To help employees feel less isolated and keep healthy, managers can suggest virtual lunch catch ups or schedule creative meetings such as “walk & talk”, which are meetings where both parties go for a walk where feasible and safe, for the duration of the call.

Creating an open and supportive environment, encouraging colleagues to talk about their feelings in meetings or in one to ones, developing a safe space where your team feel involved and able to share problems and challenges is of paramount importance.

While caring for others and leading teams, it’s important than managers check up on their own health and wellbeing too. Everyone needs to practice good habits such as scheduled work hours and disconnecting – and the best way to achieve this is through a top-down approach. With the right attitude, communication and team-work, the best companies can make it through these tough-times and stay strong.