When Delia founded Business Clan 6 years ago, our business model was to provide flexible, homeworking for people wanting to return to work after a career break using their skills and experience from their corporate careers. Over our first three years, we built a remote-working team before moving into our first office in 2017.
Now as we move back to remote-working to help try to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus which is sweeping the globe, we find we are able to use the tools and methods we put in place in the early days to continue working through quarantine.
For those of you experiencing this way of working for the first time, particularly as a whole company, we thought you might benefit from our experience, so we have pulled together our top tips for keeping your team together – and staying productive – whilst working remotely.
Communication is key for remote-working
Be careful not to lose the sense of belonging which is easy to cultivate if you work side-by-side all day, but can be easily lost when your team is working from home. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, social interaction is ranked third most important for psychological health, behind basic physiological needs and safety. Home workers need the same level of engagement and interaction with colleagues as they had in the office in order to safeguard the psychological contract between worker and employer.
Here are our top tips on communicating with your remote team based on our experience:
- We use Microsoft Teams for meetings so we can see and hear one another and screen share presentations and reports. It’s important that you keep meeting as Project teams, Departments or as a Company – just as you would have done in the office – albeit online now.
- We use WhatsApp for the more light-hearted stuff such as birthdays and social events, or as it turns out at the moment, tips for how to concentrate with others in the house and images to make each other laugh.
- Nicolle sends the team a weekly round-up using Zoho Project Forums, so everyone is aware of new clients, projects and other news and events.
- Easy on the email. Email is a tricky one – to cc or not to cc. We don’t want people to get email overwhelm, but we do want to keep everyone in the loop. We advise to think before you send. Could you gather everyone’s thoughts in a quick Teams call rather than have 20 emails pinging back and forth? Manage the expectations of your team, if there are specifics to be delivered, highlight them on the email, or if you are using Microsoft Teams or other products like Slack or Zoho Projects then @message people to highlight their actions. Emails should be used to inform, to distribute work or to monitor progress. Productivity is key to keeping the team together.
- Pick up the phone! We know it’s old school, but there is nothing like someone phoning just to see how you are and to fill you in directly on the latest to make you feel like you belong.
- Respect the working day. Even though everyone is working remotely they still need downtime, so keep core work to within your usual business hours.
Remote-working and the use of cloud technology
Here at Business Clan we use Office 365 which has Sharepoint and Microsoft Office Online for file sharing and storing our data securely in the cloud. It means we can access our work wherever we are, on the device of our choice. We can also work on documents simultaneously with our colleagues even if they are in a different location.
We save key information for the team on the Sharepoint home page: our staff handbook, policies & procedures, latest discount codes and a quick link to our brand guidelines.
Remote-working and data security
With our team working in multiple locations we need to make sure company data is secure, so we save confidential information to Sharepoint and store and manage our passwords securely with Dashlane.
Project management for remote-working teams
Monitoring productivity is important for both employers and employees in a remote-working situation. We use two methods:
- Regular reviews – a Teams or WhatsApp call with the project team to discuss and update each other. It’s the review process that triggers questions to be asked, which leads to improved productivity through better ways of working.
- Project management software – a cloud-based tool is best for remote-working even if it’s just in a Word or Excel document that is accessible to the whole team. A project tracker helps to keep the team informed on the progress of a project including tasks, issues, dependencies and estimated and actual time and budget.
The scope of the project may change over time, particularly in the current environment, so make sure everyone involved knows how the project is going to be delivered and what the timescale is for deadlines. In the “how” it is important to document and discuss any hurdles that members of the team might be facing and brainstorm how to overcome them together.
The future of work
Although there are a good number of people already working from home: 4.2m in 2018 according to the ONS (up from 3.3m in 2008), 87% of the UK working population still work in another location and the companies that they work for may not have their IT set up for remote-working. If yours is one of those companies we recommend you get in touch with one of our local IT companies who can help implement all the systems we have mentioned above – and more! – for your business. Let us know if you would like an introduction.
We do, of course, miss the camaraderie and face-to-face contact of office life and we really wish it hadn’t taken a deadly pandemic to make people see that remote-working is entirely workable. If you want to know more about how to implement best practice remote-working then let’s chat.