If the lockdown has shown you that your team can work remotely, this article may be for you. If you have seen an increase in productivity, or at least no dip, this is definitely for you. Here are 7 things you need to make permanent remote working a reality for your business.
Cloud-based IT & telecoms
If making remote working permanent for your team is high on your priority list, the first thing on this list is cloud-based IT and telecoms. Without it, you will be relying on the internet connection into your local server network, wherever that may be. This is a chokepoint you don’t need and also a cost that you don’t need to have.
The productivity benefits Microsoft 365 delivers mean your team can work effectively together, even if they rarely physically get together.
Moving your telecoms to a VoIP solution means you no longer need to worry about your team using their mobiles, or for calls going to one person who cannot then put people through to the right person. Dependent upon your preferences, and those of your team, either physical or soft phones can be given to everyone. Soft phones on laptops mean all they need is a headset with a microphone. Dependent upon how much time they spend on the phone, there is a wide range of headset types available.
How do your team prefer to communicate when it cannot be face to face? It is best to ask them and get a consensus, rather than simply telling them. You will also need to provide more than one option. We already got phones (see above), so:
- Which video-conferencing solution is best: Teams, Zoom or something else
- Is instant messaging something your team use a lot of?
There will be times when it is simply better to get teams together in one place. Training days and strategic planning meetings are just two examples. Having a preferred venue(s) that is easy for the team to get to makes life easier than finding somewhere different every time. A quick google search and a few visits will allow you to choose a preferred venue.
A suitable working environment
This may be where things start to get tricky if you are moving to permanent home working for all your staff. Defining a suitable working environment isn’t easy and can easily vary from person to person (perhaps this guide from the HSE will help). Put into a succinct list, you will have to consider at least:
- Ensuring the area they will work in meets health & safety guidelines.
- They have a suitable chair and working surface.
- Their use of screens has been assessed and requirements met.
- There is sufficient internet bandwidth for them to do their job.
Peace and quiet, with no distractions, is certainly a requirement for most people, but what can be done for your staff with children? If they are due to work after school ends, what happens?
There are lots of things within this area that may not have originally come to mind when you started considering permanent home working. Here is the ACAS guide as a little more assistance.
Many people find, when their laptop is at home, it difficult to switch off. They feel they should continue working when there is something that needs to be completed. Having the, ideally, physical and mental ability to switch from work to home life is essential. If they do have a spare room that can become an office, that’s ideal. Many people have added garden offices during the lockdown period – again ideal as you can simply shut the door and walk away. Others may not have the space, but if they have your explicit permission to stop work, they are more likely to. You should also be checking timesheets and IT data to ensure that people aren’t working every hour of their lives.
During the pandemic, this is probably the most talked about topic across the country. It is increasingly entering and reaching the top of corporate To Do Lists – as it should.
Humans are a social species and rely on contact with others for much of their mental health. If they are working from home permanently, most will have their families (at least after lockdown), but they also need to be able to talk whenever they need to.
Peer support is growing in popularity, using the experience within your team to help everyone else. This type of programme needn’t cost very much and can deliver real benefits, for the staff and the business.
You will need to ensure your management understand the importance of mental health, what to look out for and how they are part of ensuring everyone maintains good mental health.
So far we have simply discussed what’s inside your business. Outside of your business, you should be making your clients aware of changes to how you are working, as a business. Assuming you have planned things properly, there should be no impact, and maybe even benefits, for your clients. Explaining to them what is changing, and then maintaining their perception of your service delivery, will be key to ensuring your clients are happy and confident that you can continue to deliver on your promises to them.
Permanent home working is, perhaps more than ever, a realistic solution for many staff and businesses. We believe that many more businesses will increase the amount of flexible working their teams do. Most are likely to move to a mixed environment, where people are working a mix of office and home working. Some will go the whole hog. These 7 areas to consider will be relevant to both.
If you would like support and advice on moving to either a mix or permanent remote working setup, call us on 020 7227 9700 or click here.