How To Approach Homeworking & Remote Working

It wasn't that long ago that I was working on projects for a large corporation in the waste industry. My role was a Project Manager responsible for the implementation of municipal waste collection contracts. During my time in the role we implemented a number of large, long term contracts from Manchester to Epping and all the way down to North Somerset and Cornwall. My job required me to be on the road four days out of five with a mixture of home working, driving and working at different sites and offices.

The Coronavirus outbreak got me thinking about how I used to work, how I managed my time and how I managed my remote team. I have tried to combine some of these practices, along with the current restrictions and opportunities to give you some ideas to try out. You never know, you may just find a new way of operating your business that cuts down overhead and increases profit in future.

Sometimes remote working can feel lonely.

Employee Home & Remote Working: Helpful Tips

An employee who is now working from home will have been cast into a world that will be totally alien to them if they have not been in this situation before. Homeworking requires a great deal of structure and planning that has to come from the individual as well as their Manager. This will not be easy to adjust to for a large number of employees.

Tips for remote or homeworking:

1) Split the day into early, middle and late and decide how you can complete your working hours best and cope with all the other distractions you have around you. This allows you to see when you may be able to take advantage of quiet periods in the house and when you may have domestic tasks you must attend to.

2) Segment your working hours into 30-minute intervals with a 5-10-minute break in between each interval.This enables focus on tasks for a short period, but then allows you to retain flow when you get back to the next session.

3) Communicate regularly, but in short bursts. Utilise video software to contact colleagues to go through what you are up to. You can also use applications such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. This will engage both you and your colleagues, even if you are just contacting them to say "hi".

4) Make a list of tasks that you would like to get completed each day and tick them off as you go through them. This can give a great deal of satisfaction at the end of the day to see how much has been achieved.

5) If you feel yourself getting drawn into a mood or feeling more down than normal, contact someone. This can be either your Manager, a colleague or friend. This is probably one of the most destructive side effects of working from home and its effects on people should not be underestimated. If an employee does not take action, then this state of mind can spiral into something altogether more serious.

6) Make sure that you have your workstation and seating position set up correctly wherever you are working at home. Some helpful tips on doing this can be found at the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website https://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/workers/home.htm.

7) Check if your Company has a Work from Home Policy in their employee handbook. Have a read and if you have any questions, relay these to your Manager to answer.

Furloughed Workers and Employees: Helpful Tips

These employees will be the hardest to communicate with of all, as they should not be on any of the regular work-related calls or communications due to their Furlough status.

Furloughed employees can however be kept informed via their personal e-mail accounts and be sent a recording of the Director's weekly communication calls to know what is going on in the Company generally.

They can also do any of the following activities:

· Training

· Volunteering (as long as it does not benefit the Company)

· Additional employment if they have more than one job or employer

Directors will need to make sure that should the employees' Health and Wellbeing deteriorate or they fall sick, that they have someone in the Company they can contact. This could be a nominated colleague, Manager or Director, but the Company will need to make sure every furloughed employee has a point of contact if they find themselves in this situation.

Manager Home & Remote Working: Helpful Tips

Man-Management of a team working in totally different locations requires a different approach than if they are sitting at the desk opposite you. Communication is number one on the list. This does not mean unstructured talking for the sake of it. It means planning how you will contact people, why, when and how long you will talk for.

Tips for managing remote employees:

1) Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! You cannot communicate too much in this environment. You have numerous tools at your disposal to help you do this whether by mobile phone,video link, team chat rooms and email, but do not underestimate how hard this is to do effectively for a prolonged period.

2) Make sure that each team member knows what you are expecting of them and when it needs to be delivered by. It can be very easy to lose key pieces of information in translation, so communicating what the task is, who owns the task and who is responsible for completing the task, along with the deadline is essential. You can use any number of tools to help you manage this, including Excel or a Project Management tool such as Microsoft Project.

3) Ask team members how they would like to communicate with you and the rest of the team and listen to their preferred choice. You may not be able to accommodate everyone's preferences all of the time, but see if you can compromise once in a while.

4) Set up a team video link each day. This does not have to be first thing in the morning, but at a time when all members from your team can make the call. Make sure that all members of the team have a minute or two to speak about what they are doing and how they are feeling and then mute everyone whilst you go through your communication. Open up the Q&A or Chat area for everyone so they can relate their thoughts to you and the team.

5) Set up a structure for the video calls. Start with each member having their slot and then have a set order of items that both you and you team need to know about before the end of the call.

6) Make sure you have a strategy to manage introverts and extroverts within the team. Everyone needs to be given an opportunity to contribute even if it is just to say, “I have nothing to contribute" or “I am fine".

7) Be wary of the very quiet team members. Follow up with them if they are acting out of character or they seem withdrawn. Your soft management skills need to be utilised even more when communicating with remote workers.

8) Make the call duration no more than 30–40 minutes, otherwise people start losing focus and attention. If you need to go into more detail, set up a separate call with the people that need to be in attendance.

9) There may be times when the number of people that are in attendance may just want to sit and hear what you have to say, and that is fine. It should not be mandatory that all team members have to join in on every topic.

Directors & Business Owners Home & Remote Working: Helpful Tips

From a Director or Business Owner's point of view, this can be a lonely place at the moment. Not only are you having to manage clients, supply chains, finances and statutory duties, but you are now being thrown remote communication with a large proportion of your employees.

Tips for managing the workforce:

1) Employees and Managers can get overrun with the amount of different applications that need to be used when remote working. To try and avoid this, decide as a Company what tools you are going to use, for who and why, and then communicate this to all teams.

2) Hold a regular conference or video call at the same time once a week so that all employees can listen in to what you have to say. This should be no more than 20-30 minutes long and include external as well as internal updates. Employees will want to be kept up to date with what is happening around the Company and also with clients and external stakeholders.

3) Make sure that employees know how to get hold of a Director or Business owner. This could be by email or telephone, but Directors and Business Owners should be accessible and ready to take employee calls or emails.

4) Make sure that the locations of employees are updated in the Company's systems. You need to know if an employee is mobile, home working, furloughed or working at the office for their safety and also how best to communicate with them.

5) Make sure that your Health and Safety risk assessments have been carried out for homeworkers. You still have a duty to keep all employees safe during this period.

Contact HR Smart If You Need Support

HR Smart Ltd is an HR Consultancy that has been offering commercial best practice and UK Employment Law compliant advice to Directors and Business Owners across the UK since 2004.

Heidi and Jon have worked in many sectors between them including Manufacturing, Insurance, Medical, Waste, Construction and Facilities Management. They have a wealth of experience that you can tap into to help you through the Coronavirus pandemic.

If you need help or just to contact someone for a spot of advice, please email sales@hrsmartuk.com or call 01903 754 107.

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HR Smart Ltd  

197 Brighton Rd Lancing West Sussex BN15 8JB United Kingdom

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Email: sales@hrsmartuk.com
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