Now, more than ever, businesses – where able to do so – must tap into effectively running their organisations remotely whilst managing wellbeing and service levels to their customers.

With the current global crisis enforcing a UK lockdown and causing many workers to self-isolate, some organisations will be better prepared than others. For enterprises that are rolling out a working from home policy for the foreseeable future, it’s important to remain productive and maintain employee buy-in – to keep everyone motivated, whilst keeping health and wellbeing as a top priority. It is a true test of a company’s agility to be able to shift successfully into this operating model, at a time when the stakes have never been so high.

In a landscape that is fluid and evolving how can firms keep spirits high, communication open and projects and goals still firmly in sight?

1. Organisations must embody a culture of trust and empathy

This is crucial from the outset – employers cannot micromanage as remote working heavily relies on autonomy. It’s about defining roles, setting expectations and KPIs or workflow requirements and establishing agreements. Everyone needs to be on the same page about how to ensure operations remain at a consistently high-level, but with the knowledge that there are many more factors pulling at your employee. They will have worries, may have sick family members and are likely to have other ongoing responsibilities, such as childcare concerns, impacting their time.

2. Set out clear plans for the working day

Having sight of goals and targets helps maintain focus and provides a sense of accomplishment and, most importantly, a routine in a time when life is far removed from when things were considered ‘normal’. It’s recommended that line managers have regular breakfast calls to check in on their employees and agree workloads.

How employees meet business priorities differs from person to person. Some prefer ‘to do’ lists whereas others like reminders in their calendars. If possible, ‘block out’ a solid amount of time on one project at a time to fully concentrate on the task in hand. Regular touchpoints through the day will also help support the team.

3. Harness the power of technology

To stay in constant communication with both the business infrastructure and the team, digital tools must be involved – from video calls to instant messaging apps.

There are many ways for workforces to keep in touch with one another, boost morale and keep motivated rather than isolated. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Trello, Sharepoint, WhatsApp, PowWowNow and shared calendars are some easy-to-use applications to install or download. A daily video call with a loose agenda can also work well to pull everyone together.

It’s important that workforces use this time to get creative so that they inspire others in their team and keep bonding. Sharing successes, discussions, working environments and things outside of work can all help. Encouraging employees to come up with ideas on how to keep the communication flowing keeps spirits high.

4. Prioritise the biggest tasks first

Focus and motivation can take a hit as the day progresses. As mentioned previously, structure is the key, and the completion of larger tasks provides for great motivation, a clear head and a morale boost.

Shut out distractions and use methods such as the Pomodoro time management technique to really get into a project and make real progress.

5. Take a flexible working hours approach

The traditional ‘9 to 5’ is likely to be hard to achieve for those employees that suddenly find themselves adopting the role of ‘teacher’ as well as working themselves. Flexibility to carry out tasks that work around children’s schedules can be very useful.

Early start times and working in the evenings – and accepting that video calls and other communications may have little ‘helpers’ involved – will make teams feel at ease.  

6. Have regular breaks and keep fuelled

Consistent screen time can kill motivation – and it’s no good for health either. Stepping away from a laptop or mobile device can recharge the mind and even provide for some inspiration to get the creative juices flowing, whilst a simple task such as making a drink is being carried out.

Drinking plenty of water and eating regular, nutritious meals and snacks can help people to remain focused. And, remote workers must be kind to themselves and sensible when it comes to planning how to tackle each task with the same attitude as the last.

Finally, exercise and fresh air really does help to minimise aches and pains and encourage wellness, stress relief and mental health care.

7. The new ‘normal’

Although these critical phases are impacting organisations – and enforcing a working from home stance – it’s crucial for employers to speak directly to their staff and find out how they feel about being away from the office, and what support they need.

Some workers will be more familiar with working remotely then others and one size will not fit all. There are many different considerations that need to be adhered to, and so communication is key.

One final point to make is that it’s vital to recognise that everyone is living the same reality. Acknowledge and accept what can’t be controlled and instead look at the opportunity of having the time to focus more on positive ideas and future products that will benefit the business.

The goal on the other side the team will be closer than ever and so now is the time for companies to ensure they’re in great shape to move forward with succession plans once things return to some form of normality.

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