Our training packages on ‘managing employees remotely’ were (unsurprisingly) one of our most requested products during 2020. From the initial shock of either working out how to stay open, furloughing or sending colleagues to work from home, the organisational challenges and the scramble for office and IT equipment tested managers to the limit. Some organisations had better starting points than others. Some had a great IT infrastructure in place and had plenty of experience of flexible or home working. For others, both posed a new challenge. That there were extended delivery times on many essential office items didn’t help.
It was only after about three weeks of the first lockdown that the CIPD identified an increase in employees reporting musculoskeletal concerns. Some were trying to handle the mental shock of sudden isolation whilst others were trying to get to grips with home schooling and being with family 24/7. At the very least there was a demand on managers to hear the various issues people were facing and, at its worst, there was an unreasonable expectation that managers could fix everything.
And what of those managers? Of course, many were experiencing the very same issues as their team members, but with the added pressure of being expected to cope (no matter what). They had the added responsibility for ‘keeping the show on the road’ and managing expectations with top managers in terms of what could be delivered/achieved.
Our training included a checklist covering the practicalities (especially with a view to medium to longer term home or flexible working) but also a look at tailoring communication frequency and nature of communication, monitoring mental wellbeing and using formal processes remotely where necessary.
Some employers have already brought people back into the workplace (of course some never stopped) but as we carry on through the 3rd lockdown in England there comes a growing focus on what happens next.
Whilst, for some, working life will look much as it did pre-pandemic for the majority there has already been some consideration of permanent home working or, more commonly, a flexible working arrangement. Some businesses are turning their offices into ‘collaborative workspaces’ where people will be expected to travel only for specific meetings.
So, we have re-cast our nets once again to make sure we catch all of the developing approaches to work. Our latest package covers the complexities and consideration of blended teams, where some people work in work premises, some from home and others at remote sites. Ensuring equality of circumstances is important in such circumstances, as is making sure ‘them and us’ type conflicts don’t develop.
The coming year will involve a lot of questions, but our incredibly experienced consultants will be more than willing to share good practice and to help you and your colleagues work through the answers.