“Migrating from traditional office to home office is the easy bit – the difficulty comes with replicating the other aspects of office life.”
By Mark Walton, CEO of Sensée
An argument can be made that COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown spearheaded more innovation and adjustment in office culture than any other development in the last ten years. Overnight, millions of office workers set up at home, in DIY offices, kitchens and spare bedrooms across the UK; a workforce that was quickly forced to adapt. However, successfully working from home is more than opening a laptop and swapping coffee meetings for web-conferencing. Homeworking, when done properly, can ensure balance between work and family life for many, put an end to long commutes, enhance career progression and transform human resource management.
As lockdown measures begin to lessen, our research has pointed towards an attitude shift in many British businesses. Following a survey in conjunction with the UKCCF (The UK Contact Centre Forum), two-thirds of organisations said that productivity is better than it was before homeworking. Three-quarters noted that attrition is lower, and more than half noted a reduction in absenteeism. We also surveyed 130 FTSE 25 companies and 88% are now using homeworking for front line customer facing staff and 48% now consider is a part of their future strategy post-COVID-19.
The numbers speak for themselves – remote working is effective. However it shouldn’t be underestimated that moving a workforce, of any size, remote is a substantial task. In another recent poll, 23 per cent of respondents said that Pastoral Care was the biggest challenge, closely followed by Motivation and Productivity which was the second biggest challenge cited. The pandemic may have forced many companies to make the switch quickly but if it’s to be a long-term practice it’s a greater undertaking.
As a business, we have managed a remote team for over 15 years and now offer consultation services for businesses that are looking to maintain a homeworking approach. With careful consideration of the below, teams and managers alike can reap the rewards of a ‘new normal’ way of working.
- Establish Flexibility & Planning
As previously stated, homeworking allows for flexibility and balance in the workday. Teams can work around other obligations such as childcare or medical appointments but it needs to be clearly established how much flexibility or set work time, across the board, is expected. This will help with management, team building and collaborative productivity but may require some frank conversations during the first ‘teething’ weeks.
- Ensure Security
Data security is of paramount importance but keeping track of data can become an amplified when your team is out-of-office. Make sure all employees are well versed on company rules on data protection and sharing, conduct virtual training programmes if necessary. Most web-conferencing software will use end-to-end encryption on conversations and ‘chat’ functions but it is worth checking these policies often. For data storage, there is a host of online offerings that will suit different companies, if you use a shared space instruct employees to keep login details secure and to change passwords regularly, physical backups are also helpful should data losses become a risk.
- Maintain Team Connections & Drive
While offices have their faults they are home to true connections in teams. As the above data suggests, isolation and lowered motivation can unfortunately factor in working from home. To counteract this with remote teams, take social gatherings virtual, video conferencing calls, where business talk is off-limits have proven to be effective for keeping teams connected. Perhaps one of the great achievements of the lockdown has been the creativity across the globe in taking social calls online.
- Check-In with Employees
Pastoral care should not be left at the office door, while employees embrace flexibility and balance that home working affords, feelings of isolation or worries about hindered career development can often go undisclosed across virtual communication. We recommend that team leaders and HR managers schedule regular ‘check-ins’ with individual team members to discuss their working experience, ensuring that staff are given a safe place to discuss potential issues and be reassured that pastoral care is available out-of-office.