Working from home for the first time

Hillier Hopkins LLP

Chartered Accountants & Tax Advisers

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Figures released by the Office of National Statistics this morning show that of the 32.6 million people in employment across the UK, only 8.7 million ​had ever worked from home before the lockdown.  

Of course not everyone is able to work from home, such as those in customer facing jobs in the food and accommodation industries. However, there will now be millions of people who have been thrust into an unfamiliar situation and are quickly having to adapt to their new working environment.

Feelings of isolation and anxiety amongst staff are a potential ​worry for employers at the moment. So last week we published an article on looking after your mental health when working from home.

A new challenge for owners and managers

Business owners and those in management positions are also grappling with how to manage their home based teams remotely. Keeping teams productive, motivated and focused on the goal is hard enough under normal circumstances, never mind in these extraordinary times.

We thought we’d share some thoughts and tips that we have picked up recently – some of which we have adopted and are working well for us. We hope that they may be of some help to you during these difficult times.

  • Communicate a lot. Have daily check-ins – preferably face to face ones using apps such as FaceTime, Zoom, Microsoft Teams etc
  • Set objectives or goals with individual team members – they may be different at the moment to their normal objectives
  • Make sure you have an overall team goal as well as individual objectives – this will bring the team together and fuel team spirit
  • Discuss working arrangements with the team and ​figure out a way that works for everyone. It is important to be flexible as things may change with illness or childcare.
  • Understand that normal core hours may not be possible for those with young kids or sick relatives – agree outputs or tasks to complete rather than core hours
  • Make task setting and progress reporting as easy as possible for everyone. Platforms such as are excellent collaboration tools that are easy to master and inexpensive – often free depending on number of users
  • Stay positive – if you believe it is possible for the team to achieve, they will believe it too
  • Use chat platforms such as WhatsApp or MS Teams to set up groups so everyone can feel connected. You can use it to fire quick questions, updates or nuggets of info to the whole team quickly
  • Instigate a “coffee break” with your team using apps such as Facetime or Zoom. Talk about anything – like you would around the water cooler or in the kitchen at the office. Don’t worry about kids or pets in the background – it should be a break!
  • Understand that anxiety levels may be higher than usual at the moment. When you are sending any communications to your team. Ask yourself the question “Am I going to create more or less anxiety with this?” if the answer is more – think about changing the content or timing of it or making a call rather than sending an email
  • Look after yourself, get out of the house once in a while, exercise, set boundaries and time off so you are not constantly tuned in – otherwise you will burn out. You need to be healthy so you can be there for your team.

Thanks to Sonia Gavira for a really helpful webinar on this topic that helped us along our steep learning curve with this a few weeks ago.