Just as we were all getting into the swing of hybrid working and the great return to the office was hitting its peak, the most recent restrictions reminded us that things can change very quickly.
To help address some of the uncertainty surrounding the fallout from the pandemic, businesses in the UK and beyond are refreshing their work-from-home policies and communicating their workplace strategy to their teams.
In light of that, I’ve put together 5 key areas to consider introducing to support the wellbeing of team members working remotely.
Check in on junior team members regularly
Reverting back to the home office or living room may be simple for some, but there will be members of your team feeling anxious when they're not surrounded by colleagues. For junior employees, the office provides opportunities to learn, connect and collaborate with their peers in a way that’s difficult to replicate remotely.
Working from home will be challenging for more inexperienced team members, so it’s important to put processes in place that still allow them to ask all the questions they would usually be able to. This could be daily catch-ups or blocking out time in the week to go through anything that they might be struggling with.
Over-communicate with new starters
Similarly, newer team members won’t be used to how your company operates when entirely remote. Whether they’re new to the working world or have joined from a different company, your remote strategy will need to be clearly communicated to them to help avoid any teething problems.
If you have an existing remote strategy, make time to talk it through with them and address any questions they might have. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and getting the support that they need in difficult circumstances.
Set meeting rules
In a hybrid working world, teams have been encouraged to plan their meetings around days in the office. It’s an easy way to keep attendees engaged and opens the door to collaboration, which isn’t always achievable virtually.
Having everyone in the office won't always be possible, so the likelihood is that virtual meetings will still fill our calendars. For some, that will be a challenge to (re)adjust to, so it’s important to communicate a set of guidelines to make the process a little easier.
Most of these ‘rules’ have been widely debated over the last two years, but don’t assume that they’re universally known. Formalising them will put everyone on the same page, and helps newer employees understand how your business operates remotely.
Here are a few tips to consider.
Give everyone time to prep- Not everyone works well on the spot, so give people context and allow them to prepare their thoughts beforehand. The easiest way to do this is to add an agenda to the calendar invite in advance of the meeting.
Have someone driving the agenda - This is certainly true for in-person meetings too, but it’s even more crucial when working remotely. Time can run away with itself without structure and we are all busy, so it’s helpful to have someone guide the conversation, keeping things on track and listing actions as and when they pop up.
No lunch time meetings - People don’t always block off time in their calendar for lunch, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have time to unwind during the middle of the day. Encourage your team to be mindful of schedules when possible.
Avoid distractions - Virtual meetings are particularly challenging due to all of the potential distractions. Ask your team to give their full attention to the meeting to help boost their effectiveness for everyone involved. This means no working or reading emails while on a call so that you can keep the focus on the subject.
Introduce no-meeting days
Finding time to focus throughout the day has been one of the great victories in the shift towards flexible working. For most of the workforce, the variety of potential work environments now facilitates this focus time and helps with weekly task management.
Without this separation, and with more calls likely to be in the calendar while everyone is remote, it can be difficult to find the time to concentrate. Introducing company-wide no-meeting days is a great way to ensure your team still benefit from a quieter period in the week.
If a whole day is unrealistic, try an afternoon. This will give everyone in your team a designated focus time, so even in the busiest of weeks they’ll know they can get their head down for a few hours.
Show empathy in difficult times
Ultimately, business leaders need to be considerate of the challenges their employees are facing amidst the fallout from the pandemic. We’ve all been adapting to a new way of working, and there will likely be more barriers to overcome.
Every team member will have a different experience in doing so, and will be seeking guidance from their employer on how to move forward. Communication is crucial and should be the number one priority for the road ahead.