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Why you shouldn’t worry about staff working from home during Covid-19

Why you shouldn’t worry about staff working from home during Covid-19

Posted 24th March, 2020 by Sarah

7-minute read

If you run a small to medium business and you’ve never offered your employees the opportunity to work from home before, the government’s recent advice that employers should encourage their employees to work remotely during the Corona virus crisis may have sent chills down your spine.

At the least, you might have worried about the logistics of sending your team home. At the most, you might have had nightmares about them sitting at home watching Netflix when they were supposed to be working to a deadline.

So, to put your mind at ease, we’ve rounded up a handful of research-backed facts that show that allowing your staff to work from home doesn’t have to lead to sleepless nights.

Plus, we’ve summed up best practice for making a WFH culture work.

The potential pros of allowing your staff to work from home

WFH can lead to increased staff retention

A research research study by Stanford University found that when a Chinese travel company offered some of their employees the opportunity to work from home, the staff turnover rate amongst this group fell by a huge 50 per cent.

WFH staff can be less fatigued

In the same Stanford experiment mentioned above, the WFH staff took part in regular psychological attitude studies. The studies found that the remote staff reported fewer feelings of ‘work exhaustion’ than the control group of in-office workers.

Working from homers can be more productive

A number of studies have suggested that working from home can lead to an increase in the productivity levels in staff.

The Global Workplace Survey 2020 by International Workplace Group interviewed 15,000 business leaders in 100 countries for their opinions on remote working. The survey found that 85 per cent of the businesses involved believed productivity had increased as a result of allowing their workers to WFH.

A study by Harvard Business Review in 2019, meanwhile, found that the work output of examiners from the U.S. Patent & Trade Office increased by 4.4 per cent when workers transitioned to working from home.

5 tips for making a remote working culture work

Over-communicate

Put some effort into setting up communication channels and protocol. This doesn’t just mean harnessing the latest telecommunication technology like Skype, Zoom and team messaging platform Slack.

It also means offering quick morning meetings or huddles to make sure you and your team are on the same page, making your team clear about daily targets, improving your briefing process to work for the non face-to-face space, and picking up the phone when you feel an email or instant message has been misunderstood somewhere along the line.

As a boss, reassuring your team that they are doing a good job can also help. Remember that your employees can’t see you smile when you deliver on a brief or task. So, make sure regular feedback and praise is handed out when it’s due.

Socialise virtually

One of the big criticisms of working from home is that it can make some workers feel lonely. A 2019 report by Buffer found that 19 per cent of home workers reported feeling isolated – making it the second biggest struggle for home workers after ‘unplugging after work’.

Thanks to video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Skype, it’s as easy for colleagues to get together remotely as it is for them to socialise in the office.

As the boss of a company, make sure to schedule-in remote team building opportunities, even if they are small. These can be anything from scheduling some time for a team water-cooler chat mid-morning to putting a live Zoom lunch or virtual pizza party into your employee’s diaries.

Don’t lose your company identity

Many start-ups and small businesses have branded offices and company cultures that infuse throughout the workspace.

You don’t need to lose these because you’re working from home. If you use humour in the office regularly, for example, ensure you still have humour in your comms. If it’s on brand, use GIFS and send videos to colleagues as part of your day to day interaction.

Also, if your team comes to the office in smart clothing, ask them to continue this culture at home. Basically – ask your team to take company culture home with them.

Don’t be tempted to micromanage

Following the Stanford experiment with the Chinese travel agency, mentioned above, researchers and experts from the study team recommended the following advice based on their findings:

“Employers who allow employees to work remotely should grant these employees true autonomy and flexibility, rather than trying to micromanage their remote work.

“Our results comparing WFH and WFA employees indicate that granting greater autonomy can actually enhance employee productivity.”

Trust your team

A study by ACAS concluded that ‘The greatest barrier to homeworking success is management trust, and traditional managerial attitudes about employees needing to be seen to be considered productive’.

A daily morning meeting, also mentioned above, can be enough to ensure you trust your team is on track with targets and working to the best of their ability.

If you want to be more official about targets and performance, you could get employees to send you a round-up of what they have achieved at the end of each day. However, this creates more work for you. Plus, it could be seen as micromanaging – see above.

If you want to get more scientific about it, meanwhile, Gartner suggests that trust in remote teams comes down to the following four pillars:

Dependability: Enterprises can anticipate how individuals will perform and behave, and they are certain about people meeting deadlines and appointments.

Consistency: Team members are treated with respect, processes are consistently applied, and protocols are applicable to all.

Congruency: Perception and reality are matched. Things are what they seem, and team members match words to deeds.

Mutuality or Reciprocity: Teams have an "all for one and one for all" attitude. Individuals succeed because the team is successful.”

Categories: Small Businesses

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