With feet firmly under the table for another working year in the time of COVID-19, workplaces across Australia continue to embrace changes originally brought on by local lockdowns. At the forefront is flexible and remote work writes Felicity Brown, MYOB Head of Employee Services.
A recent McKinsey Institute report highlights that up to a quarter of workers may now permanently work from home at least three days a week. It was recently announced Victorian public service workers will only return to the office three days a week, taking into account the desire for longer-term flexible and remote work.
Remote working can bring savings for small and medium-sized enterprises in terms of office space as well as reduced travel time and improved work-life balance for employees. However, when the novelty of working from home has worn off and it becomes a part of everyday working life, maintaining productivity brings its own challenges.
How to boost performance and morale when your team is working from home
Team members should feel connected with their broader team regardless of their location, and managers should strive to maintain regular check ins to ensure this is the case. Regular communication means managers can keep on top of work in progress and help unblock issues for the team at pace, as well as encourage the team to ask questions during meetings or share proactive updates.
Team health check-in
Schedule regular one-on-one video calls with team members and ask how they are coping working from home. A light-hearted way might be to request an emoji or gif representing how they feel.
If a team member is struggling, managers should take it seriously and tactfully dig a bit deeper to get to the core of what’s bothering them. I’d encourage managers to balance asking how to help with providing solutions. Some may want to explore their own ideas, while others may be looking for help providing the solution.
Ensure everyone feels like a valued part of the team
Giving regular, positive feedback and reinforcing the positive impact of their work shows leaders value a team members’ time and effort.
To build, or continue building, connections within a team, managers could consider celebrating birthdays and work milestones virtually and find ways for the team to connect beyond their day-to-day work.
Key here is to be mindful of everyone’s time and aim for a day when the volume of meetings is relatively light, so no one feels overwhelmed when they’re trying to manage a heavy workload.
Implement a flexible working arrangement
Working from home means different things for different people and often not everyone has the same working hours. To keep track, consider making a collective commitment as to how everyone works together in a flexible environment – taking work styles and preferences into account.
Teams across MYOB have implemented something we call a “flex deal”, influenced by individual needs, the type of work that they do, and when and where they do different tasks most effectively.
Most teams have an office day, mainly used for collaboration and connection or a shared lunch. When working remotely there may be a set time for when they need to be online and available to the rest of their team.
Establish a work-life balance
For some team members work-life balanc might mean having time to drop the kids at school, to exercise or play a team sport in the evenings.
Finding the right balance is very personal. Some may work well blending work and personal life. Others may need to focus on work with zero distractions.
Team members will know when they are most productive, so keep teams accountable to outcomes rather than hours – trust and accountability are essential.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
While it might be easier said than done, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to helping members perform well when it comes to work. Having some type of structure will help keep the team on track. For example, suggest team members set a designated time for breaks and lunch as well as fresh air and light exercise. Taking walking meetings away from a screen might be a welcome break during the day.
Making the home feel like a workspace
Choosing a dedicated workspace will vary depending on the person – some may prefer to work at the kitchen bench, while others may work better in the spare bedroom or home office. Ensure the working space is practical and set up ergonomically to meet health and safety requirements.
For teams working from home for longer periods, comfort items such as desks, chairs and even heaters or fans can make working from home just that little bit better.
Make the most of cloud technology
The use of cloud platforms can make a major difference to how a business works. The cloud provides enhanced communication and collaboration, allowing team members to instantly update, share or view files online, without the need to send documents back and forth over email. It also streamlines remote working and allows access to essential data – including backed-up documents and files, as well as offering another layer of security for your organisation.
With remote work likely to remain at least on a part-time basis for many businesses, SMEs will need to ensure their teams remain engaged and productive regardless of where they’re located. It is important managers keep in touch with their teams and help them stay on track for their own success and that of their business.
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