Millions of UK workers will need to work from home in the near future in an effort to minimise the spread of coronavirus.
Of course, this won’t be an option for the many jobs that need employees to be physically in the workplace. But if your business can take on more remote working, how can it prepare for having a distributed workforce as we navigate these new challenges?
Chances are you’ve already gathered key departmental leaders to start planning for employees to work from home, looking at your company’s remote working policy to see how you can develop or expand it to fit this crisis.
It’s a good idea to meet with employees to go through their daily responsibilities and decide if they can do any of those remotely - even if that’s just partially - and what could reasonably be delegated to a different person or team.
In the last few weeks, cloud collaboration tech companies like Trello, Slack and Zoom have seen a huge rise in their share prices - and it’s not hard to see why.
These businesses offer technologies that help people work remotely - for tasks including team communication, video conferencing and project management.
You’ll probably already have videoconferencing as an accepted way to talk when meeting face-to-face isn’t possible – and it’s now time to make sure your systems are in place to make it work for everyone.
Staff who already partially work from home will already be used to remote access. But the fact that many office processes will be different means that others will probably need training - and ideally before the time comes when they need to use the technology for real.
Depending on the scale of the outbrak, remote working might need to happen suddenly, and many of the clients we recruit for at HR GO are now running full trials to iron out any kinks beforehand.
These are uncertain times, but it’s wise to set clear expectations about how employees should try to perform in their roles at home.
Be mindful of the fact that many people’s personal circumstances may have changed overnight - especially if they’re working parents and schools have closed - with the huge worry and disruption that will cause.
Supervising a team remotely is different to managing face-to-face, and many managers will need extra pointers on how to keep employees feeling connected and productive in the next few months - and crucially, too, to avoid feeling isolated.
Working remotely also affects team dynamics. In the next few months, instant messaging will be an important way to keep bonding as a group. Video calls will be worth their weight in gold, too – particularly if colleagues keep the line open while they’re working on the same project, able to discuss things as they crop up just like they would in their physical workplace.
The situation with the coronavirus outbreak is evolving on a daily basis. And while many of the challenges your business will face will be unique, it’s clear that sticking to business as usual just isn’t viable.
Remote working has long been on the wish list of many candidates we recruit through HR GO, and there can be huge benefits for both sides. Once our current health crisis has passed, this nationwide work from home experiment might become something more long-lasting and even bring some kind of silver lining: a chance for companies to finally build a culture that gives work flexibility.
Find the UK government’s guidance for employers and businesses on COVID-19 here.