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How to Set Your Office Up for Remote Working

employee working from home

Offices across Australia are in the process of rolling out a work from home (WFH) option in order to try and “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 trajectory. While this will work well for many workplaces, there is still some important preparation involved to ensure it goes smoothly.

1. Ensure you have the right systems in place to check in with each other and stay on task

Thanks to modern technology and apps such as Skype and Microsoft Teams, video conferencing is becoming a popular option for meetings. These apps have been used mostly for workers based in different geographical locations, but as times are changing and the number of COVID-19 outbreaks increasing, videoconferencing is a great way to embrace social distancing and self-isolation without the risk of sharing germs. Isolation can be boring and stressful so having the option to talk ‘face to face’ with colleagues and direct reports can help keep up motivation to stay on task and accountability to keep projects running to schedule.

Before going remote you should ensure each staff member is set up on your conference calling app of choice and that they know how to use it – ideally before they leave the office, as it will be easier to troubleshoot in person.

2. Staff need the correct tools remote working to do their job from home

It’s important to set your staff up with the tools they need to get their job done – this could be anything from stationary or extra call credit on their phone to taking home their IT set up or a desk to put it on. If your employees don’t each have a laptop, encourage them to use their personal computer (as long as they can access necessary folders and systems), otherwise you may need to look at loaning laptops out. To ensure a smooth rollout of WFH working, have your staff audit sooner rather than later what they need done to be work ready (including if any need their bandwidth bumped up at your expense).

3. Have a plan for document control

Document control is important to make sure each member of a team is working on the most up to date version of a file. Depending on the type of business you run, document control could become a problem if you can’t give staff remote access to your servers (ask your IT support if you are not sure.) For documents that you feel comfortable saving outside of your regular servers, there are systems in place, such as Google Docs, Google Sheets, or Microsoft Teams that allow people to work on documents simultaneously, without the risk of deleting or saving over the top of someone else’s work.

If it’s not possible to set up remote access to servers or save your work outside of your regular servers, you may need to create a procedure of checking in and out of shared documents with all team members involved. (This is where regular video calls can come in handy!)

4. Discuss expectations sooner rather than later

While some of your staff may be quarantined with children, for others flexible working hours may mean more productivity, allowing them to work at times they are less likely to be interrupted. This needs to be balanced against the need to work in teams. The downside to this is if everyone is working completely staggered work hours it could become difficult to seek immediate feedback on time sensitive tasks. Before sending the team home, make sure you set working hour parameters so at some point during the day everyone will be available.

You should aim to seek regular feedback from your staff, this will help to improve WFH experience, especially if you are encouraging your employees to WFH for an extended period. A remote workforce is going to make for interesting times (and challenges!) so keep up the sense of humor and regular communication.

For some workers, the remote working option isn’t available due to the industry (personal training, health, hospitality, etc,) or a lack of resource (not enough laptops to go around). You can read here about how to keep yourself safe from COVID-19 at work.