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How do we work well and effectively from home?

Yesterday the public health crisis of Corona Virus went up a gear – even though the risks in Manchester so far are still quite low.

The government has now asked for people who are suffering even mild symptoms to self-isolate for at least seven days. The NHS as advised people to work from home as much as possible. It’s likely over the coming days that people will be forced to stay at home and work regardless of their role, their employer, their desire to be in the office or out and about. 

As we have more freelancers and self-employed in business than ever before, many are already used to this. However for many business owners this is going to create challenges which are both practical and which require a different mindset. An event like this pandemic, could bring about a change which they have avoided, such as trusting a team to work and use their time well at home. Trusting them to be flexible and productive. 

Will they get the job done? Or will they go off and do their own stuff, do the washing, clean the house, watch the television? Or will they work as they need to. For many business owners, having people in the office, their bottoms on seats feels more secure, they can be watched to ensure they do the job – however is that actually the reality? How much time do employees waste getting to and from work? Having legal breaks? Having cigarette breaks? Working from home, how can an employer control that? The truth is they cannot. It has to be about trust (and perhaps logging on!). 

For businesses, large or small, which are implementing their plan around Covid-19 they will now be considering ‘how to do this well’. Here are some of our tips at Total Guide to…where some of our team already regularly work from home. 

  • The first top tip is to talk to another business owner, large or small, which already does this. Learn from what they have learned, listen and adapt to your business. 
  • Ensure your staff have the required technology to work from home and that technology has the software for you to communicate throughout working hours. 
  • Think workflow (tasks) rather than workers and their hours – what tasks need to be done and who needs to do them, who can do them. Some people work a lot quicker than others, some tasks take longer. Who is going to do what by when? Then trust your team to deliver on those tasks. Gently keep them on task remotely as that deadline approaches. 
  • As your team for their ideas on how to make it work. Your own team may have some of the answers and may have suggestions you have not even thought of. You may have a star in the making that you’ve simply not noticed yet. 
  • Demonstrate resilience from the front. Your confidence and trust will trickle down quickly to the team. If you are stressed and worried and you act that out, the experience will be stressed and stressful for everyone. 

One business owner we’ve spoken to about working from home is Emma Serlin of London Speech Workshop. Her business offers one-to-one coaching with people who want to communicate more effectively in life, at work, in the board room, through the strong use of language, body language and sometimes accent softening. The business is growing, operates across several offices in London and face to face contact is integral to the business which is supported by a back office team.  However there is always the option to work with people remotely. Now it's not an option. 

It was last week, Emma realised that Covid-19 was going to have an impact when her team started asking questions and were clearly concerned. She knew it was time to act. 

“Panic began to set in. Then I took a moment and realised that this was an opportunity to pause and consider ‘how do we act now to be as positive as possible? and how can we help our clients and others to do the same?’ 

“This situation stops us from rushing around. It’s a sort of enforced stillness. It's a time to go within and maybe, re-prioritise? If you are in isolation and you are actually able, now is the time to do some things you've always wanted to do and to designate that extra time you have to do it.  

“I'm even finding it now, I'm working from home more and it's just gentler and I'm home earlier for my son and I'm actually more efficient. There’s a gentleness to it and for me, that’s exciting. 

“In terms of restructuring our business – we’ve made some decisions to embrace technology even further and we’re offering discounts. We're wanting to motivate clients to engage in Skype and virtual sessions so that they really know it's there for them, so there's no pressure to be physically present.” 

Emma’s steps for her team so far have been:

  • Flex the business offering to adapt to new situation and discuss with the team.
  • Ensure the team have laptops to work from home with relevant software to ensure effective communication.
  • Touch base at the beginning of the day to discuss what needs to be done, who needs to do it and then everyone does their bit. She leads this with Google hang-outs. 
  • As a leader, be on hand to encourage and empower throughout that day – that has to be one of the leader’s tasks.
  • Use software like Slack to communicate across the team throughout the day. 
  • Communicate by phone when you need to. 

It’s early days however Emma feels by acting in this way and taking her team with her, it’s actually been a positive experience so far. 

“By embracing this new way of working across the board, the energy has shifted from ‘we're supporting you and trying to protect and prevent bad stuff’ to ‘we're creating positive action’ and we are more inspired. 

“Our back office team are excited because we're creating something new, albeit through necessity, and it's the excitement of being part of a company that's moving forward positively. 

“I feel really invigorated by this approach and the team feel they're part of an organisation that is nimble, excited, passionate, has initiative and is resourceful.”

Of course this kind of activity is easier to achieve with some businesses than with others. However technology can undoubtedly aid many businesses to work entirely from home or to mitigate risks by doing as much as possible using technology and working remotely. To see what Emma and her team are doing visit -

Pendulum Hotel
Native Manchester
Compliance Systems
Manchester City Shop (affiliate)
Novel Wines
DIY Direct (Affiliate)
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