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Five things to think about when setting up remote working

Coronavirus has caused many companies to move to remote working. Here's what you need to know to set it up correctly.

Coronavirus at work

As the impact of the coronavirus continues to spread, companies are having to adapt to frequently changing guidelines. But one initial strategy is now pretty much standard practice among office-based businesses: moving to remote working.

As companies like Twitter realised early on, this allows you to protect your staff from potential infection, and minimise the spread of the virus, without affecting their ability to work. (It also offers a number of other business advantages, which we’ll explain at the end of this article.)

However, if you want to do it well, you need to have some core principles in place right from the start. Here are five things to think about when setting up remote working.

Trust your team

Remote working works best when managers value outputs more than inputs, and trust their employees to do their jobs when out of sight.  So give your team the tools and priorities they need to do their job from home, then trust them to get on with it. If you don’t, that’s an HR issue, not a flexible working one.

Equip your employees to work from anywhere

A significant barrier to remote working is not having access to the right files and systems. You need to develop a solution that replicates their office desktop at home, whether on a company laptop or their home computer – and have the right IT support at the end of a phone.

Prioritise what can and should be done

Clearly, some tasks are more suited to remote working than others. So if you’re using it as a short-term solution to the coronavirus, it’s worth working out which of your priorities can be tackled most successfully at this time – and making sure your team are aware of what they are.

Use tech to help stay in touch

From Skype calls and Google hangouts to Slack and social media, there are a large number of tech solutions to enable you and your team to communicate with each other. In one company in Hong Kong which has moved to remote working due to coronavirus, teams have set up What’s App groups to mirror the informal office chat they’re missing out on.

Encourage your employees to switch off

When people are working from their kitchen tables, it’s all too easy for them to get caught up in a piece of work and let it spread into the evening. Support your employees’ work-life balance by encouraging them to formally switch off at the end of their working day.

How remote working can benefit businesses

• Reducing office space can cut overheads and your carbon footprint
• Freeing up employees from the commute supports physical and mental health
• Offering flexible options helps attract talented people and encourages them to stay
• Many employees believe that working remotely helps them focus on core tasks

Remote working as a long-term strategy

If remote working ends up working well for your business, you may decide to continue with it after the threat of coronavirus has passed. If so, you’ll need to consider these other, more long-term issues to get the best out of your remote workers:

  • Successfully managing remote workers
  • Keeping everyone in the team connected and up to date
  • Structuring team meetings and social events
  • Supporting skills training and CPD
  • Offering opportunities for progression
  • Avoiding ‘out of sight, out of mind’ syndrome

We’ve covered some of these points in more detail in a research report focusing on inclusion for part-time and remote workers. We also offer training for line managers on how to manage flexible teams.

So however the next few weeks pan out, if you’d like to get better at remote working, please get in touch.

Published March 2020

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