We’re currently living in extraordinary times, with COVID-19 declared a pandemic, businesses are seriously having to consider their continuity plans. The latest government advice encourages social distancing and self-isolation in order to contain the spread throughout the UK.

This means that many businesses are taking steps to ensure that their employees can work from home through remote working and collaboration technologies.

With the uncertainty of how long this will be for and thousands of people likely to be working from home for the first time; it’s vital to consider the human side. Remote working presents its own challenges like keeping morale high, ensuring your employees have everything they need to still achieve their targets and communicating more to get the social interaction everyone needs within their home office set up. In this article, we’ll run through some vital nuggets of information to make working from home work for your company.

Maintain a Structure

The 9-5 might be dying out, but that doesn’t mean structure isn’t still important. It’s more important than ever whilst you’re working from home. If you’re used to starting work at 09:00, then you can keep doing that. The beauty of remote working is that your commute is shorter, much shorter; maybe all you need to do is get out of bed? Some people might prefer to start work an hour earlier considering this so they can finish earlier for the day.

Take regular breaks to make a tea or a coffee as you would in the office. People are usually less interrupted whilst working from home, so it is easy to forget to leave your desk! Ultimately, there’s more flexibility but you need to maintain a structure that works for you. If you go out on a walk at lunchtime in the office, do the same whilst working at home.

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Plan for Regular Check-Ins

Since you’re no longer in the office, you can’t just stroll over to each other's desks for an informal catchup. Now you need to plan and schedule when you’re going to check-in with your colleagues and what you’re going to talk about. Maybe you plan for Monday to be your meeting day to find out what everyone is going to be working on for the coming week and to deduce any blockers or key challenges in them achieving this. You can then schedule shorter, more ad-hoc catch ups throughout the week to make sure everyone is on course to achieve their outputs.

This strategy will ensure that everyone feels supported and maintains transparency; even when working from home. Technology like MiCollab, or MiTeam Meetings and Avaya Spaces is perfect for facilitating this. You can set up video (or just audio) conferences and talk through your work by sharing your screen.

Measure Outputs not Desk Time

Outputs measure real productivity, the amount of time you sit at a desk does not. A business that only measures time will create paranoia and employees that feel the need to wiggle the mouse every 5 minutes to show they are online on Instant Messenger (IM). You can monitor different projects and tasks using a variety of tools like Microsoft Planner, Basecamp and Slack. All help you and your team to assign tasks to one another, check the progress and collaborate on work.

You can therefore ensure objectives are going to be met and plan and forecast your tasks. Measuring outputs is vital for creating a supportive culture.

Health and Wellbeing

Working from home can be tough at the best of times, let alone when there’s a global pandemic happening! Be sure to take care of your own and consider your colleagues health and wellbeing.

It can be lonely, particularly for individuals living on their own. You could set aside some time every day to have a short team-wide meeting to talk about non-COVID-19 and non-work-related things, even if it’s just for ten minutes. Need some ideas? What about:

  • A pop-quiz each day
  • Setting up an 8 ball pool tournament
  • Taking the time to do desk exercises on the call

When it comes to talking things through, ditch digital channels like IM and emails. I think we’re all guilty of sending something over IM to the people we sit next to in the office. And with the lack of social interaction, it’s more important to use voice or video calls to communicate with your colleagues out of the office.

If you usually have beers at the end of the working day on a Friday with your colleagues, why not continue to do this via a video conference call!? Implementing activities like this will help to ensure that everyone within your company is getting the personal contact they would receive when working in the office.

It’s also vital to consider your personal mental wellbeing. Be sure to get out of the house every day, whether it’s to go for a walk or just to sit and have a cup of tea in your garden. There are many health apps out there like Calm and Headspace that help with meditation and escapism so that you can take 5 away from your desk to recharge and relax.

Communication is Key

The prospect of working from home indefinitely is daunting for a lot of people (myself included!). But with the right technology and by considering the human factors with empathy, you can make it work. Get a structure in place and don’t forget communication is vital!

Check out our COVID-19 support page to find out more about how we can help your business through this difficult time.