Tumultuous. Chaotic. Brutal. Existential. Whichever words you prefer, the past few months have been hugely challenging for businesses and employees all over the world. But amidst the continuing disruption and upheaval to the ways we all work, it’s worth remembering remote working was already experiencing a rapid rise long before Covid-19 came along – powered largely by the twin drivers of high-speed internet and workforce casualisation.
This is important. For while there’s nothing quite like Government-enforced lockdowns to turbo charge the number of Australians suddenly working from home (otherwise known as ‘WFH’), it means there are already plenty of tried and tested strategies to optimise the efficiency of socially-isolated workforces.
The good news is if you get it right the benefits can be significant too, global pandemic or not. Research conducted by Australian social analysts, McCrindle, found 55% of Australians report to being slightly or significantly more productive working from home than in an office environment – more than half! When given the choice, 78% Australians also expressed a desire to spend at least some of their time working from home, suggesting there are very real benefits in the space of employee morale, a powerful contributor to workplace efficiency.
Rapid change is hard.
The Covid-19 crisis has impacted almost every facet of life and business – and it’s happened very suddenly. Even for those not directly affected, there are indirect changes and uncertainties to be navigated every day. This calls for considerable adaptability on the behalf of individuals and heightened empathy from managers – qualities not everyone possesses in equal measure, as any HR person will attest. Hard as it is, try to remain ever-aware of this, and encourage your team members to do the same. Tread softly and listen closely. People are far more anxious than usual.
Ask any freelancer. Arguably the greatest single threat to an effective WFH set-up is the constant risk of disruptions, however well intended they might be. Children, partners, social media and even pets can have a draining ‘stop-start’ effect on our focus and productivity. Try and set some boundaries around non-work contact and ideally create a dedicated workspace or room where these can be minimised.
Routine, routine, routine.
Humans, by nature, are creatures of habit. We like familiarity and routine. While you may not be physically in the office, you can still act as if you are. Create a consistent work schedule and stick to it. Start at the same time each morning. Block out your diary just as you normally would. Set reminders. Schedule Zoom meetings. But, perhaps most importantly, allow for quiet times in your day so you can actually get things done. Oh, and wear work clothes rather than staying your pyjamas all day!
Physical isolation shouldn’t mean professional isolation. In fact, this should be avoided at all costs! While some employees might enjoy the solitude, many won’t. It’s essential to keep your team connected. The good news is technology can really help here. Video conferencing and cloud-based collaboration software is now easily accessible via desktops, laptops, notebooks and smartphones. Our strong advice is to embrace them all and use them often. Stronger connections drive stronger teams.
The concept of ‘active body, active mind’ is nothing new in the workplace. But, given the many added stresses we’re all facing right now, it’s arguably never been more important. While social isolation measures may mean we can’t pursue our favourite physical activities, we can still find ways to work up a sweat. Consider using your old commute time for some daily exercise each morning. Ride, run, stretch, do yoga…. walk the dog. You’ll feel better for it. And your work will most likely be better for it too.
Trust and empowerment.
Ultimately, whatever your business type, location or size, the one thing that sits at the heart of any successful WFH set-up is trust. Employers need to give this to their team by empowering them to work from home with confidence and respect (rather than suspicion). Experience shows the vast majority of employees will, in turn, repay that trust through their commitment, actions and outputs.
Just remember to get out of those pyjamas!
Contact ELR Executive for information on how we can assist your business.