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Managing teams working remotely during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Where are we now…

The current government measures have been with us for a number of weeks and there isn’t a sign of this changing in the short term. The majority of employees are now working from home where possible. There are many blogs/guidance about managing remote workers, we have even written a few ourselves however, this is not just “working from home” as we have previously known it. This is working from home during a crisis with caring responsibilities, family members in the house, home schooling, constant worry and anxiety. It could be having several jobs at once.

There is this assumption that when working from home the work life balance is better, and perhaps previously this has been the case. However, not likely in this situation. Those working from home tend to be more “available” for example, working earlier and later and generally being on call.

One thing that is clear, this is not a normal situation and managing your employees may be a challenge for those who are not used to remote working.

There is a serious risk of teams burning out. There is a significant platform overload- are you communicating via, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Whatsapp, email, Slack? This can be tense and exhausting.


What can businesses do?

  • Business need to evaluate the purpose and direction in which they want to go so that everyone is working towards the same goal. What does performance look like today? It may be that a more short-term approach is required to get you through these times.
  • Expectations may need to be adjusted. Businesses may need to consider that employees may not be able to perform at a normal level- these are not normal circumstances. Look at reviewing objectives, what is still appropriate and reasonable?
  • Continually review an employee’s home environment- this is something that happens automatically in the workplace- looking at positioning, etc.
  • Consider allowing employees to work in a different way if possible.
  • Ensure that there is not a “long hours” culture during this time and this should be communicated from leadership with leadership setting the example where possible.

What is the role of the line manager?

  • Some organisations have a culture of presenteeism due to roles and accountabilities that are observable. Managers in the past have usually relied on presence as an indicator of performance and this will be the biggest challenge they will face. How can performance be measured? It should be about outcomes.
  • Managers will need to rely on trust and set goals for employees. Trust your people to deliver.
  • Encourage your employees to take regular breaks, walk around the house, garden so that they are not staring at a screen all day.
  • Communication has never been so important. There are many ways in which this can be done through regular catch ups for example having a “coffee catch up” for 15 mins of the day talking about non-work related topics. Or perhaps schedule in “good morning coffee” every morning with the team.
  • What is clear is that 1:1s are critical. It is important to ask employees how they are. There is a skill to this so that it is not seen as checking in on them. It may be beneficial for managers to reveal some personal information about them so that the employee will reciprocate. This is a good way of find out the well being of an employee.

What can HR do?

  • HR will need to guide managers on picking up signs of employees struggling or not performing.
  • There will be an opportunity to train and advise businesses on preventing burn out of employees and how to communicate effectively with their teams.
  • HR should support line managers and “nudge” them to keep in contact with their team. There will be many managers who are managing teams based on their technical knowledge rather than their people management skills and HR will need to keep in contact with those help them manage the well being of their team.
  • Formal meetings such as investigation, disciplinary, grievance or absence meetings can still be done remotely and this should not put companies off in having to deal with those situations. HR and/or Directors will need to seek advice on these meetings.

We are not sure how long this will last and when restrictions do start to relax this will need careful planning and management. There will be many issues associated with this.

However, when this period is over it will be time to reflect on long term improvements. This is an opportunity to learn how to operate in a different way. Businesses will need to be prepared on how they will respond to an anticipated increase in flexible working requests.

Please contact us for any HR and employment law queries during this time. We are more than happy to help!

Managing teams working remotely during the Coronavirus outbreak.

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Peach Law was born out of a desire to provide clients with more flexible specialist employment law and HR expertise without the traditional call centre approach and without the need for rigid and expensive law firms. You’ll only ever speak to the senior individuals working on your account. You’ll get the information you need, when you need it.

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