The Coronavirus pandemic has had a wide-ranging impact on businesses around the globe. One thing that has enabled numerous businesses to carry on in some form has been the option to allow staff who are usually based in offices to work from home. So, what are the top tips for moving to remote working? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of a more remote-based workforce?
What do I need to do?
One of the key actions is to equip your staff with everything they need to enable them to be able to work remotely. This may include (but is not limited to): laptops, mobile phones, printers, headsets, extension leads, desks, chairs. You may also need to look at contributing to an upgrade in broadband/internet or supplying a Wi-Fi dongle because a fast and reliable connection is crucial for them to be able to access online resources and to use video-conferencing platforms.
Also ensure that they know where to get remote IT support as many will need it during the set-up and on-going operational processes.
For employees who require ‘reasonable adjustments’ in line with equal opportunities legislation when in the office, you will need to look at how these can be provided in their home environment.
All hardware needs to be security checked and PAT tested before it can be used. Any local software that is required should be pre-installed so that the employee does not have to do this themselves. This will also be more secure.
Tips for employees
- Establish a comfortable workspace – you are probably going to be at your desk for around seven hours a day so make sure that your work room has good lighting, enough space, and enables you to maintain good posture. Ensure that your screens are at the correct level.
- Take regular breaks – this is crucial, particularly screen breaks. Your eyes are very sensitive so at least five minutes in each hour should be spent away from the screen. You should also get up and stretch approximately once an hour.
- Stay in touch – perhaps look at having a ‘buddy’ within the organisation with whom you can check-in on a weekly basis just to make sure you are both OK. Alternatively, schedule and stick to a regular online team-meeting or call.
- Establish a routine – it may become tricky to separate work from home when you are, in some cases, working from your living room. Establish a routine and try to ensure you stick to it, including starting and finishing on time). Having a set routine of setting up and taking down equipment, for example, will help you in terms of separating work from home and vice versa.
- Set SMART goals for the day/week – this should be the same as when in the office and is a great way to keep motivated at home.
Looking after your staff
As an employer or manager, it can be quite tricky adjusting to not having your staff in the same physical place as you. You may struggle initially with factors such as boundaries and supervision. Some top tips for managing a remote workforce include:
- Make use of the technology available – this includes embracing video conferencing software. Being able to physically see each other makes for more productive meetings and you can even get some visual cues.
- Hold regular one on ones – these should be weekly and ideally by video (although not essential).
- Emphasise wellbeing – make sure that your employees have everything they need to stay healthy and are aware of any support such as employee assistance programmes.
- Try and track their work hours – either ask them to send you an email at the start and the end of their day or track using their system log-in times.
- Set clear targets – this helps them to stay disciplined and organised. You can even use online task-scheduling software for this.
Pros and cons of remote working
There are numerous advantages and several disadvantages to remote working, both from an employee and employer perspective.
For employees, there are many positives. It removes the need to commute (or pay for the commute) and being able to work more flexibly in-terms of hours may alleviate some pressure on childcare arrangements. Many appreciate being able to work at the time of day at which they are most productive, for example, some people may work better later in the day so could adjust hours accordingly.
The downsides include a lack of face-to-face interaction, a change of routine, being isolated from their team/peers, feeling less supported by their managers, less separation between home and work, and perhaps a less-conducive workspace.
For employers, the advantages include lower meeting/travel expenses, potential office and rental cost reduction, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, and lower environmental impact. The downsides include issues with communication, accountability, discipline/supervision, and security, particularly web security.
Most of the negatives can be overcome using innovation, cloud technology, and best practice based upon lessons from other organisations who have made similar changes.