In response to the spread of Covid-19, many companies have transitioned their employees to work remotely.  While many of us are used to doing that on a regular basis, such new policies may leave many employees and their managers working out of their standard office setting and separated from each other – for the first time.

In this blog, we highlight the main challenges inherent to remote work and the things you need to watch out for to ensure it works.

The lack of face-to-face interaction is by far the biggest challenge faced by remote workers. Reduced access to managers’ support and communication, and a lack of in-person supervision could have a dramatic impact on productivity. Additional distraction at home is, whether we like it or not, a fact. With the sudden transition we’ve just seen, there is a greater chance that employees will struggle with less than optimal workspace, and now combined with the announced school closures, unexpected parenting and care responsibilities. Social isolation and loneliness will be another challenge that will impact staff, with them missing the informal social interaction of an office setting.

So what can you do to help address those challenges?

  1. The right workspace

Help your remote workers to have a reasonable set-up at home, while you still can. Check that they have a screen, a keyboard, a video camera on their laptop so they can do video conferences and chats, a mobile phone; check that they have good internet connection and if possible a dedicated work space in their home where they can hopefully be separated from the rest of the household. Working from home once a week is different to working from home every day.  Do what you can to support staff wellbeing and help them find their feet in their new surroundings.

  1. The right technology

This might seem pretty obvious but making sure all the technologies your employees use every day – like CRM, Marketing Automation, ERP, HR, Accounting, Document / File Sharing etc. are all in the cloud means you can have your staff working from anywhere as long as they can log into the internet. At Workbooks, all employees are using our cloud CRM so transitioning everyone from sales, marketing, customer support and finance to home working literally happened overnight. Are all your strategic applications accessible remotely so that it can be ‘business as usual’ for the majority of your employees? Have you considered the security implications of remote working? What tools do people need to stay connected and be able to collaborate seamlessly? How can you mitigate the situation in the short and longer term?

  1. Strong communication

It is important for each manager to take the time to have regular virtual catch-ups / online huddles /  hangouts with their team members, both on a 1to1 basis and with the full team together. You might be the only people some of your workforce will interact with / talk to. Going through that process will also make sure everyone is working effectively at home and keep team morale high.  And vary the interactions: emails, video calls, telephone calls, chats are all ways you can interact remotely. Make sure you turn your camera on! Make collaboration as seamless as possible and review the tools that you currently have to enable it. There are many tools out there to support communications inside your company, for example slack or Microsoft teams – which we use ourselves. See in image a recent sales meeting.

  1. Fine tune manual processes now

Review how things are done across your business. If there are things that are expected to be manually done by some members of your team, if you still have records or processes that are managed via paper etc., how are you going to manage those if/when everyone is working from home? Now is a great time to find an alternative to those potentially long winded and manual processes, getting them online and potentially automated. The quicker you are looking at this, the more continuity you’ll drive.

  1. Make staff mental health a priority

No one likes to be on their own for long periods of time. Isolation can really take its toll on people’s mental health, especially those that already have anxiety, live alone etc. so make sure you check in with the members of your team regularly to see how they are getting on. You could look to add helpful resources to your intranet on how to deal with the stress and anxiety that comes from being isolated. You can curate resources online and share those across your organization.  You could initiate opportunities for staff to socialize. If your company has a strong shared lunch culture – many people might be missing their kitchen colleague time! How about scheduling a Virtual Lunch around lunch time via Teams or Zoom for example – or any other video platform you may be using – where people can just hang out and shoot the breeze whilst eating lunch? This is the time to be creative.

And above all, stay safe and continue being successful!