By Millicent Clarke, Regional Head of Human Resources, Standard Chartered AME
The COVID-19 pandemic has led many organisations to adopt new ways of working, including a remote working policy for their employees. During times like these, an organisation’s top priority is to ensure the safety, security and wellbeing of its workforce, whilst at the same time, maintaining productivity.
Here are a few useful tips which organisations can follow to ensure that working remotely goes hand in hand with ensuring the continuity, and success, of a business.
Communication is key
Transparency and clarity between employees and senior leadership is crucial. Organisations must ensure that staff are up to date on all ongoing internal developments, as well as announcements from local authorities on relevant procedures and processes. This should also be introduced as a resource for client work, or any ongoing projects, as People Leaders decide on next steps. People Leaders should also regularly circulate updates to employees via email or their preferred method of communication.
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Employees should also feel that an ‘open-door’ policy is metaphorically endorsed throughout the remote working period. This means ensuring that efficient channels of communication are in place to facilitate simple two-way interaction. Employees should be informed of the decided channels for communication, as well as what they should expect in terms of coordinated meetings with the wider team thereafter.
Before you and your team set out on your remote working journey, you must ensure that you are all armed with the right tools in hand. This may be subject to what your organisation’s preferred hardware and software tools are, however, the central goal is to efficiently conduct day-to-day activities and minimise tech-related blunders.
The essentials to any team toolkit include: a desktop, laptop, or tablet, high-speed internet connection, basic hardware accessories, a reliable video-conferencing software and your preferred tool for project/task management.
Advocate for new ways of working
Yes, remote working in-and-of-itself is a perplexing method of conducting business for most, especially if you’ve become increasingly accustomed to an office setting. However, this is the time to test your leadership skills and your team’s ability to remain resilient during times of uncertainty.
Challenging our own paradigms can be a daunting task to undergo, yet, it has the ability to change your team’s entire dynamic, for the better. Take the time to leverage the circumstances you’re under and capitalise on your team’s successes, address their pain points and identify opportunities for improvement. All in all, you should come out with better knowledge of your team’s group dynamic and accustom your management approach thereafter.
Counsel your colleagues
In times of change and uncertainty, your staff’s safety and wellbeing should continuously be taken into consideration. For some employees, remote working, as well as the uncertainty of the situation, may bring about feelings of stress, anxiety and unease. Besides the negative impact this will have on your business, this may take a lasting toll on your staff’s emotional wellbeing. In turn, it is crucial to prioritise empathetic thinking when dealing with employees and aiding in the combat of their mental health issues.
Implementing emotional and behavioural intelligence across your communicative methods will aid in alleviating any internal anxiety or stress on your staff’s current working conditions. Employees will become more comfortable with flagging their concerns and promoting a sense of unity and understanding within the wider team.
Establish clear guidelines
In order to efficiently lead your workforce, your employees should be given defined boundaries and policies to adhere to. Compile a comprehensive guide, inclusive of provisions on sick leaves, paid leave and sabbaticals, and circulate this to the wider team. This will mitigate against any confusion relating to proper business governance and procedural changes.
And, as always, keep the line of communication between yourself and your colleagues open, if ever they need guidance on a situation.
Virtual suggestion box
Who better to showcase the success of a remote working policy than the employees?
Organisations should encourage employees to be open about any challenges they are facing while working remotely. This way, they can be quickly addressed and solved to avoid any future issues. What’s more, employees should also highlight examples of what has been working well for them in their roles and any key learnings they can share with their colleagues which can be adapted.
Plan for contingencies
As we all know, not everything works according to plan. This is especially true for an uncertain and uncharted situation. In turn, senior leadership must account for potential contingencies that may arise and be ready to overcome unwarranted obstacles.
This can vary from large, unanticipated pieces of work from clients, or an organisation-wide system malfunction. Now, hopefully, your IT team is well equipped to handle the situation accordingly and your communication channels allow you to delegate large tasks to your wider team. However, when all else fails, your contingency plan will serve as a cushion for any unexpected setbacks.
In order to maintain resilient business continuity, leaders will exhibit their strategic mindsets and shape their own opportunities, as opposed to adapting to changing conditions. In the midst of fundamental and structural changes to your industry, a contingency plan will allow you to position your organisation as a market leader and prompts the introduction of valuable propositions.
Embrace the 3 Ps
Since clients may be experiencing a slowdown in operations, you should anticipate a sudden pause on ongoing tasks. In turn, this is a great time to tackle projects that you could not find time for in the past. This period could also serve as the ideal time to provide your clients with proactive suggestions, as well as contemplate your long-term strategic plans.
Make the effort to ensure that your employees are working productively and efficiently.
Productive employees will usually follow daily routines, so, try to simulate this in your remote working culture. Whether this is actively encouraging your staff to take a lunch break or log-off at the end of the workday, they should feel that working from home is no different than an average day at the office.
Employees’ attitudes and perceptions have a prominent effect on the work they do. In turn, it is essential that you prioritise your people’s morale and advocate for positivity during trying times of uncertainty. Try to regularly share positive affirmations with your staff members, whether it’s a joke that made you laugh out loud or praising another colleague’s great work.