Supporting remote-working employees

The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted all our lives, with working from home now the ‘new normal' for the security industry as well.

And, as the boundaries between our professional and personal spaces become more blurred, we are starting to see the impact – both positive and negative – of remote working, particularly with the most recent lockdown taking place with short days and long nights.

With the lockdown restrictions are set to continue while the vaccination programme rolls out, and more of us being encouraged to work from home, how can employers best support their remote workforce's productivity and wellbeing? Austen Clark, managing director of Clark IT (pictured), has some suggestions. "Businesses that have moved to remote working have to replicate their previous team development strategies and activities – identifying talent, role and career progression. It can be done – some businesses that have always worked on-line, especially in the tech industry - and they grow talent successfully through reporting and outcomes."

While the shift to remote working has, in large part, been brought about by the pandemic, working from home can be beneficial. Research has shown that remote workers are as productive as their office-based counterparts and one-third of home workers regularly put in more hours than they did in the office. Home workers can also skip that tiresome morning commute and, in many cases, have greater flexibility in how their hours are worked.

However, the downsides to remote working are also real – the loss of a working environment can seem invasive on home life and leave employees feeling disconnected from their colleagues. Isolation and maintaining a healthy work-life balance can all have a significant impact on an individual's well-being. One of the potential casualties of the home-working revolution identified by Clark IT is the boundary between personal and work life. “When working from home, it's easy to let working hours expand by forgetting to take breaks or starting earlier and working later. Technology also means work is always in your home, making it harder to switch off. And when you're constantly in ‘work mode', stress levels increase, making you less productive in the long run,” states the company.

Managers should always be proactive in setting a good example when it comes to work/life balance so home-working staff feel confident to follow. “Encourage employees to let the rest of their team know when they are taking a break – a flag in a shared calendar, an email or changing the status on their instant messenger will keep everyone in the loop. And if you do see a member of your team regularly working or sending emails out of hours, or over an unplanned weekend, check in on them to ensure everything is all right.”

Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet…. names that are now so familiar when working collaboratively from home. But when it comes to supporting your remote teams, it's important that everyone knows how the technology works. “Offering the appropriate training can ensure everyone is up and running and not struggling with the tech, as this will only add more stress,” adds Clark IT. “Taking the time to understand how different individuals prefer to communicate day-to-day can also help create a virtual environment that works for all, whether that's email, Zoom, chat programmes such as Slack or even going ‘old school' with a phone call.”

Other advice deals with how one of the biggest concerns about home working is the isolation. “And while virtual conferencing is filling the void of face-to-face meetings, it doesn't always cut the mustard when it comes to natural communication. Stop your team from getting group video call fatigue by adding in one-to-one catch ups, whether that's via video conference, Facetime or a personal phone call. Check in with each team member regularly, ideally weekly, and schedule in advance, so you can both prepare and use the time to also discuss workload and progress. Making regular contact with each of your team also reinforces your working relationship and gives your employees the time to raise any concerns or ideas.”

Microsoft teams makes it easy for colleagues to keep in touch with its instant chat function and its easy-to-use video function, which doesn't quite fulfil the ‘water-cooler chat' function, but can certainly relieve isolation with virtual coffee breaks.