As the corona virus continues to spread, increasing numbers of people are working remotely from home. Some are self-isolating. And, as we write this, it seems increasingly likely that, during the coming weeks, the government will put in more stringent measures to further curtail movement. As a result of these circumstances, many concerned businesses find themselves in uncharted waters.
However, it’s important to recognise that the country’s current health emergency is temporary. For businesses, the challenge is to stay safe and positive, while finding effective ways to work with an increasingly remote workforce.
Thanks to technology, people are able to work, manage and learn when not in the office. As has been shown in other countries, where quarantine has spawned community help groups and online school classes, necessity is proving to be the mother of invention.
So how can your business embrace the challenge and begin working remotely? Here are some tips on how you can adjust to the changing circumstances and keep calm while carrying on.
Choose a medium that fits the message
Phone, video, WhatsApp or text; everyone has their own preference for communication. The choice when working remotely should depend on what you’re doing. If it’s a quick catch up with a small team, a group WhatsApp can work. If it’s a larger team, you could set up a Facebook group or Workplace or Microsoft teams.
Let the team lead on what works for them, but make sure it’s practical. A group forum like WhatsApp, for example, might not be the best place to encourage open and honest feedback, but is great for team engagement. If the task is more involved, for example you’re delivering learning, then platforms like Zoom or Skype are more functional. They are also easy to set up and use. Zoom is reasonably priced and has great features for larger groups.
In our experience, managing and supporting teams is about showing you care and are present when needed. So, whatever you choose, make sure you are available.
Location, location, location
Environment matters, even when learning or speaking to teams remotely. Ensure you’re somewhere you can be heard, with a good connection that won’t keep dropping off. If you’re communicating via a video link, keep background distractions to a minimum. Shut doors behind you to reduce the risk of stray toddlers or errant cats. If you can, wear a headset with a microphone. This negates distractions, frees up your hands and allows you to take notes. It also makes you look cool - like Madonna in the nineties.
Set outcomes and avoid micromanaging
Away from the confines of the workplace, people will inevitably work at different times, which places the emphasis on outcomes. Consequently, managers need to be clear about expectations when employees are working remotely. These could include setting deadlines and arranging times when teams are expected to be contactable and online. Everyone should know what is expected of them and trust should be built on both sides.
If you’re delivering online learning, deliver it in a maximum of 40 minutes to keep engagement levels high. Keep the content engaging, interactive and useful. Remember, if people are at home, working remotely, you are potentially competing against This Morning and Netflix.
Make learning or meetings interactive
Don’t just put together your presentation and talk through it. Platforms like Zoom allow you to use functions such as real-time voting and annotation. Use engagement tools. There’s nothing worse than someone droning on for an hour, maybe sharing a slide or two. Make full use of everything the platform has to offer.
Share your screen, conduct polls, solicit feedback in chat, split attendees up into video breakout rooms, direct them to relevant websites and have them fill out Google Docs to share. When working remotely, do whatever it takes to keep your audience actively engaged and focused.
The most important thing when working remotely is keeping in touch, through whichever medium, and be creative in how you do this. Be open to having a go at new ways of communicating and see it as an opportunity to learn. If you would like to talk to us more about how we can support you in delivering online learning through this time, get in touch, You can also read a couple of our online success stories with Fujitsu and O2.