The practicalities of working remotely
Today we are looking at an unprecedented number of people being sent home to work. Whether they are self-isolating, practicing social distancing or have been sent home due to office closure, it is a challenge that most companies have not had to deal with before on this scale.
But it is not just the organisations themselves that will need to make an adjustment.
It is 2020 and it is almost accepted that the majority of people in non-customer contact roles work remotely. Yet the reality is that not everyone does work remotely or has the capacity to do so in any kind of urgency. ABS statistics from 2016 suggest that only 30% of workers make use of flexible working arrangements, and whilst I expect that number to have increased, it still leaves a large number of workers not used to working from home.
So, whatever the reason your team cannot be in the office at the moment, here are some things it would be worth considering.
It is no good just telling your team to work from home if they have never done it before. Whilst working from home can seem like a worker’s utopia, it can be challenging.
Gauge your employees’ level of preparedness, what equipment do they have access to and who can they call if it stops working. Make sure any IT support you use is available outside of your organisation. It can be very disheartening and frustrating when IT doesn’t work, and you have no-one to call. Do they have a space they can work in? Not everyone has the space to set up a computer.
Set guidelines of what you expect and be clear that this is about keeping people well, not how many hours you can cram in at home.
Keep in Touch
Working remotely can be socially isolating and even more so when you are not used to it and in the current situation where we are being encouraged to stay away from gatherings.
Regular contact can make or break a remote work situation. Ideally schedule a regular team connection, so that everyone can share their challenges, frustrations or achievements. But don’t forget the personal chats, especially if you are responsible for a team, make sure your managers are keeping an eye on individuals. A quick 10 minute how are you call or video chat can make all the difference to someone feeling a bit disconnected.
Share, achievements of the team. This can really help ensure everyone feels they are supporting the overall goal that can be at times difficult to see.
Set Clear Boundaries
Working from home can really blur the line between work and home. If this is new to someone, they can find it challenging to work out where home life and work life starts and stops.
For those used to being in the office, it might be challenging to self-motivate at first, by providing clear expectations and goals it will help both you as the employer and your employees.
By making it clear from the start, it will remove a lot of the anxiety and concern that they aren’t doing enough or are doing too much. Where possible set project goals rather than time-based goals. Support them to work when they are most productive. Be clear that leaving the “home office” to do a chore around the home or to step outside for a breath of fresh air is not a problem.
In fact, we should be encouraging going outside where possible and trying to keep life as normal as possible.
Its not all about work
It can be hard to not focus on the job at hand, especially when things are delayed or slowed down due to the current pandemic, but it is important to realise that working from home is not for everyone. If you are someone that is used to being outside all day and suddenly you need to stay inside, it is going to be a difficult adjustment period. In the same way many people thrive on social interaction, the chat at lunchtime, the smoko or just with the person next to them.
So, when you do have those catchups, make time for some more social chit chat.
Is anyone on your team particularly worried about being at home more?
Sometimes just being at home can be particularly difficult, it could be from a concern about being around an elderly relative more or it could be from a concern around domestic violence or it could be from a concern around being around things like cigarettes or alcohol.
Sadly, it is expected that the number of DV reports is going to go up during this time of insecurity and isolation. If you are concerned about anyone in your business, you can find more information to support your team here – https://www.qld.gov.au/community/getting-support-health-social-issue/support-victims-abuse or here – https://www.forgov.qld.gov.au/cultural-transformation.
There are also some great resources here – https://workplace.ourwatch.org.au/
If you have remote offices that can be utilised or similar options this might be a time to offer these.
There is currently a heightened sense of social anxiety currently that may be affecting you or your team. Part of this is due to the continuing sense of uncertainty and the continued media coverage. Where possible provide certainty to your employees so they can have some certainty in their lives.
This may be done by setting up fixed meeting times or sending a regular update email.
Or by setting out a clear plan of action for a project or task.
Or by getting everyone to send in a report on where they are at each week.
Encourage your employees to set their own boundaries with regular breaks and a rough schedule of work.
At the end of the day this is a very unusual situation for all of us, leaders, managers, CEO’s, employees and employers and we must manage it as best we can. The best advice is to focus on what we can do and to support each other as much as possible.
Be kind to yourself and your team you are navigating uncharted waters.
Ruth Harrison is an experienced connector of people, passionate about all thing’s aviation and engineering. A champion of diversity and equity in all its forms and a driver of organisational change to create truly inclusive work environments. She is creative and driven to see a more equal society through creative and diverse thoughts and designs. Ruth can advise on recruitment best practice, STEM engagement, employment branding and organisational change. Ruth is also open to speaking opportunities on creating environments supportive of diversity, flexible working, recruitment, and engineering.