As working from home becomes a necessity rather than a luxury during Covid-19, maintaining a work-life balance away from the office is definitely an adjustment for many of us.
However, it could be a while before we resume ‘normal’ operations. Let’s consider ways businesses of all sizes can help their employees continue to collaborate effectively when teams are distributed.
Empathy & Adaptability
As an IT company, ActionPoint was thankfully well-positioned to deal with the need to have our teams work remotely. Many of us were used to working in this way. The cloud infrastructure was already in place, and, as Microsoft Office 365 users, business continuity – such as access to company servers and data – and communication through Microsoft Teams was already the norm.
However, for many other businesses – including some of our clients – the adjustment was a more difficult one to make. A lot of companies were realising the need for digital transformation in a very short timeframe. Swapping desktops for laptops and migrating from on-premise to cloud servers is rarely possible (or necessary) in a single weekend.
While it’s become clear that different companies are at different stages of readiness; no-one could have prepared for such urgent implementation. As a result, even those with the right set up are experiencing issues.
For example, aside from the obvious challenges of being at home with family 24/7, those we live with will be working too – which has an impact on broadband usage. Similarly, from a company perspective, having employees all logging onto systems at the same time, sharing files and bandwidth etc, put additional pressure on already stretched IT teams.
Ultimately, some businesses are being massively affected by the lockdown. Our advice to anyone is to simply be mindful of this – and to exercise patience with suppliers, colleagues and clients alike.
Keeping Communication Open & Honest
In addition to the logistical and operational challenges mentioned above, maintaining team communication is critical at this time.
Having the right technology platforms in place isn’t the same as using them, however. What we’re insisting on at this time are regular team calls. Nothing formal – but the rule is leaving cameras on. Why? Because they encourage presence and active engagement.
We can overlook unkempt hair and domestic chaos in the background, but need to ensure we maintain something as close to face-to-face communication as possible. Plus cameras keep us all honest – management included – which helps us all to build greater trust.
Open and honest communication also fosters understanding and flexibility. Right now some of our staff are starting and finishing early while others are working late – to fit in with family life and partners’ jobs. But where possible, we want our people to find their own routine and do all the things they normally would – like taking regular breaks and chatting with colleagues.
To this end we’ve encouraged a virtual ‘watercooler standup’ where the one rule is that we don’t talk about work for 15 minutes. Also, our team managers are setting up WhatsApp groups to address the need for quick-fire questions, and to keep each other in the loop on different matters.
Getting this balance of formal and informal communication is crucial for us. Ultimately, it’s how we operate under normal everyday circumstances, so it’s already part of our culture.
Right now, while many businesses find themselves ‘thinking outside of the box’ to address the challenges ahead, equally important is carrying on working the way we’re used to in extraordinary circumstances. Also, senior management teams need to continue to both lead from the top and reassure employees in these uncertain times.
What’s happening now is unprecedented, and everyone is doing their best in a dramatically different landscape to two months ago. Navigating business-as-usual with a newly distributed team, in a different working environment, and finding ways to maintain regular contact also means appreciating that all kinds of companies are in the same boat.
It’s a good time to truly take stock of the nature of work and productivity generally. For too long, many companies – and employees – have confused ‘business’ with ‘busyness’. Showing up at an office between 9-5 could well be up for discussion if having more flexibility in our working days during the lockdown proves successful.
One thing’s for sure – being stuck behind a desk can no longer be a de-facto measure of productivity. What counts is engagement, focus, and achievement. As long as deadlines are met; service levels are adhered to; and teams, clients, and management stay connected and communicative, there’s little argument for any business to change their stance on flexible working.
For more information on ActionPoint’s remote working services, visit http://actionpointtech.co.uk/remote-working
Or check some of our remote working webinars at https://actionpointtech.co.uk/academy.