The pandemic has forced HR leaders and managers across the country to implement or review their home working policies. Below, I’ve outlined four key areas of importance for organisations at this time, to help teams shift seamlessly to remote working.
For some, responding to this urgent need to become ‘WFH-ready’ will prepare their workforce for the ‘new normal’ of the future, which is trending towards at least some work to be done from home as standard. Between 2008 and 2018, there was an increase of over 75% in the number of workers based primarily at home, according to an Office of National Statistics research study that was published in mid-2019.
An important consideration for HRDs is how to ensure remote teams stay sufficiently motivated, not only to complete their work on time, but to mentally remain part of the wider whole. In this instance, context matters a whole lot. Outlining the context of a project or a task on a regular basis, using a number of different channels (now may be a good time to tidy-up the shared filing system and remind people to keep it organised), will be of increased importance when people have no colleagues sitting beside them to seek clarification from. How regularly that context is reiterated should depend on the size of the team or the complexity of the assignment. Decide if weekly or daily reminders for deadlines would work and schedule regular conversations so people are encouraged to open-up. As you would when in person, check that your audience are clear on the expectations, check-in with staff when they’re close to a deadline and always ask whether you can answer any questions concerning work, the current climate or health worries related to Coronavirus. If you don’t have the answers yourself, continue to signpost responsibly.
As well as different learning styles, there are different preferences when it comes to communication, especially now that we have more digital tools than ever at our disposal. A good catch-all is to use a variety of formats to convey the same message – a company-wide email followed by scheduled video conferences or telephone conversations with individual teams to reinforce the message and go into greater detail works well for us at Wealth Wizards. We have introduced a policy of turning on our cameras when conducting video calls during this period, which helps to keep those who live alone from feeling very isolated at the very thought of not seeing another human for the foreseeable future. Arranging regular video conferences for general catch-ups and social chats during lunchtimes can help to bring people together and give people something to look forward to. Don’t be afraid to share your mobile or landline number if possible, in case technology fails and ask managers if they’re able to do the same.
Provide advice on how to use laptops and computers comfortably and safely, including things like guidance on screen breaks, intermittent exercise and the importance of hydration. Create a routine for colleagues in the form of regular video conferences, digital messaging check-ins or telephone meetings. Mental health first-aiders are usually members of the team who volunteer to take on the additional responsibility of arranging resources or setting aside time for those who are struggling or who simply want to talk. Employees should understand how to access this person, your employee assistance programme or other means of reaching out for help if they prefer to speak with someone qualified or trained in mental health support outside of work. Mental health first aiders could be asked to touch base with employees who are working from home throughout the week, just to make sure that they're okay. During this time, downtime chats with colleagues may be the only non-work conversations some of us are able to have.
There may be a need to create a remote data handling policy in a hurry, to ensure GDPR, document, password storage and digital comms at home are as robust (or as close to) as they are at your building. Consult with your legal, IT and security teams to work out what is possible and a plan to share this information and to reproduce guidelines in an accessible format, whether on a shared drive or your Intranet, for instance. Ensure everyone goes over the policies verbally with their respective teams to ensure both your intellectual property and individual employee security is maintained. Practical measures like not taking confidential documents out to a library or café are worth including in the policy, as well as guidelines on where it might be safe to have work-related conversations or meetings.
I hope these pointers will assist people teams as they advise line managers and embed new expectations. If you’d like to connect further, feel free to contact me via LinkedIn.
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