• Shift to a remote working culture: A quick-start guide for success

COVID-19 coronavirus has forced many businesses to start putting in place technology for home working to ensure that their teams can keep working whether they’re self-isolating, having to juggle childcare, or if the Government mandates a home working policy as they have in other countries.

These emergency measures also create some challenges of their own; for many people this is their first-time home working, and for what could be a significant period of time. Successful remote working requires a shift in processes and culture, but with time of the essence, we’ve pulled together some quick-start tips to help your teams take their first steps on the journey…

Prepare yourself and your team

When you’re in the office you can see what’s going on, hear discussions and problems aired, and it’s easy to get up and talk to the team informally to check on progress. But when you’re unable to see your team, the fear that they might not working can set-in, they might feel isolated, and the inability to communicate so immediately can create frustration. 

Therefore, once you’ve got a plan on how you’re going to manage your team, communicate it. Set out your expectations on when they should be working, when you’ll be having meetings, communication best practice, and also be ready to take on feedback and adapt your processes. You’ll need the whole team on-board to help make this work, so make sure they understand how important their input and commitment the success of new tools or methods.

On a related-note, your team and yourself might struggle with this new way of working for various reasons, and being away from each other can make it difficult to pick up on problems, or if someone is feeling under the weather. Make sure to discuss this with the team, and let them know what support and resources are available for them from the business, or put some in place!

Trust & focus on outcomes 

Instead of worrying about what your team are doing with their time, agree what needs to be achieved (at beginning of the week for example), who’s doing what, who can help out, and then let them get on with it. This is harder than it sounds when you’re used to working in an office, but your team will achieve much more if they know they are trusted to do so, and your outcomes will be the evidence that they are. 

The RACI matrix is a simple tool to establish and agree which people are responsible for what in a project and gives you a quick method for this in meetings. For lightweight task planning you may already have access to Microsoft Planner (which comes with most Office 365 business subscriptions) so you can list tasks, allocate people, chat on each project and see overall progress. Another, slightly different tool aimed at more in-depth project management is Basecamp.

Regular online video meetings

Webcams at the ready! Humans communicate more with their body language and facial expressions, than we do verbally. That’s why face-to-face meetings tend to be quicker and more engaging than an email chain or teleconference. But with a video meeting, we’re a lot closer – we can see our team nodding in encouragement, wanting to ask a question, or if we’re waffling on and people are losing interest. 

It’s important to get the balance right, so you’re letting people get on with work and not cluttering up their day with too many meetings. Make sure each meeting has a clear agenda, defines who’s responsible for each part, any prep work required, and what the outcomes will be. Some other tips include, cameras always on (as we said earlier, the whole point is that we get to see each other), give everyone a chance to speak at some point during the meeting, and if it’s a long meeting make sure to schedule in a break for cups of tea and calls of nature! Try Microsoft Teams (via Office 365).

Set-up informal communications channels

It’s vital to keep the team communicating, to avoid feelings of isolation and so that the little questions, ideas and chats that pop up during the workday can still happen easily. Some simple solutions include Slack, and Microsoft Teams. Again, don’t get too hung-up about a bit of off-topic ‘watercooler’ chat if the agreed outcomes are being achieved. Trust the team to put in the work they need to do, when they need to do it.

The right tech

I’ve assumed that you’ve got the right tech in place to support these. But if not, then take a look at our Keep Britain Working resource page for tools, guidance and assessment documents that will help you with your home working preparations.