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Wednesday 02 September 2020
by Jackie Emson

Managing your workforce remotely by Aaron & Partners

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The Employment team from leading legal firm Aaron & Partners, has produced a list of top tips aimed at helping UK business owners and managers returning to the workplace

Leading law firm Aaron & Partners has put together a list of 10 tips aimed at helping HR professionals, managers and business owners to manage staff working remotely and returning to the office following the relaxation of lockdown rules.   

Ben Mason, Partner in the firm’s renowned Employment team, has extensive experience of advising employers on all aspects of employment law and supports clients on a wide range of complex HR issues.  

“Despite lockdown now easing, a significant number of the UK’s employees remain working from home. Successful remote working will continue to play a key role in keeping businesses operating and helping to ease the transition back into the workplace.  

“Many employers are choosing to keep their workplaces closed despite the UK-wide lockdown being lifted, and it is likely that a significant proportion of the UK workforce will continue to work from home on a more flexible basis going forwards. 

“It is essential for businesses to review their approach to remote working to ensure their workforce remains professional, motivated and productive whilst working remotely. 

“We’ve seen an increasing number of clients contacting the firm with issues relating to COVID-19. To offer some help and guidance during this period, we’ve produced a list of top tips to help manage a workforce remotely.”  

1. Communicate regularly

The decrease in day-to-day social interaction that employees would usually experience within an office environment places greater importance on the need for employers to be in regular contact with all members of the team. Interaction amongst teams promotes engagement and employers will benefit from opening multiple channels of communication with staff.

2. Utilise video conferencing

Managing your workforce by way of video conferencing can promote inclusion amongst staff and provide the opportunity to see the people you previously worked with, talked to or managed on a daily basis. Additionally, text does not convey emotion and therefore it can be difficult to sense a colleague’s intent where communication is via email or direct message. The value in video conferencing is that colleagues can see each other, are able to read body language and can feel more connected overall.

3. Be flexible

In a time of need, flexibility can be the saving grace for many staff. Employers should consider allowing staff to work in different patterns provided that this meets the needs of the business’ clients. As staff members begin to return to the workplace, employers should consider whether to put a flexible rota into place and should support employees who may be juggling work and home life. Asking employees to return to work on a part-time basis may also assist employers who are seeking to reduce the footfall into the office on a daily basis and to maintain social distancing.

4. Focus on accomplishment rather than activity

Managers should steer away from micromanagement in these trying times, firstly to convey a level of trust which will help build professional relationships, but also to shift the focus towards accomplishments rather than activity. Client satisfaction underpins all businesses and so provided clients are serviced properly and effectively, then this satisfies the bigger picture. If goals are not being met, or there is a notable decline in outcomes, then there may be cause for concern and a need to investigate - this should be managed on a case by case basis.

5. Establish a good relationship

Strong business relationships lay the foundations for staff productivity and empathy is key to understanding the people you work with both on a professional and a personal level. Managers should check in with their staff often and discuss topics outside of work. Supporting the success of staff rather than being blindly focused on the numbers can often work favourably. It is important to build these relationships with each individual member of the team as every person has unique qualities and forms an important limb of the business.

6. Recognise loneliness and isolation

Coming into the office every day may be the only form of social interaction and engagement some staff regularly have and being thrust into this new way of working runs the risk of taking all social interaction away, potentially leading to loneliness. Managers should recognise this, engage staff socially where possible and encourage regular breaks. During the lockdown, many businesses embraced social apps and platforms, which allow staff to take part in social activities from the comfort of their home. Social interaction is still limited under current rules and if businesses now have a range of employees working from home and in the office, they should consider different ways to ensure those that work from home more regularly are recognised and consider different forums for social interaction.

7. Create a clear schedule

Working from home places greater importance on scheduling, especially given that the workforce is going to be spread out. Unlike an ‘open door’ policy seen across many offices; it can be difficult to know when a door is actually ‘open’ when not in the office. Managers should therefore schedule time to sit down and properly discuss with staff any matters, issues or concerns and ensure they are dealt with in order to maintain continuity outside of the office. Where employees are returning to the workplace, consider putting a clear rota into place to ensure that staff know when they are expected to be working from the office or from home.

8. Never cancel a one-to-one

Making plans for one-to-one’s and sticking to them can ease the pressure that all businesses face right now by combating loneliness and isolation, improving connectivity and investing in the value of relationships. A failure to follow through with arranged activities can therefore have an adverse effect on morale.

9. Prioritise your company culture

Maintaining the core values of the business, even in times of adversity, is testament to the strength of the brand. Businesses that encourage an open and inclusive environment, where each and every member is firmly on board, will be best placed to survive even the most unusual circumstances which we find ourselves in. This places greater importance on the need for inclusion and continuing to maintain normality even in the current climate.

10. Carefully manage a return to the workplace

From 1 August, government guidance in England was updated such that employers could begin to reopen workplaces and ask their employees to return to work. Welsh government advice remains to continue working from home where possible. If employers intend to ask their staff to return to the workplace, they should consider consulting with each person to ensure that there are no barriers to their doing so. Employers are under a duty to carry out a Covid-related risk assessment, and it is their responsibility to ensure that they are operating a safe workplace. Consider providing training for employees and managers to ensure that everybody is clear on their responsibilities and any new processes or procedures. Most importantly, employers should keep their workplace guidance under review as government guidance is changing on a frequent basis and should ensure that any changes are clearly communicated to staff.

For advice and assistance on managing your workforce remotely, you can contact Ben Mason on ben.mason@aaronandpartners.com or call 01743 294129.