Supporting your workforce through the home working transition

As a business, what can be done to help teams adjust to working from home and self-isolation?

One of the things that the Coronavirus pandemic has taught businesses is that we need to be able to rapidly adapt and react to a constantly changing landscape. Keeping teams engaged, physically and mentally healthy, and fully operational during times when government advice is for us to be in social isolation or lockdown is quite a challenge...

Home working
Supporting your workforce through the home working transition

Offices all across Europe and the UK are being told to work from home wherever possible or are on lockdown and, as such, are having to find ways to be able to transfer their teams to a home working environment. This is not always easy, and there are many aspects to home working that can often get overlooked.

So how can you, as a business, support your workforce through this transition? Let's take a look at some of the aspects involved, and see where help and assistance can be given...

1) Setting Up

Tools:

Some people don't have all the hardware they need to set up a home working environment. Make sure your workforce is equipped with the tools they’ll need - things like desktop computers, laptops, tablets and phone systems are all a key part of working life. Also, try to make sure that you have proper IT support available, or guides on how to set up and use the equipment you've provided.

Space:

Being able to separate home and work life is important, so it all doesn't just merge into one. Encourage setting up a home office workspace if possible - this will help your team get quickly into work mode when they need to, and help to reduce any distractions. Being able to set this up in a separate room is an advantage, as they'll be able to 'close the door' on work at the end of the day and concentrate on family / home time.

Establish the new normal:

Quickly establish your new normal and have daily check-ins as you would in the office. Set expectations for the frequency, timings and the platforms used for the daily check-ins or departmental meetings. For example, “We use video conferencing for daily check-in meetings, but we use IM when something is urgent”.

A well thought out home office space can help reduce distractions and increase productivity. [image: Unsplash]

2) Getting Going

Choose the right software:

The cloud now allows communication and project management interfaces that are accessible anywhere you have an internet connection. Many of them even come with their own mobile and desktop apps, or are directly accessbile through any internet browser. Good examples include Google Drive, Trello, Monday.com and Slack. Use them for monitoring your team’s tasks and productivity without the need for micro-management.

Video, Chat & Conference Calling:

In the not-too-distant past, keeping in touch from a work point of view whilst working from home meant a constant barrage of emails or phone calls, which quickly became too much to manage. Nowadays, the technology is in place that allows different forms of communication, either individually or in groups.

Keeping in touch via these methods can help make up for a lack of face to face contact when your team is working remotely. Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Zoom and Skype are great for video calling, and can be really useful for helping you the workforce feel connected. Many of these services also offer instant messaging, for quickfire text updates between teams.

Sharing Tools:

When working remotely on collaborative projects, your team will need a way to share stuff amongst one another. Google Drive, Dropbox, and WeTransfer will be essential for easily sharing large files, images, and documents between teams.

Business-wide Internal Communications:

Make sure these are regular, clear and concise. Keeping everyone informed and engaged is crucial, so everyone knows exactly what is going on and still feels part of the overall team. Consider using something like Workplace by Facebook, where updates can be posted regularly, and group settings enable you to communicate differing levels of information to those that need it.

Keeping in touch with the team can be easily facilitated via video conferencing tools such as Zoom. [image: Zoom]

3) Encouragement & Support

Provide time for remote social interaction:

This is vital for all remote workers, but especially for ones that have been forced to abruptly adapt to working from home - so make time for those personal chats at the start of calls to catch up with each other. Trust us, it'll make a difference to your team to know you're thinking of them. Even if it's just a quick cuppa via FaceTime. These things should really help everyone to feel less isolated and have a sense of belonging. 

One idea (and one that the Fluid team have employed) is to host a virtual drinks party at the end of the week. It gives everyone a chance to let their hair down and catch up with co-workers in a more relaxed setting, and can be a lot of fun!

Provide encouragement and emotional support:

Looking after your team's emotional wellbeing is a key part of managing a business, and this is no less important with home working. Some might argue that, given the circumstances surrounding recent events, it should be a key priority for managers.

Take time to listen to your team’s anxieties, concerns and empathise with their struggles. Ask ‘how is this all working out for you?’ and listen to their answers, letting their concerns be the focus of the conversation - not those of the business. Tell them you’re confident in your team and that “We’ve got this and we’re all in it together”.

Encourage them to take regular breaks, even if it’s having a cup of tea or taking a breath of fresh air. If you aren't familiar with the term, read up on mindfulness and encourage your team to take part in activities that promote a peaceful and healthy mind. By taking simple steps to provide this kind of support, your employees are more likely to maintain a healthy attitude, and will be much better equipped to take on a challenge with focus and purpose.

Often overlooked, a peaceful and healthy mind is key to avoiding struggles with working from home and self isolation. [image: Unsplash]

So - home working, managed well, doesn't have to be a huge upheaval to your business. Studies have shown that effective remote working can actually increase productivity. Research by Cardiff University in 2017 said that 73% of remote workers put in more effort than is requested. 

Supporting and helping your teams ease into these transitions in these difficult times is essential to ensure the running of your business with as little disruption as possible, and they’ll definitely thank you for it!

Visit our homeworking page for items that will help provide support and comfort to teams working from home.