With a push towards remote working, is your business ready?

In the face of a global pandemic and with Australia now reporting its 250th confirmed case of coronavirus, we’re in unprecedented territory – it’s scary and unsettling. With business closures, events cancelled, schools shutting down and people opting for self-isolation, employers are under pressure to manage risk. The way we are working and doing business as a result is rapidly changing as we’re presented with new and updated information. If anything positive is coming out of this, it is the active discussion around flexible and remote working, a way in which our team have worked successfully for more than 8 years, and a way of working we staunchly support.

Working Parents Connect partner with many businesses who already have flexible working policies in place including remote working options for their staff. In the coming days or weeks, remote working or telecommuting may not just be viewed as an employee perk  or “nice to have” for working parents, but an absolute necessity for all as we look to protect our health and slow the spread of COVID-19. All employers, irrespective of size or industry, simply may not have a choice but to allow their staff to work from home and if schools do close, working parents will need to be supported to work from home and around the care of their children. So as a business, are you ready for this?

Understandably as a business owner or leader you may not be ready or prepared for this at all and you wouldn’t be alone in having concerns around how remote working will impact your bottom line. Will my staff actually work? How will I manage them if they are not in the office? How will my less experienced employees cope? Not all roles can be performed remotely but for those that can, we would suggest you begin to put some thought around how those roles can be managed and worked virtually.

To assist with this, we’ve put together our key points to ensure your work from home strategy is an effective one.

ESTABLISH TRUST

A lack of trust by managers and fear of change are by far the most common issues raised by employers when we talk about employees working from home. Yes trust needs to be developed however a manager’s lack of trust can be hugely detrimental to the wider business so as a leader, it is really something to be aware of.

Treating staff fairly and with respect, an honest and open communication style, committing to regular contact and keeping in touch with your staff, and being approachable and accessible as a leader will support a trusting environment. Micro-managing is likely to have a counter-effect on building trust.
It might be that you allow your staff to work from home for an initial 2 week period (in line with the 14 day self-isolation) and use this as a trial to assess how well your staff perform when off-site. Now is the perfect time to give your staff the opportunity to prove that they can be trusted and you may be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
COMMUNICATE REGULARLY
Frequent engagement with your team is key as this will nurture relationships and foster an inclusive and cohesive team. Apart from general email communication around the day to day work, schedule more formal phone or video “meetings” and check-ins with your staff and colleagues. A commitment to communication will allow managers to support their staff and assess deliverables. Team members will feel valued and listened to and you will set them up to succeed. Problems will present if communication slides so it needs to be a complete priority.

My co-Director and I have a morning phone call over coffee to run through the day and weekly video catch ups over Zoom with the team. As we recruit nationally our recruitment team manage candidate interviews through Zoom, Skype or FaceTime.

UTILISE TECHNOLOGY AND TOOLS

There are a huge amount of apps and products supporting business and remote working. Our team use Dropbox and Office 365 for sharing documents and our calendars, enabling us to work better and from wherever. Our clients tell us they use Slack for messaging, Google Docs for word processing, Trello for working collaboratively and Asana for project management and tracking work. To be honest we are spoilt for choice when it comes to technology so explore what products will best support your team to manage their role remotely.

SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

Managing expectations and being completely realistic about the role and what components of this can be performed from home is imperative. Clearly identifying what you expect your staff member to deliver on and within agreed timelines will ensure there is no ambiguity or assumptions around output. 

When working remotely it is so important to remain focussed on what is being achieved – tasks completed, goals attained and business outcomes. Focus shouldn’t so much be on activity and how staff are going about their work but rather on what is being accomplished. With clear expectations agreed and established from the outset, you will be able to better monitor, measure and report on performance.

Working remotely and managing virtual teams will present challenges and there will be a period of adjustment for all involved but if the above key factors are considered there is every chance that your team will continue to deliver and succeed. If you employ parents or for that matter anyone who values workplace flexibility, we can assure you that they will do everything in their power to ensure that a remote working arrangement works for the business, as this is a highly sought after employee benefit and one they are likely to want to hold on to in the longer term. We know that companies with work from home policies have real potential to improve productivity, reduce staff turnover and even lower operational costs so there are clear benefits despite the anxiety many employer’s express around their staff working remotely.

Unfortunately all businesses will be affected by coronavirus in some way and we wish you and your teams all the very best as we all navigate unchartered waters. If you would like support around implementing a remote working policy or just want to have a chat don’t hesitate to contact our team.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash