Countrywide lock-downs in effect in both Ireland and the UK have changed the working landscape beyond all expectation. Remote working has become the norm overnight and the inevitable question arises: How do we preserve business continuity in such a changed working environment?
A recent Ibec survey reports that as business leaders concern around continuity increases, supports for remote workers is being enhanced. 44% stated that they are providing additional support for employees working remotely, 40% are providing online technology training to employees and 38% are providing additional supports to employees with childcare responsibilities.
Evidence of the endlessly creative and adaptable nature of Irish business leaders is obvious in IBEC’s survey but we need to look to other nations where remote working is more commonplace, for learning opportunities.
We ask, “How do we do this well?”. Recent articles from Harvard Business Review and Forbes magazine collated a number of useful suggestions designed to ensure that remote working is positive for all stakeholders:
Establish structured daily check-ins: This can be done in a one-to-one format or, if the company works more collaboratively, then a conference call. What is important is that the call times are predictable and regular.
Provide different communication technology options. Email alone is not sufficient. Video conferencing is a richer experience for everyone as visual cues are more reflective of a face-to-face experience of working in an office.
Invest in reliable tools: Leila Bulling Towne speaking on Forbes Coaches Council advises that we invest in reliable tools (technology) to make collaboration possible. Then develop clear processes to use such tools. Similarly, the Harvard Business Review authors suggest that when quick collaboration is more important than visual details we should provide mobile–enabled individual messaging such as Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams etc. These can be used where simpler, less formal conversations that are time-sensitive are necessary. Data security is an imperative for all companies and the IT department should be consulted and its advice communicated clearly to all employers before these tools are used.
Establish “Rules of Engagement” - Work will be more satisfying for employees and leaders alike when there is clarity around how tasks are managed and an established routine emerges. So set expectations around frequency, times and methods of communication. You might decide that video conferencing happens daily for check-ins and instant messaging used when something is urgent. It is also vital (and shown to be more productive) to establish clarity around when the day starts and ends. Employees need to know at what time they are expected to work so they are not working around the clock.
Offer encouragement and emotional support. Research on emotional intelligence has established that employees look to their leaders for sues about how to react to a crisis or to sudden changes. A good leader will acknowledge the stress involved in the new reality of remote working but will instil a sense of confidence that this is manageable. Statements such as “This is different , difficult and unexpected but we will handle it. Together we’ll get through this” is both honest and reassuring in
Focus on goals. “It is important to manage expectations and stay focussed on goals when embracing a remote workforce. Don’t worry too much about what is being done. Instead, concentrate on what is being accomplished. If we are meeting our goals, then great. If not we need to look into the situation further. It is all about accomplishment, not activity” – Donald Hatter, Donald Hatter Inc
Be Accessible: Wayne Anderson, from Forbes Coaches Council advises leaders to give remote workers as much access to you as possible and respond to them as quickly as possible.
Trust your Team. LaKiesha Tomlin, speaking also from Forbes Coaches Council tell us to trust your team. Sometimes companies are not willing to embrace a remote workforce because there’s an uncertainty about whether or not the work will be completed to the same standard as work done in the office. To combat this belief, set up work-from-home guidelines such as emails must be responded to within 24 hours, use text for urgent matters, and no calls between certain hours to make sure that teammates know to clock-off.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help: Many individuals and organisations will need support in the weeks and months to come. Whether that happens in the form of grants, reliefs or some form of external expertise, many workers and businesses will need help as the crisis worsens.
Paycheck Plus are here to help organisations navigate through these challenging times. Our staff has put together a COVID 19 –Information and Resources page which includes all the latest COVID-19 related news as well as several helpful guides and articles on key issues such as remote working and business continuity (including our Business Continuity Checklist). Feel free to check it out, or contact us to find out how outsourcing your payroll services can benefit your organisation.