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Connection That Transcends Distance

Connection That Transcends Distance

More than a band-aid

Six months ago, businesses were forced to migrate to a new way of working almost overnight as we were urged to stay home to contain the virus. Although many businesses adapted well and remote working became commonplace, the process was rushed – driven by panic and spurred by the need to survive.

These fixes were never built to last.

As we look forward, it seems that remote working is here to stay – with many businesses challenging more traditional setups and looking to ditch or reduce their office overheads. But to be successful long-term, more structure and investment is required – particularly in the effort required to maintain a positive employee connection that transcends distance.

So, how can you keep your team engagement and morale high when working conditions are somewhat different to what you’ve been used to? We discuss this and more, with example to the drawbacks and how to address these going forward.

 

Leading from the front

Winckworth Sherwood found that 78% of employers are planning on “long-term operational changes” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • 9% considering closing their offices completely
  • 26% considering reducing their office space
  • 47% increasing flexibility around working from home
  • 38% increasing flexibility around set working hours

With huge businesses such as BT and Twitter making the offer to employees to permanently choose how they work it feels like we’re on the precipice of a huge cultural shift.

But, with change comes new challenges. What are the issues associated with managing people from afar and how can you look after your staff when you can’t see them? Let’s take a look.

 

Overcoming barriers to remote working

On the surface, remote working sounds great. It can help employers lure in exceptional talent, reduce office costs, chat and distractions and your employees will relish in their newfound sense of freedom – working how and when they work best.

So, what’s with all the reluctancy and why are some so keen to get back to the office?

Whilst working from home is popular right now, there must be some consideration into the long-term consequences that will begin to appear in the not so distant future.

At this time of great upheaval, we’re going to steer you through some of the HR issues that arise when working from home – with some thought-provoking insight and direction on how to mitigate any hurdles. So, let’s dive in.

 

Negative impacts on employee wellbeing

It is reported that 62% of employees would be “happy” if their offices closed and working from home became a permanent setup. But that leaves a good proportion of the workforce unhappy with this situation.

There are many reasons this may be, as the office can provide benefits for employees including:

  • Social interaction
  • Support – personally and professionally
  • Routine and a change of scenery
  • A place to focus without distractions, such as childcare
  • Relief from home pressures, such as strained relationships

So, without the face-to-face interaction you’re used to, how can you look after employees? Be sure to look a little closer for the signs of someone struggling, including reduced engagement or participation, missed deadlines or overdoing their hours. These may be an indication that an employee’s mental health is declining.

To combat this, consider:

  • Regular team meetings at a coffee shop or co-working space (when safe to do so)
  • Making support digital, such as posting self-help and advice on the intranet
  • Setting up support groups, buddy systems and social nights
  • Encouraging employees to log their hours
  • Reminding employees of their line manager

 

Playing fair

There is some stipulation that the increase in remote working will lead to a more unjust workplace. So how can you play fair in an increasingly competitive environment?

Say there’s a big promotion coming up. Who will be seen more favourably for the leg up: an employee who is frequently present and visible within the office or a team member that may be less well-known working from home?

There’s a great possibility that a two-tier workforce will soon be established – dividing those that come into work and those that don’t. And, with childcare being a key draw for remote working, women are likely to be most affected by this, causing the gender pay gap to be even further widened.

Other concerns include wages being driven down – due to reduced travel expenses, outsourcing and increased competition. Although it’s understandable for businesses to try and reduce costs, this will further suppress our economy and lead your customers to also look for the cheapest option.

Therefore, is leaning towards this remote workforce just a way of shooting ourselves in the foot? Honestly, we can’t tell you how to run your business. However, to stay mindful, take five to contemplate the following…

Consider:

  • Creating a fair criterion for the recruitment process
  • Annually publishing your gender pay report
  • Actively planning to reduce any variance found [see above]
  • Mapping your pay against GDP and inflation

 

Effective work

A huge 46% of HR decision makers are concerned that employees won’t be able to carry out their jobs effectively at home. However, almost half this number of employees have the same concern. So why is this?

A great way to measure whether employees can work effectively at home is to determine what ‘effective’ means to you; take some time to document what a ‘good’ job done looks like.

Consider:

  • Outcome-based measurement
  • Clear communication
  • Realistic deadlines
  • Regular reviews

By measuring outcomes, rather than hours spent in the office, you can then begin to measure whether an employee is effectively working at home or not. Be sure to provide clarity on objectives, detail what is expected from employees and what they need to achieve and by when.

If you have not done the role yourself, you may find it useful to have a discussion with employees to discuss what is reasonable within their time constraints. After all, overly ambitious targets often turn employees off and lead to a decline in motivation, job satisfaction and mental health.

 

Lack of control (trust)

By having employees under their roof, many employers feel as if they can control their employees better. At the end of the day, the issue is: do you trust your employees?

Failure to trust your employees can lead to wasted time on micromanagement, a reluctancy to take ownership of responsibilities and a reduction in engagement and job satisfaction – with employees viewing ‘spying’ negatively. Trust them too much and you risk them feeling lost or taking advantage.

