We’re in uncharted territory. Since the UK government advised that employees work from home to contain the spread of COVID-19, millions of workers have gone remote. That means a whole host of employees who have never worked from home are having to adjust. And there’s no clear end in sight—we could be doing this for months to come.
Needless to say, stress levels are volatile.
That’s why it’s so important for you, as charities, to rise up and support your teams the best way you can. Here are our tips on how to best manage your teams remotely.
Prioritise and be flexible about who needs what in order to work from home
It’s likely that your IT needs will be stretched, so prioritise initially based on your staff’s risk factors should they get ill. They’re the people who need to be set up first so that they’re able to self-isolate if needed.
Be prepared to give extra help to those who haven’t worked like this before. Some of your staff will almost certainly be set up to work from home already, but for others, this will be the first time. Be patient and arrange for them to have a key contact they can go to if they get stuck—not necessarily an IT person, but a colleague who’s happy to help out and share advice.
After that, keep reviewing the needs of those now working from home—which may well be the majority of your office staff.
Normal ‘rules’ don’t apply in these heightened times. So, can senior staff share kit (like work laptops) if they’re able to use their own? Consider how you can provide instant access to things like work databases remotely.
Trust your team—managing them isn’t about checking up on them
We’re all guilty of the odd day when ‘working from home’ meant showing your presence with one or two key calls, or when just getting on the server was the big achievement. To put it another way, I’m sure everyone’s had at least one working from home day where we’ve not worried too much about our productivity!
But that was then, and this is now.
From today, we need to start from a place of trust and assume that everyone is doing their best. Trusting your teams to work from home as best they can—rather than checking up on them—is absolutely key to morale, productivity and the mental health for everyone involved.
After all, at this incredibly difficult time, our sector’s greatest resource is the people who work for us. So, trust needs to be at the heart of how we work now. We need to trust that our dedicated colleagues are doing their best to keep going within their own circumstances.
And we need to be flexible. As schools start to close and as more families are affected by coronavirus, it’ll become even more important.
People may need to work two hours on/two hours off over a different working day to look after their children or dependents. Or, if they’re able, they may want to work early or late, so that they’re free for childcare in the daytime.
All of this is new, so let’s adjust expectations, trust our teams and colleagues and accept that we’ll be working to a different schedule.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
There are many ways of staying in touch and it’s a good idea to vary these—texts, Skype, conference calls, systems like Slack or Asana, video conferencing, emails and, most importantly, one-to-one phone calls.
You may want to agree on which communication systems will be used for different types of task. So, you could decide that for communicating with colleagues on daily activities everyone uses Slack (or equivalent), but you keep email for things that need to be communicated more formally or to a wider group.
Working like this cuts down on time spent checking too many unnecessary emails or working back through online chats that aren’t relevant to you.
It helps to implement regular teams catch-ups and one-to-one calls to chat through priorities. Make time for informal chats about how people are getting on generally, as well as with their own workload.
Establish good practice in conference calls and remote meetings
Many people won’t have had to do conference calls or remote meetings before; particularly not video conferencing. So, bear that in mind and help them to feel included and comfortable.
There’s lots of advice online about good practice for conducting remote meetings. The key thing is to have one person who acts as a facilitator or chair who sets expectations, keeps it on track and makes sure that all voices are heard.
They also need to look after everyone’s interests and explain who’s on the call, why and what they’ll be doing. So, if there are some people listening but not expecting to contribute—that should be explained at the beginning. And they need to guard against mansplaining, where one person (not necessarily a man) dominates in a meeting in such a way that others fall back because they either feel too intimidated to speak up or because they’ve started to switch off.
It’s a particular risk in remote meetings when many of those taking part haven’t necessarily worked like this before. So, the facilitator needs to actively encourage everyone who wants to speak up to do so and if the point they’re making isn’t listened too properly, then they should help out and reiterate for others’ benefit.
And, if it’s a video conference call, it can be worth agreeing upfront that people put their hands up if they want to speak so that everyone’s not just talking louder to try to be heard.
A lot of this may seem obvious, but these are extraordinarily difficult times and we all need to be particularly vigilant about treating our staff and colleagues with care. Our expectations of what can be achieved at work will change and change again, but the most important thing is to keep talking to your teams and listening to their needs. It’s this culture of trust that will bring out the best in them and allow them to carry on working from home productively in the coming weeks.