22 May 2020
Remote working has never been more important. Thousands of companies are unable to use their office space due to the coronavirus pandemic, so they are having to manage the logistics of their teams working from home.
It can be tricky managing everyone from afar, but if you make all the right decisions when switching over you can set your team up for success.
Here’s how to successfully switch to remote working.
It’s key that you keep things legal during your transition. Check your employer’s liability insurance policy to make sure you have cover for home working. If you don’t, you’ll need to call up your provider to add it.
Next, make sure you’re adhering to health and safety guidelines and meeting your responsibilities. You have the same duty of care to your employees whether they’re working from home or from your office. We’ll dig into this more later on.
It’s important to build trust and confidence within your team from the beginning. This means making sure everyone knows what’s expected of them and being flexible and understanding of your teams’ needs.
Some key issues to think about include:
Availability. When are employees expected to work? Do they need to be available online during specific business hours or can they set their own schedule? Will you offer flexi-hours or does everyone need to be available at the same time?
Tools. Which tools will you use to allow the team to communicate with each other? How will you make it as simple as possible for everyone to continue carrying out their roles?
Data protection and security. This is a big problem with remote working, so it’s important to have policies in place for staff to follow.
Productivity. How will you measure the performance of your employees? Will this be different from the systems you have in place in the office? Think about how you’re going to manage the performance of your team, too.
Working remotely is a huge change for a lot of workers who are used to having all the amenities of an office. There, they might be able to call out to a colleague over their desk for a quick answer or use the meeting room conference calling facilities to communicate with clients.
To make the transition as smooth as possible, set up a collection of tools that your team can use to communicate, plan, and manage tasks. Make sure you allow for time to demo these tools if they’re not already a part of your business.
Here are some tools you might want to consider:
Teams need a way to communicate with each other easily and email might not always be the best option.
The use of instant messaging tools in the workplace is on the rise. These tools can facilitate one-on-one conversations, invite-only groups, and company wide chats that anyone can drop into. Popular messaging apps include Slack, which has a free plan for small businesses, Google Hangouts Chat, and Microsoft Teams.
Zoom is one of the most popular tools for video conferencing. You can host unlimited one-on-one meetings on the free plan, but there’s a 40-minute limit on group meetings.
Project management software allows your team to manage their workloads and see what others are doing. It’s vital for collaboration, especially when your team is working remotely. There are a number of providers that offer free plans, including Trello, Wrike, and Asana.
You can review project management software providers here.
With your team scattered all over the place, it’s vital that you have a security policy for staff to follow.
Start by making sure you have firewalls and antivirus software established on team PCs and keep them updated. You might also consider setting up a VPN for employees so they can access web based applications. This provides an added layer of security and protection if they’re accessing the apps from home.
On top of this, you should demand the use of strong passwords and use two-factor authentication where possible. Finally, make sure all sensitive information is stored on a secure cloud storage platform such as Dropbox or Google Drive.
Comfortable workers are happy workers. To make your staff as comfortable as possible, provide them with advice and tips for setting up their home workstation.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has a basic self-assessment checklist that employees might find useful if they’re not used to working from home. Advice in these guidelines includes tips for working with a screen. It’s recommended that screen-based workers take five minute breaks every hour, regularly change position, and stop every so often to move and stretch.
If your employees have no choice but to work from home, you’ll be able to claim certain expenses. For example, if you provide equipment and services to home workers, like office furniture, computers, and an internet connection, you won’t have to report anything to HMRC as long as they’re only used for business purposes.
From 6 April 2020, you can reimburse employees up to £6 a week to cover any additional expenses they incur as a result of working from home without having to file any paperwork. This is to cover costs like heating and lighting.
If reimbursements of over £6 a week are needed, you’ll need to keep records proving that the payments are for no more than your employees’ additional weekly expenses.
For more information, take a look at the government’s rules on home working expenses and benefits here.
Things aren’t going to slot into place right away. Changing from an office environment to remote working can be lonely and frustrating for a lot of people, which is why there is likely to be a period of adjustment.
Ease the process by cutting back on your schedule for a while and loosening up deadlines where you can. This will give your team time to settle in and get used to their new reality.
Without joint coffee breaks and watercooler chats, it can be difficult for your team to keep morale high and momentum going.
Tackle this by providing regular check-ins via video call and make yourself available for staff chats and questions. You might even decide to create a portal for FAQs that touch on the common questions you’re getting.
You can also implement virtual social activities, like Friday drinks with your team or lunchtime Zoom calls, where you can all chat with each other about work and non-work related topics.
Remote working can leave employees feeling isolated and disconnected which can affect stress levels and mental health. This is why regular check-ins are a key part of keeping your employees happy, healthy, and on track.
Most companies have been forced into remote working, which has seen an increase in the number of problems that aren’t usually considered. Establishing a level of trust with your team and putting systems in place can help make the transition as smooth as possible.