Following the fast-changing events surrounding COVID-19 in the last two weeks of March, homeworking has become the new normal and for most the technical challenges have been overcome.
However, before complacency settles in it is time to consider some of the wider implications of remote working and here are some topics for individuals and particularly managers to address.
1. Safe working environments
Firstly, and realistically this should already have been considered, is to ensure that the new working environment for individuals is safe.
It should also be practical. It is easy to assume that everyone has access to a table and chair at home, but with pressure on housing this is not always the case.
There are plenty of young professionals in house shares or bedsits where there may not be a suitable place to work, or perhaps the chair is unsuitable for sitting at all day.
Practically, have arrangements been put in place if a confidential conversation is required? Initial arrangements may work in the short-term, but if the lock-down lasts for more than a couple of weeks, then changes may be required.
2. Mental health
Mental health is another area that should not be overlooked. If you are managing a business, this is a stressful time and the impact on mental health should not be underestimated.
The first and most difficult step is to recognise that there may be a problem; only then can help be sought. Guidance on signs of stress can easily be found on the internet.
All staff may find the current events stressful, for instance they may feel isolated, fearful of the virus and economic impacts, or because they lack technical support due to remote working.
Now is the time to take positive steps to ensure good communication takes place between individuals and if you are managing others you should be looking for signs of difficulties – and it may be time to learn to ask direct questions.
3. Maintaining the team
The office environment is good for collaboration and training, teamworking is developed and managed well it is an asset to the business. Suddenly this has all changed, team members are now many miles apart and there is no face-to-face contact. New practices are required to maintain the team.
The following are perhaps some of the areas that need consideration:
- How will on-the-job training be delivered?
- How can team members collaborate – is screen sharing software required?
- How do you stop staff feeling isolated?
- How do you create the “water cooler moments” and sense of being part of a team?
Given that widespread enforced remote working is new, innovation is required; so try different ideas to establish what works best.
4. Data security
If you deal with private clients GDPR should not be overlooked; there is still a duty to ensure that personal details are secured.
Consider what measures are in place to ensure that personal details are not stored on a personal computer or a laptop. Even if the business owns the laptop a password alone is not sufficient security to prevent a data breach.
It is not just personal details that are at risk, the Intellectual Property of a company may be at risk and in the rush to facilitate home-working this may have been overlooked.
5. Policies for face-to-face meetings and site inspections
Finally, what policies are required for face-to-face meetings or site inspections? At the time of writing the guidance is that staff should work from home whenever possible.
This implies that when it is not possible then staff can use the workplace, or even visit a project location. Who will decided if that is justified? How will it be authorised? Should a letter of authorisation be provided for staff to show to the authorities? What hand-washing measures are required?
The first step to remote working was to resolve the technical issues; but now it is appropriate to stand back and consider some of the wider issues. There is much to ponder, and far more information is available on the internet to find solutions.