Remote Working: Help your team thrive and be ready for the future of work

By Tracy O’Brien

There is a lot of discussion at the moment about remote working and how companies can succeed at it.  But like all great successes the best approach is to keep things simple. 

So, simply put, there are 3 key areas that you need to keep a focus on to ensure that remote working works for you and your business.

1. Productivity

This is often an area of concern both for employer and employee – the employer is concerned that there will be a dip in productivity and the employee is concerned that they will be viewed as being less productive or committed. 

However, many studies show that there is often better productivity from home workers so to ensure that this is the case in your business take the following simple steps;

  • Ensure that your home workers have set working hours.

They can set them or you can set them.  These hours should then be strictly adhered to and you should support your team to do this.

  • Ask them to set a routine for their day

Routine is really important for productivity and for our sense of well-being.  Give your team some sample routines to get them started

  • Agree deadlines for work product

Some people are more disciplined that others so agreeing deadlines will keep a sense of focus

  • Encourage them to take breaks and to switch off

Regular, planned breaks will actually improve focus and productivity

  • Ensure they have the support and training to operate in a digital world

Ensure your team can operate the tools you’re using and give them some tips to enhance their experience such as blurring their backgrounds or standing up when speaking to an important client so that their posture appears more professional

  • Trust your team to do the right thing

This too will pass and most people are trying to do their best at this time

  • Lead by example

Set your own routine and stick to it.  Take breaks and let your team know when you’re unavailable.

2. Communication

Staying connected with your team and as teams is really important to future proofing your business supporting the individuals on the team.  How and what you communicate now is more important than ever. 

The top tips for communication are;

  • Keep communication regular but relevant to your team culture – don’t have a daily video meeting if you wouldn’t normally speak to everyone every day – instead have a virtual coffee break
  • Keep up the usual meetings such as monthly team or weekly 121 – routine is important
  • Use more visuals in your communication – don’t make it all text
  • Make yourself available
  • Don’t be tempted to rely solely on email and video messaging – make phone calls too
  • When doing video calls consider your background and background noise – consider downloading a background noise muting app such as to mute background noises
  • Ensure that data protection is a consideration for all of your colleagues and that they know what extra steps they may need to take

3. Mental Health

Working from home productively is not easy for everyone as it requires a lot of self-discipline and this is made more difficult by the fact that some people are currently forced to try to work from home when it doesn’t suit their way of working.

To ease this for your colleagues;

  • Agree ways of working with each person and set and agree clear expectations.
  • Keep a daily focus on the social aspect of work such as a daily digital coffee break or a daily quiz
  • Encourage your team to use phone calls and not just email when communicating with each other or customers etc.
  • Bring your workplace wellbeing initiatives into the digital world
  • Remind your team of any EAP you may have and how they can access it
  • Consider your own management style and how you can flex it to suit this new way of working
  • Consider any of your employee who may be returning from leave into this new world of work and set up a process to support them in their return

Why not try the stress management competency indicator tool which you can find here. This tool assesses how good you are at preventing and reducing your teams stress. It is also a helpful way to reflect on changes you could make to develop your style.

The future of work

The fact is, when we come through this, a lot of our employees will want to continue to work remotely – maybe not every day but you can expect the level of requests to work 1 or 2 days per week from home to rise dramatically so you should prepare for that now.  In doing so, it is important to consider the below

  • Consider which positions could be eligible to work remotely
  • Ensure that you can provide the equipment and tools for your team to work remotely
  • Prepare a remote working policy and procedure document for your business using the learnings from the current situation.
  • Consider the members of your team  and who remote working is suitable for – does it fit with their preferred way of working and do they have an appropriate space at home.
  • Consider whether you will pay for broadband for your team and how the BIK might affect them.
  • What about those with company cars – how will the lesser mileage and therefore increased BIK affect them
  • Ensure that a risk assessment is carried out in all home offices
  • Review your communication policy and methods to ensure that home workers are covered
  • Consider data protection and how you will handle this.
  • Don’t forget to manage annual leave and breaks

Tracy is Managing Director of The People Password, a business dedicated to unlocking the potential in people through Training, Coaching, Mentoring, Mediation, Business Strategy and positive HR Solutions. Her training programmes have been shortlisted for awards by the IITD and The Education Awards.

A qualified Psychologist she is a former HR Director with a corporate entity.

Tracy is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and is an active member of the Mediation Institute of Ireland, the Institute of Directors and the European Association of Work & Organisation Psychology. Tracy is also a member of the judging panel for the European Business Awards and is a Non-Executive Director for a number of Organisations.

OPINION: Defeating the Pandemic and Securing Cyberspace: Two Battles We Cannot Afford to Lose

By Dinos Kerigan-Kyrou

Cyber security, online fraud, and the protection of our critical infrastructure: not issues which appear particularly relevant at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in serious illness and loss of life across Ireland and the rest of the world.

But far from being irrelevant, these matters are crucial if we are to minimise economic harm, sustain a recovery, and establish safe and effective medical infrastructure for the long-term. Sadly, the time of such a pandemic is a period when those who want to cause harm online – and there are many of them – can take advantage and are at their most prolific. 

Cybersecurity is the security of cyberspace – the online environment in which everyone now lives and works. Cybersecurity includes the protection of our personal and business information, protecting against unauthorised access to our microphones, cameras, images, our Research and Development, and our Intellectual Property.

Unfortunately this IP, according to the UK National Cyber Security Centre, is being stolen “on an industrial scale.”

Cybersecurity includes protecting against online fraud – for example, false invoices or criminals impersonating the emails, messages and phone calls of company directors, or impersonating banks requesting fund transfers. The results of this fraud are catastrophic for large, medium and small businesses, as well as individuals, across the State.

“This security of cyberspace directly affects the economic, and physical health and well-being of every single person in Ireland.

And now at the time of this dreadful crisis, cybersecurity very much includes the security of medical information including patient records and the security of nearly every type of medical device which is increasingly connected online. The ‘Internet of Things’ will be one of the biggest developments in Ireland in everything we use including our home appliances, cars, offices, and our vital critical infrastructure including our factories, transport, finance, energy and especially in medical care. Our medical infrastructure and medical devices within our GP surgeries, emergency medical services, and our hospitals across the State will all be increasingly interconnected.

This security of cyberspace directly affects the economic, and physical health and well-being of every single person in Ireland. But when our guard is down, and we are understandably focusing on other hugely important concerns, is when those that wish to cause harm have an unprecedented opportunity to do so.

Our cybersecurity can only be protected by every single person within our companies and organisations being empowered to identify security challenges. It’s only by working together across departments, outside our normal structures and hierarchies, that we can secure cyberspace during – and in the years that follow – the tragedy of COVID-19.

Dinos Kerigan-Kyrou is an instructor on the NATO DEEP (Defence Education Enhancement Programme), based at the NATO military education facility the Partnership for Peace Consortium, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. He is responsible for cyber security training and coordination on the Defence Forces Joint Command & Staff Course. Dinos is a voluntary Advisory Board Member of CSARN UK / Australia, the not-for-profit organisation that brings together police, government, public sector, and business to address security challenges.