Therefore, it may reassure you to learn that only 12% of employees struggle to motivate themselves. In fact, employees that work from home tend to work harder due to concerns that it will be perceived negatively or that their privileges will be revoked.

To combat this, consider:

  • Learning what makes employees tick and ensuring they feel supported
  • Checking in regularly to monitor and ensure progress
  • Clearly communicating expectations
  • Set meetings and PDRs to review progress and rectify any issues.

 

Monitoring

We anticipate that AI and monitoring will be stepped up in the months to come. In fact, it’s already happening before our very eyes!

Employees can no longer log in early, collect the kids from school and pretend they were working all along. Technology can now determine when you touch your keypad and will alert your manager if you haven’t been active.

Your emails may be monitored too – determining your intentions and engagement by unpicking what and how you word your emails.

So, with monitoring expected to greatly increase, how can we avoid upsetting employees?

To avoid upset, consider:

  • Being transparent about how technologies works
  • Explaining why it has been put in place
  • Outlining how technology will be used (eg, in PDRs)
  • Addressing any concerns that employees may have.

Remember: any worker that has been with you for at least 26 weeks automatically gains the right to apply for flexible working. If you deem it appropriate to grant requests and feel this will not impact the individual’s ability to perform, this may provide a more open solution that will stop employees feeling the need to deceive their employer.

 

Need more help?

If you are considering whether a return to the office is essential, safe and mutually agreed, check out the CIPD’s useful resource here. It helps point you towards some useful resources and raises some poignant questions.

If you need some support adjusting to remote working and require some assistance motivating and engaging your employees, get in touch with Crosse HR.

Our experts offer shrewd HR solutions that won’t break the bank. Discover more today.

 

 

Office To Let

Office To Let

In March, the general workforce was urged to work from home where possible – to help control the spread of coronavirus. However, despite the guidelines easing in recent weeks, many businesses are yet to make their big return to the office.

Office to Let

It appears that months of enforced working from home has led a number of businesses to consider whether to return to the office at all.

From a financial point of view, it seems like a pretty easy case to weigh up – property costs vs no property costs. However, it’s important to consider the financial impacts of other factors which arise from relinquishing office space.

So, let’s dive in.

Savings

Let’s start with the savings: –

Saving the obvious pennies

There is no denying the obvious and giving up your office will save you direct property costs such as rent, rates and insurance as well as direct travel costs (Petrol, train fare etc).

Saving the not so obvious pennies

Aside from those, it will also save you a few pennies elsewhere such as in personal spend with no posh sandwiches and those little trips into town. Saving on travel time should also mean you are less tired from commuting and as a result will likely be more productive during working hours.

What does this mean?

All the above can amount to some serious cash and a large percentage of monthly overheads, they are easy to measure and you will see the cash impact from day one of being office free.

So, can the costs really balance out those savings?

 

Costs

This is not an exhaustive list but factors to consider should include:

Training

As a simple example I use excel a lot (and I mean a lot) and whilst I’ve attended courses, I have learnt the most from my colleagues, their tricks and tips have saved me hours. Sitting next to someone and seeing how they work, how they approach projects and achieve good results can’t all be taught in training courses. Trying to monetise the benefit of being around others is tricky but consider how your team has improved over time due to informal guidance from their colleagues.

Idea Sharing

Faced with a tricky task or issue, how long will someone spend trying to solve it before it moves from being a useful exercise for them to try to problem solve and become a waste of time. People are more likely to turn to the person in the same room quicker than they are to pick up the phone. The cost of this may be loss of productive time or it may be that the solution reached is not right for your client.

Teamwork

There is no denying some people love to work alone but many of us crave the company of others (and perhaps more so after the last six months). Consider the impact on staff retention if you were to tell everyone to work from home full time from now on. Not everyone has a home conducive to home working – they have made do whilst it has been enforced but it will not be the long-term choice of everyone. The costs of replacing staff are significant including recruitment time, recruitment fees, loss of productivity of the leaver and time to integrate the new starter.

Staff Wellbeing

We can zoom and MS Teams all day long but it’s much harder to gauge staff wellbeing through a computer screen. Being with your people and supporting them where necessary will ensure your staff are productive, less likely to need time off and again promote that staff retention figure.

What does this mean?

Unlike the savings element, each of these options are far harder to put a monetary value on – but each one of them will cost you money and time if the balance isn’t right.

 

Half and Half

The consensus is that a hybrid is needed to suit the needs of the employees but also to balance cashflow pressures in a time when we are recovering from lockdown.

The good news is that good landlords are moving with the times and see the need to move away from strict six- or twelve-month contracts. Some city centre landlords offering three or five days per week options and the flexibility is clearly there.

It really is too easy to look at property costs as the saving and not consider the other significant impacts which in time will too impact your cashflow.

 

Want to Learn More?

Helen Fleet of HF Financial Strategy works as a Finance Director. She guides companies to deliver their financial and business objectives, which can include cashflow planning, pricing reviews and ways to improve profitability.

If you’d like to discover more about remote working and the HR considerations you should be making, be sure to check out our latest blog: Remote Working – Connection That Transcends Distance.