TT321: Remote Working “The New Norm” – tips to maximise productivity

April 30, 2020

Prior to the current Covid-19 pandemic, working from home in many industries was not considered appropriate or practical, with figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggesting that only 30% of UK employees ever worked from home during 2019 (with just 5% mainly working from home).

Whilst many businesses had already embraced new technologies prior to the pandemic which would enable their staff to work from home, there were always concerns with regard to how this would work in practice, particularly the effect on productivity. The current situation has forced remote working practices for many businesses which could well change the view on working from home in future.

In this topical tip we consider what can be done from both an Employer and an Individual perspective to help improve productivity during remote working.

 

What can Employers do?

  1. Make sure staff have necessary equipment – ensuring team members have the necessary equipment to work from home is essential. Most individuals will tend to have their own equipment;
  2. Consider changes to existing systems – how will your existing systems adapt to working remotely? How will purchases be approved for payment? How will these be accounted for? Prevent a backlog of administration work by considering how your normal practices can be adapted;
  3. Set weekly meetings with employees – regular meetings with employees encourages structure and can help ensure that work is kept on track;
  4. Use video conferencing facilities – there are many free video conferencing facilities (including Zoom or Google Hangouts), which will not only boost productivity but will also improve staff wellbeing as a result of the visual interaction;
  5. Virtual socials – these are great for boosting staff morale, which contributes to improve productivity. Examples include a Virtual Quiz or a Virtual Friday drink with staff;
  6. Set targets – setting clear targets/plans and communicating these with your employees will help enforce a sense of structure to ensure that work is completed in good time;
  7. Review data/information and take action – consider what data/key performance indicators that you can monitor, drawing comparisons between pre remote working and the current working environment. Consider action to help improve activity based on statistics available. Data could include analysis of timesheets, analysis of sales, and consideration of debtor days;
  8. Be flexible (but be clear with boundaries etc) – every individual works differently and has a different environment or conditions at home (including childcare etc). Be flexible with your staff in allowing to work as it suits them, so long as it does not significantly affect the operating of your business. Studies show that flexible working from home increases productivity compared with enforcing strict hours.

 

What can Individuals do?

  1. Set up a dedicated work area – ensuring that a dedicated work area is set up can help improve focus on work. Where possible, set up in a separate room away from distractions;
  2. Ensure you have what equipment/tools you need – having the right equipment/stationery etc helps ensure maximum productivity;
  3. Get dressed – ensuring you get properly dressed can give you a sense of routine. Consider wearing work clothes for maximum impact, and help distinguish between work and home life;
  4. Plan your day/week – setting aside time to write down/consider what work needs to be done and the respective deadlines will help maintain focus, and having clear goals will boost morale once achieved;
  5. Structure your workday – consider how your working day will be structured. What will be your working hours? How will you balance between work and childcare responsibilities? Define what works from your perspective and agree this with your employer. Ensuring you stick to a structure will help ensure you “switch off” at the end of each working day and keep you focussed during working hours;
  6. Communicate – ensure that you regularly check in with your colleagues and be vocal in team meetings/chats. Set up group chats (through apps such as Teams or WhatsApp) which are work focussed so that queries can be resolved quickly, or even consider booking in a Virtual Coffee break with your colleagues to let off steam. Make use of video conferencing and other collaboration tools too if available;
  7. Ask for support – remember you are not alone. There will be times that you have questions with regard to work, may need training or even just need some general wellbeing support – as you would do if you were in the office. Do not be afraid to liaise with your colleagues, line manager, or HR if required;
  8. Take breaks and keep active – ensure that you structure breaks into your day and include some form of exercise into your day. Both taking breaks and exercising are known to boost productivity and focus when working.

 

If you have any questions in connection with the above, particularly in connection with adapting your internal systems and processes to work flexibly/remotely, then please contact your Barnes Roffe partner who would be happy to assist.

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