If we turned the clocks back just 12 months, the idea of working from home was something often viewed as a luxury reserved for those in more senior positions or who were perhaps fortunate to find themselves working for organisations who were forward thinking enough to know that both flexible and agile working are keys to unlocking potential in their workforce.
Whizzing on to Spring 2021 as we continue to navigate our way through another national lockdown, more home-schooling and adverse weather conditions, it is fair to say that for many the novelty has now worn off.
A great deal of focus has been given (quite rightly) to the impact on the workforce with issues such as furlough, redundancy, wellbeing and mental health – and the longer the Government’s stay at home advice continues, the more remote and isolated some employees can feel.
But spare a thought for the employers and line managers and the challenges they continue to face in managing teams remotely. Technology has undoubtedly helped in playing a part in keeping an ‘open door’ policy, albeit remotely, but the loss of human presence is still being felt quite keenly.
So, here are some tips to help with managing your workforce remotely:
- Communication – keep this regular – but not too lengthy so as to avoid ‘virtual meeting fatigue’.
- Motivation – continue to praise good performance and think about having ‘good news’ slots in your meetings or huddles to keep morale high.
- Support – encourage staff to take breaks during daylight hours, and if you don’t already have one, think about introducing a ‘buddy’ system to enable small groups of staff to check in with each other.
- Expectations – make sure these are clear and remember that these cannot be over-communicated. Your employees/reports will still be looking to you to lead them despite the physical distance.
- Flexibility – some staff may be juggling family responsibilities along with their work responsibilities so allow flexibility in when and how their work is completed.
- Accountability – this may seem a complete contradiction to flexibility, but it is vital that employees remain accountable whilst working remotely. Grievances and disciplinaries have continued throughout lockdown(s) and all policies remain valid. It is vital that acceptable behaviour is embedded to combat (amongst other things) remote bullying and harassment in a home working culture.
- Fun – try to recreate ‘staff room’ moments with virtual coffee breaks or even the odd quiz or end of week ‘social.’ Be imaginative in keeping energy high and supporting teamwork.
And finally, remember that career progression has not disappeared. You will still have employees who are keen to grow and improve and so thought needs to be given to career development when the opportunity to learn by ‘osmosis’ in the workplace has all but disappeared. Encourage staff to take on new learning and improve their skills either by finding ways to do that themselves or by suggesting courses, e-learning and the like to them.
All of these points, and more, can be covered in a Working from Home Policy which is something many organisations will not have given thought to before 2020, or even by full explanation of a Flexible Working Policy to your employees.
Get in touch
If you have further questions, would like to discuss any issues raised in this article, or if you would like our support with your policy stance or any specific situation related to remote working, staffing issues or the effect of Coronavirus has had on your company, our Employment Law and HR team would be delighted to hear from you.
Melanie Rowe (Senior Associate)
Paula Early (HR Adviser and Paralegal)