Law firm Aaron and Partners has put together a list of 10 tips aimed at helping HR professionals, managers and business owners to manage staff working remotely during the UK-wide lockdown period.
Helen Watson, Partner and Head of the firm’s renowned Employment team, has extensive experience of advising employers on all aspects of employment law and supports clients on a wide range of complex HR issues.
“Employers in the UK are facing a number of significant challenges right now, and with the majority of offices closed, successful remote working is going to play a key role in keeping businesses in operation through this period.
“With the government recently announcing an extension to the current lockdown period until at least 7 May, now is the time for businesses to review their approach to remote working to ensure their workforce remains professional, motivated and productive whilst working remotely.
“We’ve seen an increasing number of clients contacting the firm with issues relating to Covid-19. To offer some help and guidance during this period, we’ve produced a list of top tips to help manage a workforce remotely.”
Ensure staff have the necessary equipment
Employers should ensure that staff are properly equipped and have the fundamental equipment necessary to do their job remotely. This may involve providing essential tools and equipment such as laptops and mobile phones. Clauses within the employment contract will help to ensure that all company property remains so and must be returned in the event of termination.
The significant decrease in day-to-day social interaction that employees would usually experience within an office environment places greater importance on the need for employers to be in regular contact with all members of the team. Interaction amongst teams promotes engagement and employers will benefit from opening multiple channels of communication with staff.
Utilise video conferencing
Managing your workforce by way of video conferencing can promote inclusion amongst staff and provide the opportunity to see the people you previously worked with, talked to or managed on a daily basis. Additionally, text does not convey emotion and therefore it can be difficult to sense a colleague’s intent where communication is via email or direct message. The value in video conferencing is that colleagues can see each other, are able to read body language and can feel more connected overall.
In a time of need, flexibility can be the saving grace for many staff. Employers must not forget that staff are being forced back into their lives at home and that naturally, brings the quirks of our everyday lives, but in unprecedented circumstances. Employers should consider allowing staff to work in different patterns provided that this meets the needs of the business’ clients.
Focus on accomplishment rather than activity
Managers should steer away from micromanagement in these trying times, firstly to convey a level of trust which will help build professional relationships, but also to shift the focus towards accomplishments rather than activity. Client satisfaction underpins all businesses and so provided clients are serviced properly and effectively, then this satisfies the bigger picture. If goals are not being met, or there is a notable decline in outcomes, then there may be cause for concern and a need to investigate – this should be managed on a case by case basis.
Establish a good relationship
Strong business relationships lay the foundations for staff productivity and empathy is key to understanding the people you work with both on a professional and a personal level. Managers should check in with their staff often and discuss topics outside of work. Supporting the success of staff rather than being blindly focused on the numbers can often work favourably. It is important to build these relationships with each individual member of the team as every person has unique qualities and forms an important limb of the business.
Recognise loneliness and isolation
Coming into the office every day may be the only form of social interaction and engagement some staff regularly have and being thrust into this new way of working runs the risk of taking all social interaction away, potentially leading to loneliness. Managers should recognise this, engage staff socially where possible and encourage regular breaks. In the current lockdown crisis, more and more social apps and platforms are emerging, allowing staff to take part in social activities from the comfort of their home.
Create a clear schedule
Working from home places greater importance on scheduling, especially given that the workforce is going to be spread out. Unlike an ‘open door’ policy seen across many offices; it can be difficult to know when a door is actually ‘open’ when not in the office. Managers should therefore schedule time to sit down and properly discuss with staff any matters, issues or concerns and ensure they are dealt with in order to maintain continuity outside of the office.
Never cancel a one-to-one
Making plans for one-to-one’s and sticking to them can ease the pressure that all businesses face right now by combating loneliness and isolation, improving connectivity and investing in the value of relationships. A failure to follow through with arranged activities can therefore have an adverse effect on morale.
Prioritise your company culture
Maintaining the core values of the business, even in times of adversity, is testament to the strength of the brand. Businesses that encourage an open and inclusive environment, where each and every member is firmly on board, will be best placed to survive even the most unusual circumstances which we find ourselves in. This places greater importance on the need for inclusion and continuing to maintain normality even in the current climate.
Contributed by Aaron and Partners