How to inspire and support your (newly) remote workforce

Written by
Tim Oldman, CEO, Leesman

16 Mar 2020

16 Mar 2020 • by Tim Oldman, CEO, Leesman

Employers can take positive steps to boost their remote workers’ morale, productivity and resilience during the coronavirus pandemic.

Working from home will undoubtedly prove pivotal in limiting the impact of the coronavirus crisis. But Leesman data suggests that home-working practices can prompt a 15% drop in a workforce’s ability to share ideas and knowledge, directly impacting both productivity and innovation. That said, there are numerous steps that organisations can take to provide the best possible remote-working experience for their employees. 

Make use of experienced home workers and unleash your ‘intrepid explorers’ 

Although 55% of UK employees have little or no experience of working from home, there are workers that do. Organisations should identify the ‘intrepid explorers’ in their midst, those occasional home workers who are used to developing and curating environments and micro-environments at home that are suitable for work purposes. Business leaders should consider temporarily enrolling these colleagues as ‘home work ambassidors’ – perhaps even as ‘agony aunts’.

Communication with your remote team is key, so put the virtual kettle on

Businesses shouldn’t underestimate the importance of social interaction and collaboration. Working from home for long periods of time may impact the culture of an organisation as it becomes harder to maintain that vital sense of community. One of the things we plan to do in the event of a lockdown is to run a virtual coffee [half] hour. This will give our team the chance to connect with each other on an informal basis. 

Inspire trust and communicate with your remote workforce

Our data shows that home working is great for one thing: individual focused work – which is any activity that’s best performed solo, such as confidential business calls and creative thinking. Of course, the success of that individual work depends on trust. The emphasis is always on whether the employee is trusted (especially as a foundation of remote or home work models) but what about the extent to which the employee trusts the employer? Open, honest communication is vital in this pursuit. 

Stay agile, stay reactive, and roll with the punches

Home working has its limits. Lots of people will live in large apartments and family homes, but many others will reside in bedsits and studios; some will have their children at home with them during the COVID-19 crisis. Employers cannot assume that their employees will have access to the environments they’ll need for the tasks in hand. We would encourage organisations to conduct a poll to find out what type of environments people have at home and to redistribute tasks across the workforce where appropriate. 

Don’t assume everyone working from home is tech savvy 

Home workers aged between 55-64 report the lowest satisfaction levels when it comes to informal social interaction, compared with the under 25s. Perhaps that’s indicative of tech knowledge and know-how. Organisations should run online training courses and provide downloadable guides to ensure everyone, whatever age, knows how to use the available tools. Remind people of audio/video conference etiquette and reiterate the importance of the camera being switched on during video calls. There's evidence to suggest that people bring their better selves to work if they ‘look the part’, so encourage people to get out of their PJs. 

Home office equipment and accessories - keep things simple

Finally, invest in inexpensive accessories like a remote keyboard, mouse and separate screen monitor. These low-cost interventions can make life much easier both at the office and at home. 

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