The current UK government guidance in response to the Covid-19 pandemic states that “travelling for work purposes” is permitted, “but only where you cannot work from home”, and as such as a manager or business owner you may currently find yourself managing your employees remotely for the first time.
In this first blog on the topic of working from home, we will explore how you can manage employee productivity, working hours and engagement.
It can be easy for the usual routines of alarm clocks and showering at set times to fall away when there is nowhere to be, and the idea of employees spending all day in bed is naturally a concern for employers. As such, structure should be encouraged in the working day – routine check in telephone or video calls can be part of this, as can technology such as Microsoft Teams which shows availability. Where possible, employees should work set hours, which provides you and them with a routine, however, under the current circumstances, these may not be their usual contracted hours – we will discuss the reasons for this shortly.
Checking in regularly with staff also allows you to set targets and monitor their work. Focussing on their output or what they have achieved, rather than how they spent their time achieving it, is likely to prove a very effective management approach at this time, as it is concerned with what the business actually needs, reduces the burden on managers, and allows employees to feel trusted to manage their time.
Managers should be clear on how employees are expected to use technology, for example, by regularly uploading their work to shared drives. This allows progress to be monitored, and also reduces the risk of important documents being inaccessible should the employee currently working on them become unwell or have a technical issue.
Working Hours and Flexibility
As discussed above, whilst staff should be encouraged to work set hours, these may not be their normal hours, due to factors such as caring for children and other dependents. This does not necessarily mean that employees will work fewer hours, but they might work them in a different way. Staggered shifts may actually benefit your business by extending your virtual opening hours.
Employers should also be aware that arranging grocery collections, medical appointments, etc. can be extremely challenging at this time, and consider flexibility, as this may help to alleviate worries an employee may have.
Given the current government restriction, including closure of the schools, the usual measures that would apply when considering flexible working requests are not necessarily practicable in the same way currently. As such, employees should be made aware that any flexible arrangements are temporary and subject to ongoing review.
Engagement and Motivation
Engagement and motivation may seem low on the list of priorities at the moment, especially when the current circumstances present so many challenges, but remember, staff are more likely to put in extra effort and stay loyal to their employer if they are looked after. As such, managers should show an interest in employee welfare, including acknowledging any difficulties they experience (which over the coming weeks may sadly include bereavement). When working from home, achievements can feel underwhelming when there is nobody to share them with, and so remember to thank staff.
Try to arrange virtual team meetings using video calling technology rather than just 121s, as this allows for a little engagement on a social level. You could also consider introducing virtual team activities, e.g. an exercise class or gaming tournament or quiz.
Employees should also be encouraged to take their usual breaks, such as for lunch, and in line with government advice at the time, take a walk or some form of exercise.
Part 2 of this blog will look at the practical considerations of working from home, including health and safety matters, that employers have responsibility for as the lockdown continues. This will be released over the coming days, however, if you have questions or concerns currently, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the View HR team for advice.