Posted by Natalia Buttery on April 21st, 2020.
Over 1.5 million people work from home in the UK prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, but that number has surged over the last few months.
For many businesses, this is the first time they have had to manage and coordinate a disparate workforce and the challenge can be a daunting one.
While your company may be in the swing of things now, with any initial teething problems ironed out, the lockdown is likely to continue for some time to come so it’s worth reviewing your set up to see if there are any changes you can make to improve employee productivity.
One thing to bear in mind is that working from home presents as many challenges for your employees as your business and they will need help adjusting. It’s tricky enough to maintain a work life balance, but when you’re working from home the lines become even more blurred.
The first step is to encourage your team to set up clear, workable boundaries. These can relate both to general time management and more tangible steps like setting up a dedicated workstation.
We all know how tempting it is to sit on the sofa with the radio or TV on in the background, but this is a sure-fire way of splitting focus.
Encourage your employees to set up a workspace that’s away from outside distractions and as close to the set up they had in the office as possible. Having a permanent set up means they’ll be ready to work first thing in the morning and they’ll benefit from the psychological relief of being able to ‘walk away’ from work at the end of the day.
When it comes to time management it’s crucial to encourage your employees to maintain their usual routines wherever possible. Showering and getting dressed as normal will help them get into the right frame of mind.
However, it’s important to remember that normal 9 till 5 working hours may no longer be feasible for some employees, especially if they have children. Where possible and appropriate, be flexible with working hours as this will both improve productivity and general wellbeing.
One of the major benefits of an office is the ease of communication – employees can communicate freely and effortlessly; questions get answered swiftly throughout the day. More importantly, your staff don’t feel isolated as they’re surrounded by a constant hum of background activity.
However, working from home can create obstacles for collaboration and teamwork, so it’s extra-important to keep those communication channels open while working remotely.
Luckily, we’re blessed with an abundance of digital communication tools. Freely downloadable software like Slack in particular are well worth exploring.
Slack allows its users to share files and engage in team workspace discussion ‘channels’, much like Facebook ‘groups’ or a message board. Each team or project can also have its own unique Slack ‘channel’ where files, images and videos can be shared which enables relatively seamless collaboration even when working from home.
When it comes to remote video conferencing, software like Zoom is indispensable. It’s free and easy-to-use interface makes digital conferences effortless.
Simply send a Zoom link in an email and anybody can hook up for a one-on-one call for up to 40 minutes, while the paid version enables unlimited minutes along with the option of up to 100 participants.
Scheduling regular calls between team members keeps people connected, provides them with crucial ‘face-to-face’ communication and offers a sense of routine which may otherwise be lacking.
Company security can easily be taken for granted when your IT team has secured your network from outside threats. But when your staff are all working in different places and on different equipment maintaining control of security can become a logistical nightmare. However, there are several steps you can take to ensure your remote workplace remains safe and secure.
A highly effective way of ensuring your internal systems and employees are secure is by deploying a VPN (a virtual private network). This provides an extra layer of security by masking the user’s IP address, encrypting data and removing access to location data.
Many organisations already have a VPN in place, but if you don’t explore VPN service providers such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
It’s also important to remind your employees to rigidly adhere to your usual security protocols. Updating software, encrypting their WIFI and using multiple and secure passwords should be standard.
The coronavirus crisis has transformed the way our businesses function, and the situation is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.
Regularly reviewing your company’s approach to working from home, and your employees’ productivity, is crucial. If some things aren’t working well, adjust them. If some employees are struggling to maintain their usual levels of productivity discuss it with them and see where adjustments can be made.
By taking proactive steps and utilising the tools and software available your company can rise to the challenge of working from home.
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