26th March, 2020
Managing your workforce remotely
With most offices now closed and employees working remotely from home, the employment team have produced a guide aimed at helping UK business owners manage their staff during this phase.
This has been implemented by a large percentage of businesses across the UK in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Leading lawyers from Aaron & Partners have compiled a ten-point guide aimed at helping business owners, managers and professionals manage the impact of staff working outside of the office.
- Have the proper equipment
Employers should ensure first of all that staff are properly equipped to do their job remotely which may involve providing the necessary tools and equipment such as laptops and mobile phones. Before staff can be expected to perform well it is important to ensure that they have the fundamental equipment necessary to do their job effectively. Allow time for employees to adjust to the change. Clauses within the employment contract will help to ensure that all company property remains so and must be returned in the event of termination.
- Communicate regularly
It goes without saying that working remotely significantly decreases the day-to-day social interaction employees would usually experience within the usual office environment. This places greater importance on the need for employers to be in regular contact with all members of the team. Interaction amongst teams promotes engagement and employers will benefit from opening multiple channels of communication with staff.
- Video conferencing
Again, remote workers generally do not benefit from daily face to face interaction in the same way as other employees would. Managing your workforce by way of video conferencing can promote inclusion amongst staff and provide the opportunity to see the people you previously worked with, talked to or managed on a daily basis. Further, text does not convey emotion so it can also be difficult to sense a colleague’s intent where communication is via email or direct message. The value in video conferencing is that colleagues can see each other, are able to read body language and can feel more connected overall.
- Be flexible
In a time of need, flexibility can be the saving grace for many staff. Employers must not forget that staff are being forced back into their lives at home and with that, naturally, brings the quirks of our everyday lives, but in unprecedented circumstances. Employers could consider allowing staff to work in different patterns provided always that this meets the needs of the business’ clients and recognising that some employees may have young children that they need to work around. If it is more practical for staff to work 10am-6pm, have a 2 hour lunch break, regular breaks or do some work in the evenings for example, provided clients are properly serviced then this could yield a more productive result overall.
- Focus on accomplishment rather than activity
Managers should steer away from micromanagement in these trying times, firstly because in doing so would convey a level of trust which will help build professional relationships but secondly to shift the focus more towards what is being accomplished as opposed to simply what is being done. Client satisfaction underpins all businesses and so provided clients are serviced properly and effectively then this satisfies bigger picture. If however goals are not being met or there is a notable decline in accomplishment, then there may be cause for concern and a need to investigate which should be managed on a case by case basis.
- Establish a good relationship
Strong business relationships lay the foundations for getting the most out of your staff and a team that works together wins together. Empathy is therefore key to understanding the people you work with both on a professional and a personal level. Managers should check in with their staff often, simply appreciating the life of a colleague or generally discussing commonalities or shared beliefs shows a genuine investment in the relationship. Supporting the success of staff rather than being blindly focused on the numbers can often work favourably. It is important to build relationships with each individual member of the team as every person has unique qualities and forms an important limb of the business.
- Recognise loneliness and isolation
Without realising, coming into the office every day may be the only form of social interaction and engagement some staff have in a day, particularly for those who live alone. Being thrust into this new way of working runs the risk of taking all social interaction away leading to a long and lonely process of isolation. Managers therefore need to recognise this, engage staff socially where possible and encourage regular breaks. In the current lockdown crisis, more and more social apps and platforms are emerging meaning that staff can still take part in social activities all from the comfort of their home. This comes as some comfort and employers should seek this opportunity to promote all-round well-being.
Working from home places greater importance on scheduling given that the workforce is going to be spread out. Unlike an ‘open door’ policy seen across many offices, it can be difficult to know when a door is actually ‘open’ when not in the office. Managers should therefore schedule time to sit down and properly discuss with staff any matters, issues or concerns and ensure they are dealt with in order to maintain continuity outside of the office.
- Employers should never cancel a 1-to-1
Leading on from the above, we have discussed the importance of scheduling and how maintaining some form of routine can boost business continuity which is the reason why a 1-to-1 should never be cancelled. Making plans and sticking to them can ease the pressure that all business face right now by combating loneliness and isolation, improving connectivity and investing in the value of relationships. A failure to follow through with arranged activities can therefore have an adverse effect on morale.
- Importance of company culture
Finally, maintaining the core values of the business even in times of adversity is testament to the strength of the brand. Businesses that encourage an open and inclusive environment, albeit virtual, are the best equipped to make the current times some of the best times, despite the circumstances. Businesses where each and every member is firmly on board, believing in the common aims, visions and values are businesses that are well placed to survive even the most unusual circumstances which we find ourselves in. This places greater importance on the need for inclusion and continuing to maintain normality even in the current climate.
An increasing number of clients are contacting Aaron & Partners’ employment law team with issues relating to COVID-19. If you are experiencing difficulties, we have the expertise to assist you in dealing with these concerns.
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