Historically, the suggestion of ‘remote working’, being ‘agile’, and ‘performance led’ in regard to work environments could easily have translated as a sure way to lose control of your business. It seemed too whacky, eccentric, mad and certainly not something fitting of a business advisory and accountancy environment!
A global pandemic then enveloped the world of work, and business owners across most sectors were forced to rethink this concept. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that all unnecessary social contact should cease on March 16 and by March 23, Boris Johnson put us into lockdown. And so, the biggest global experiment into flexible working commenced.
More than 22 weeks later, we’ve proved remote and agile working does in fact work, but, has this happened without consequence? The answer’s No! Not all consequences will be realised immediately, but it’s already clear that engagement, communication and wellbeing strategies will require serious thought for most UK businesses, in order to keep employees engaged and focused.
Any people strategy has to be both suitable and relevant to the business, but, if I can share just one idea that works for your business, then this will have been worth the read.
At Fortus, we’ve either created solutions for our clients or have implemented changes into our own business. Remember, we’re also on this unusual journey too!
Everyone who works remotely has to figure out how to organise themselves, how to work and how to create boundaries between both their work and personal life. It’s the toughest challenge for anyone who’s passionate about what they do, so here are some tips to support this:
- Create a morning routine.
- Get dressed for work.
- Set boundaries during working time, especially if there’s multiple people in your personal space.
- Leave your personal space - for a break, to take a call, to keep physical movement levels up.
Mix your media; have a mix of voice calls and video calls. The last 22 weeks have proven that eight hours of video calls isn’t only mentally numbing but also wipes out your productive time.
Review or consider policies for your business. Ensure clarity in your expectations during a remote or agile working situation. As the necessity of home working lifts, the opportunity for an employer to choose a new way of working presents itself. Regardless of how work’s organised, the obligation for employers to protect data, reputation, and manage the health and safety of their employees remains paramount. A badly designed workspace can lead to musculoskeletal problems. Inappropriate preparation and conduct on a video call can be damaging to reputation, and the mental health of employees who are on their own should be carefully considered. So, give a great deal of thought to safety, best practice, and company requirements.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated workspace in your home, then you have a stronger chance of creating separation between work and personal life and can aim for some physical movement. But, imagine the opposite situation where an employee is working from a small apartment, from their bedroom, and where there’s no available garden, and shape your strategy with this in mind.
Don’t forget the importance of social connectivity. The pandemic’s swiftly removed the naturally occurring ‘water cooler’ chats, the polite greeting in passing a colleague in the corridor, and the positive impact of a face-to-face meeting. Additionally, it removed the fun part of work! To combat this, it’s important to organise non-work events - what do I mean by this? Here are some ideas:
- Create initiatives that enable colleagues to connect. At Fortus, we asked our employees to choose their favourite music track to share with the rest of the team across the country. Why? Because music has been scientifically proven to have health benefits. If you missed out on this, you can take a look here
- Add a ‘spotlight’ section to your company newsletter/email so members of your team can share their experience.
Periodically arrange calls for social purposes rather than with a work agenda.
- Consider shifting the focus from clocked hours to output through an agile working approach.
- Giving your team more control over their time boosts satisfaction and productivity. In short, treat your employees like adults.
- Hold positive and motivational webinars. We asked The Tempest Two – inspirational adventurers, to share their life experiences with us and explain how to turn can’t into can.
Think about your property requirements. Maybe now’s the time to renegotiate your lease, downsize, sub-let or remodel the working space to maximise its use in a remote working environment.
Consider your health and insurance policy assessing the cost impact with your provider in anticipation of an increase in mental health issues, musculoskeletal problems from the long home-working period. Even give thought to the impact of dependants and spouses being added to health policies. During the pandemic, it’s clear that attitudes to self-care have changed, demonstrated in some small part by the fact that sales of fitness equipment increased by 5800% by July according to Yahoo Finance.
And finally, many businesses increased communications during the pandemic to help manage remote working. As employees start to return to the office, there’s now a risk that communication will revert back. Avoid this; keep the communication ramped up. There’s one huge benefit in doing so - employee engagement and the subsequent profits that result from a fully engaged and energised team.
Contact Fortus Business Advisors & Accountants at www.fortus.co.uk or call 01604 746760.
By Alexandra Marriott, Director & Head of HR Fortus Business Advisors & Accountants