Working from home involves a big adjustment in your staff, management, and overall business structure. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this has become the new format for many employees and their companies. While it seems like it would be an overall enjoyable and comfortable experience for many (loungewear all day long!), working from home does come with certain challenges and limitations. That’s why Shoebox is here to guide you through the process. We show you how to manage staff and support them during this unique transition so that your business can stay on target and maintain productivity.
The Challenges of WFH
Working from home sounds like a deceptively simple concept, but for many, it’s not an ideal environment. There are many reasons why working from home just doesn’t work out, as highlighted below.
While there are many technologies out there to support communication, there is never a more direct and accurate way to convey meaning than in person. In fact, a researcher named Albert Mehrabian once theorised the importance of interpersonal communication, developing a 55/38/7 formula
for communication. This formula suggested that 55% of communication was body language, 38% tone of voice
, and only 7% accounted for the words spoken
. While this theory has been in contention for many years, many experts have agreed that tone and body language are significant aspects of communication. Our point here is that, while technologies like instant messaging and video chat are capable of allowing us to communicate, they can also often bar us from natural conversation and sometimes create misunderstanding and miscommunications. Who hasn’t struggled to understand the tone of an email before?
Limited face-to-face time and supervision of your employees are hard for both the employee and employer. This is especially true if some employees have been left to pick up some of the slack from those that have not been able to continue due to COVID-19 related restructuring. Employees may feel burdened with too much work and little guidance. Also, as many businesses feel the pinch from a decrease in turnover, employees may be under immense pressure to keep up or increase their productivity.
- Difficult to Manage Productivity
On the other side of the spectrum, management might find it challenging to steer their team. Without a clear system of accountability and proper communication, it’s hard to know who’s doing what, how they are coping, and what work needs doing down the track – particularly when everything is digital and tasks are easily forgotten among a sea of online tasks. It is important for managers and supervisors to establish a clear system and oversee their entire workforce to ensure all gears run smoothly. We’ll share some tips on this below on how this can be achieved.
- Lack of Access to Information
For lots of established businesses, the shift to digital that comes with working from home can be new and confusing. It’s a significant adaptation that takes some trial and error. Learning where to find certain files and asking for information from coworkers is a large obstacle for many that are new to online processes. For a productive work from home transition, it’s a good idea to get everyone familiar with the admin side of business and have a good system in place for online file storage.
Self-isolation, particularly for those that live on their own, can be an incredibly lonely time. On top of that, there may also be family members, friends, or partners close to or living with your employees may have lost their job during this unprecedented time. This can cause added stress, financial difficulties, and pressures that you may not be aware of. It’s important to be extra mindful of each other’s struggles.
Even in the best of circumstances, working from home, for some, is not ideal due to an array of distractions. For those with small or school-aged children, times are even harder. Many childcare centres and schools have closed (except for essential workers) forcing parents to care or supervise their children while at home. These employees will need extra support and understanding during this time.
Supporting Staff WFH
Within the following tips, we share how to provide employee assistance to ensure you maintain positive relationships with staff and are able to continue supporting them while they reconfigure their work practice.
1.Get Financial Assistance
Undeniably, the best way to support your staff is to make sure they have continued employment. Right now, employee retention is as important as ever. According to Al Jazeera, there have been over one million jobs lost
in recent weeks due to the closure of non-essential businesses during coronavirus. Evidently, it’s in the best interest of the Australian economy, your business, and your employees to keep pushing on through these difficult times. Thankfully, the government has introduced many incentives to keep businesses on their feet. Find out what is available to you and your business in terms of support and funding by reading our breakdown of the government’s incentives
2.Be Transparent with Your Team
Keep your workers up-to-date as much as you can about any changes and developments in your business. You’re all a team with one common goal: to keep the business afloat. Therefore, each team member should have knowledge of critical information pertaining to your business and any changes they can come to expect over the foreseeable future. If you expect to close or let some people go, it’s in everyone's best interests to share that information – it should not come as a surprise. At the end of the day, your aim should be to maintain and strengthen your relationship with staff and other businesses. This pandemic will eventually end, and when it does, you want to be in a position where you can rebuild quickly and seamlessly.
"Transparent, clear and timely communications to employees are crucial... It’s not just about answering employees’ questions, but proactively sharing information that helps to address emerging concerns.” - PwC.
Some immediately important topics of concern include the logistics of working from home, whether they may have to take their annual leave to combat business expenses, or whether they may have to take leave without pay for a percentage of their working week. Overall, highlight what the company is doing to manage and navigate through the uncertainty of the pandemic.
3.Get Employees Set up With the Right Equipment
Ensure all of your staff have the right equipment for doing their job at home, otherwise, this will be a massive barrier to productivity. Most employees may already have a laptop or home office; however, there are little extra things they may require to get them set up. Necessary equipment might include headsets, a work phone, a laptop, keyboard, mouse, or an extra screen. If you’re having to purchase equipment outside of your budget to enable staff to work from home, just remember that you are able to claim these things within the instant asset write off
which has extended its threshold to $150,000. Investing in these items will help you prepare for future situations where staff may have to work from home, so it’s worthwhile acquiring the extra equipment to save you money in future.
Need more guidance on the business side of things? Check out our latest article
where we provide financial advice on navigating your business operations through coronavirus.
4.Establish Roles and Routines
Managing staff from afar comes with its challenges. While it’s important to remain compassionate during this time, you also have a business to run. That’s why it’s important to set up initial rules and protocols for everyone to follow while working from home. Establish which platform will be used for communication (there are many group messaging platforms out there now so make sure the entire organisation is set up on the same one), allow each team member to share their daily schedule and productivity windows, and also establish lunch schedules. For companies working with long and overlapping projects, there are also many project management platforms that can help you visualise how you’re travelling in regards to the completion of a project.
5.Schedule Daily Check-ins
New problems can pop up any day, so it’s important to start each day with a meeting to ensure every team member feels informed and supported. It’s also a great way to share a funny story and bond as a team while working at a distance from one another. No doubt, the social aspect of working in an office is one of the main reasons why people love their jobs. It’s also one of the things people miss most while working from home. So, begin each workday with a team video chat to boost morale. Also, remember to engage with your employees often on a one-to-one basis to check in on their progress and see how they’re coping.
Along with checking in on employees throughout the workday, try to do something fun and non-work related to build team spirit. Plan a virtual trivia or games night, or plan a yoga session you can all take on video chat – it can be anything. The idea is to have a laugh together and unwind. Social isolation is tough and can lead to negative mental health, so planning events like these help your work team cope with the current climate.
That brings us to the end of our tips; remember, we can all get through this pandemic if we work together. As a business owner, don’t forget to look out for support for yourself on top of supporting your staff. If you’re feeling burdened by uncertainty surrounding your business’ financial situation, let the experienced team at Shoebox Books take a look. We can help you plan a strategy for staying afloat and connect you with the right government assistance.
For any kind of advice on bookkeeping and tax, trust the expert team at Shoebox Books to steer you in the right direction. Contact us online
or by calling 1300 65 35 83.