Who would have thought this time last year that working from the kitchen table or a makeshift office in the living room would be the norm? We have all tried our best to maintain a positive outlook, but even with the vaccine rollout in the UK it’s clear that we’re going to be in this situation for some time.
The need to lock the country down felt like it came quite suddenly. Many organisations weren’t ready to switch to remote and didn’t correctly evaluate security, resulting in wide-scale privacy issues. According to Gartner, only 12% of businesses felt wholly prepared at the time. It was also a challenge for companies to quickly replicate the real, organic moments in the office despite introducing the right tech. This isn’t to say that organisations didn’t prioritise supporting their employees; in fact, it was the complete opposite. Employee wellbeing was a top priority for most, but in a rush to ensure collaborative tools were in place, many business leaders didn’t think carefully about how they were going to use them.
As we start a new year, albeit not necessarily how we had hoped, we must be taking a long-term approach to the issue of enabling work from anywhere. Here are three things you should consider:
Use all channels to bring people together
Businesses need even more structure than before to ensure employees feel connected and supported. For the most part, we’ve seen companies across industries adapt the formal aspects of their schedules, such as regular Monday meetings and line management catch-ups. However, employees say they are missing passing someone in the hall and having those random outbursts of office banter. So, how can we overcome this? There’s not a straight-forward answer. This could mean running informal activities for people so they can talk without a set agenda or even setting up chat threads for people based on their interests. Whatever you do, make sure you use all communications channels as you’ll want to avoid video fatigue.
Communicate policies clearly
We adapted countless times in 2020 as the government eased and tightened and eased and tightened restrictions. There is no doubt that organisations will need to pivot even more in the months ahead. Companies will have different plans for what they do next. There’s been much talk of businesses adopting a hybrid working model; this is a combination of remote and on-site working. Whatever business leaders decide to do this year, communicating the next steps clearly will be the key to keeping employees in the know.
In the past, communications of this sort would have been solely the responsibility of HR or internal comms. But employees will be concerned about their safety and keeping well and productive despite change. Therefore, it is down to all the leadership team to announce such policies with empathy, as well as a clear explanation as to why decisions have been made.
Make an informed technology choice
There’s no use in creating new ways for people to connect and deciding what your new working model will be if you don’t have the technology to support you. Think about the apps and platforms you have in place and whether they’re allowing your business to do everything possible to connect people and encourage collaboration. Security, reliability and compliance issues are factors in deciding which tools to use, but it’s also vital to avoid overloading employees with too many apps. So many businesses rushed to bring in countless solutions when we shifted to remote. Now is the time to pause and reflect on what has been working for your employees and how things can be improved.
The disruption that companies have gone through offers an opportunity to let go of old models and mindsets. A well thought out strategy for WFH and beyond will help organisations overcome many of the decisions they were forced to make last year and get the most out of 2021.