Home working will be the norm, but we need to adapt the ways we support employees
We have all heard recently how working from home is the ‘new norm’, but many organisations around Wales have been benefitting from remote working for some time now. According to recent surveys there were 1.54 million people working from home in the UK prior to Covid which in itself was a 44% increase on the same statistic 10 years ago1.
Since Covid we have seen a temporary increase of over 27 million additional people in the UK working from home. Or is it temporary?
Lock down has accelerated the need for remote working and has moved home working up the business owner’s priority list. We can all agree that for a lot of organisations it has become something ‘we must do’ but home working is a ‘should do’, so it may be useful to remind ourselves of the advantages of remote working.
- It can widen your talent pool as geographically attending an office can be a restriction when applicants look for new roles. Remove the office and you increase your catchment area and the diversity of your applicants.
- Improve employee retention by providing the opportunity for your employees to meet their targets at a time that suits them and the business. A flexible role is increasingly recognised as beneficial, as working from home can empower your employees to work where and when best suits them.
- A better work/life balance is created by, for example, removing the daily commute. This reduces time spent at work without spending less time working. Home working, zoom meetings etc have made us question what is really important in our roles.
- There are potential financial benefits to the business as we require less office space.
The advantages of working from home for both employee and employer go far wider than this list, and for every advantage I am sure someone could quote a potential obstacle. The obvious areas we all need to consider are health and well-being of employees, overcoming feelings of remoteness and ensuring we are pulling together to meet organisation aims.
The question is, how do we maximise the potential for remote working whilst navigating around those potential banana skins?
Here at Chwarae Teg we have been working remotely for some time, but like any other organisation in the same boat we have found a forced lockdown different and we are constantly adapting.
Here are some of our recommendations:
1. Accept that this isn’t ‘business as usual’ and your employees are working in a way they never have before.
Households can be busy places for some or very lonely places for others. Remind your staff that you are all in this together.
2. Put people wellbeing on the top of your agenda.
We know it was important before but now it needs to be monitored regularly. If you are like me you will have experienced highs and lows during the lockdown. Understanding that is the norm makes it easier to accept, but don’t ignore the signs hoping it will just go away. Guaranteed if you are feeling the pressure then others are too.
Lockdown is a stressful experience. Nathan Smith, a psychology and security researcher from Manchester University, has worked with astronauts and others isolated in extreme environments. Whilst sounding very different the reality is that they aren’t that far apart. He says “The physical comparison between being isolated in Antarctica or space is obviously different from being in your home, but the psychological and social similarities are quite close. The monotony and boredom, repetition, lack of variety, the feelings of anxiety and fear, the social proximity.” That certainly sounds familiar to me and I am pretty sure I have not been to space…..yet!
Support your staff to be the best they can. Remember everyone is different and each person will need something different to keep them achieving. Just like different job roles, there are certain personality types that are better suited to home working. Treat each person as an individual and let them tell you what they need.
3. Be creative on how you communicate.
At Chwarae Teg, we are very quickly establishing that emails, online meetings and phone calls are on the increase. Whilst this may be necessary it can also be a burden and lose its effectiveness through volume. I recently received a personalised thank you card from my CEO in the post. Not only was it thoughtful and made me smile it was unexpected and different which made it stand out. Vary your method of communication.
4. Don’t stop personal development.
Not only is it key to keeping your staff engaged but it is needed now more than ever. Virtual meetings on the increase? Consider a course in effective virtual meetings. Wellbeing an issue? Promote an article of mental health you found useful.
5. Keep sharing home working best practises.
We are discovering new ones every day. No one person is the owner of all new ideas, facilitate the sharing of ideas and be a role model by highlighting ones that work for you. At Chwarae Teg we are trialling ‘no email Friday’ and ‘no meeting Wednesday’! Sounds bliss doesn’t it? Initial thoughts are positive but we will keep you posted on how it benefits us all.
6. Review your policies to ensure they are fit for purpose.
I am fairly certain that when they were first written, no one had a pandemic in mind. You will be surprised on how they can be updated from what you now know. Make them accessible for all staff working remotely so they know where to go for further guidance where appropriate.
7. Openly discuss the positives not just the negatives.
There are plenty! Here are some I have collected from colleagues and friends.
8. Last but definitely not least, talk about how you plan to adapt to the new norm.
Making the steps back to the new norm may be just as daunting to some as lockdown was to them. Help others to see light at the end of tunnel and whilst we may never quite go back to the way things were, they will get easier.