Hints & Tips Blog
Remote working – the ‘new normal’
With a large proportion of our collective workforces now working from home, knowing how to support and manage them effectively is becoming increasingly important for most businesses.
Working from home will not be new for a number of businesses and employees. However the current situation requires many people not used to homeworking, or only partially working from home, to adjust very quickly. Employees will need to learn new ways of working, adapt their approach to become more self-managing and self-reliant on a day to day basis, at the same time as keeping motivated and looking after their mental health – and this will all need support from their Managers.
Over our next few articles we’re going to look at different aspects of homeworking, from leading and managing people effectively, communicating well, supporting their mental health and making sure practicalities, including around cyber & information security, are in place.
Today we’ll focus on some practical tips about how to help people transition to homeworking.
When people are working from home for the first time, systems and connectivity is the first hurdle to overcome. If people encounter a problem at work there will be people around them they can ask and support they can access. Working alone at home can make this feel more difficult and daunting, so ensuring people know who they can call to talk them through doing things for the first time, and having clear step by step ‘How to’ guides available will help.
Asking employees to do a home working risk assessment will both help you meet your responsibilities as an employer, and help them to think about what they need to have in place to be able to work effectively and safely from home. In the current context, and when home working is likely to be for a limited period, asking employees to complete a simple questionnaire is probably all that’s needed if they will be doing low risk office type work. This should cover the basics such as the suitability of the space, lighting, desk / table and seating they will use, plus elements such as how they will keep connected, in terms of systems and people, and how they will ensure they can ‘switch off’ when they are working in their home environment.
Cyber-attacks, phishing and other online scams are on the increase. There have also been reports of new dangers in the wake of Covid-19, with scammers taking advantage of the fact people may be uncertain, distracted and potentially more vulnerable to attack if they are working from home.
Asking people to make sure their passwords are strong enough and providing clear IT security guidance are two simple steps. As is circulating details of some of the most common phishing scams, such as unexpected emails or texts asking people to click on links. A valuable resource is the National Cyber Security Centre’s free 30 minute e-learning package ‘Stay safe online – Tops Tips for Staff’ which can be accessed here https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/training/top-tips-for-staff-web/story_html5.html
Finally laptops and other equipment can be more vulnerable to accidents and damage in the home environment than in the office, especially with many parents home schooling currently. So take the opportunity to remind people to have safe places to store equipment when not in use, but be careful not to create an undue sense of stress, accidents will happen.
One of the key differences for people working from home is the lack of face to face interaction and communication. From both a productivity and well-being perspective, regular communication is essential to help people feel confident about and focused on what they should be doing, as well as retaining a sense of team and to access to social support.
Alongside your usual communication methods, additional channels such as video conferencing, teleconferencing and document sharing are all ways to increase information flow. Chat rooms, social networks such as WhatsApp and other instant messaging can provide a sense of community, help retain strong working relationships and aid effective team collaboration. Many of these are low or no cost and easy to access.
As well as providing the tools to do their jobs and keeping them connected and positive, it’s important to share regular updates from the top. People will want clarity about how the company overall is responding to the unfolding situation and any decisions and changes that are being made to safeguard employee health and well-being and to shore up business continuity.
Next time we’ll focus on what Managers should do once home working has been established, and how to manage and support virtually as the ‘new normal’ beds in.