The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented numbers of people in the UK, Ireland and around the world working from home.
While we’ve never seen anything on this scale — nobody has — we do have experience of helping organisations with dispersed, remote-working teams to operate successfully. This includes working with money transfer giant Western Union, which has around 500,000 agents working remotely worldwide, and schools inspection body Ofsted, which relies on a team of inspectors who work and are trained remotely.
While the overwhelming majority of our work in this area relates to remote learning, we wanted to share with you some of the things we’ve found work well. Hopefully you can apply some of them to your team while they work from home.
Virtual pat on the back
One of the big things that’s absent in remote working is the regular interaction between team member and manager, particularly in the form of praise. Anything that replicates that for a remote employee tends to be successful. Achievement badges and gamification of task completion are examples of things that encourage engagement, drive performance and build morale in the absence of a manager in the same building.
The use of manager overview functionality is important. You don’t want to create the impression of micromanaging or spying, but you do need to mitigate the risk of a team member travelling a long way down the wrong path in splendid isolation. Effectively, you must find a way of recreating a stroll round the office. In the platforms we use most commonly, learning management systems like Totara and Moodle, managers can track progress and completion of tasks, which allows them to make targeted interventions to prevent failures.
Opportunities to upskill
Perhaps remote working is very difficult in your line of work. If so, you might consider using this time of isolation as an opportunity for your team members to upskill or diversify. For team members who can only muddle through and kill time before they return to their usual workplace, why not encourage them to undertake remote learning? Having them back at work properly with new or improved skills might be more valuable in the long-term than attempting to carry out their work remotely. Go1 offers a wide range of industry-specific remote courses.
Set clear guidelines on security
When top secret Ministry of Defence documents can get left on trains and police officers can leave loaded guns in aeroplane toilets, it is easy to see why some organisations get twitchy about people taking work home. The onus is on the organisations to set precise requirements on the sharing of sensitive information by remote workers. This can be as simple as ensuring that all documents are embedded within a secure platform of your choosing.
We’ll finish close to where we started: with the need to replicate human interaction as closely as possible. It is important that colleagues continue to interact with each other. Set the expectation for this to be done through your preferred channel. Learning platforms like Totara and Moodle have integrated chat and forum functionality. This presents opportunities for friendly engagement beyond friendship groups, as well as peer review of work and group brainstorming sessions.
Stay safe. Stay home. Keep working remotely.
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