Covid-19 has proven time and time again that ‘normal’ is definitely going to look very abnormal for some time to come.
This week our team in Melbourne were locked down for a further 2 weeks, and our team across New Zealand were locked down for an initial period of 3-7 days, depending on where they live in the country (we suspect they may be locked down longer). Key organisations across both countries are once again facing the daunting task of delivering services to our communities most vulnerable people, while juggling working from home, caring for their families and managing their own anxieties around this global pandemic.
Being immediately thrust back into the reality of remote work can be jarring, especially for organisations working on the front line, delivering services.
As working-from-home aficionados, we’ve put together 6 key areas that can help to make the adjustment easier for organisations, their employees and their clients.
Our Exess teams are currently based in Victoria and across New Zealand. We are extremely fortunate that we have both Dan Andrews and Jacinda Ardern giving daily updates on the Covid-19 stats effecting our communities. This clear, decisive communication lets us know exactly what is going on, what is being done to help, and what the expectations on the community are.
After any fresh lockdown announcement there is bound to be uncertainty amongst your staff. Using the Dan/Jacinda approach, it’s important to embrace the sudden need to work from home in a calm, communicative manner, using factual information and setting clear expectations.
How to let your staff know what’s expected during a lockdown
- Decide how you will communicate with everyone (email, phone, Zoom meeting etc)
- Let everyone know exactly what the plan is as soon as you are able to
- Be factual and calm
- Don’t make up information when you don’t actually know the facts
- If staff are coming into the office at all set clear rules around hand washing, sanitising, mask wearing, social distancing and checking in.
- Include information on how staff should approach feeling unwell (Covid test, isolation, inform manager so that other staff are informed to look out for symptoms etc)
- Acknowledge that this is a scary time and provide information on what staff should do if they are experiencing anxiety, isolation or depression during this period.
- Be clear about how business is to be conducted over the lockdown period
- Provide a contact process for answering staff questions (email a specific person for example)
- Be sure to also communicate with staff who are not front line workers (your volunteers, students, cleaners, security etc need to know what’s happening too)
- Where possible/relevant include information on staff pay
- Set a clear review date
Right now things may seem very up in the air and your team needs you to be extra communicative so that they can give you and the organisations clients their best.
2. Create clear work processes
If you’re very suddenly working from home this may take some time to perfect. If you’ve been in and out of lockdowns for a while now, this may be old hat. What’s important is that every staff member knows what is expected of them during their lockdown/working from home period.
If you are using Exess, you’re already 10 steps ahead of other organisations. Your clients are at your staffs fingertips and all you need to do is decide how you will continue to deliver your services to them.
Create organisational rules for service delivery
Will you call clients on the phone? Will you meet via Zoom? Are you providing services that require handing over essential items (like foodbanks)? Are you a refuge or providing emergency housing or other bednights? The services that you provide will inform your work practices.
For employees required to be on-the-ground but out of the office, effective PPE should be provided and hygiene practices explained.
For workers meeting with clients via video chat, a dress code may be required.
Clients should also be informed of processes during lockdown so that they know of the services still available to them, and how to access them.
Decide how your team will communicate with one another
Will you have a team meeting every day? Week? Month?
What are your out of office processes to report serious disclosures, behaviours or when you’re worried about anything else you’ve seen and heard?
If you’re relying on virtual meetings follow our 10 tips for effective virtual meetings and 10 tips to be an effective virtual meeting attendee
Decide how your team will communicate with clients
Will you contact your active clients to let them know how you will be operating?
Will clients be given a phone number they are able to call?
Will you meet clients over the phone/Zoom etc?
3. Make sure to check in with your people
If you’re not meeting regularly, be sure to check in with your teams each day. This can be as easy as a quick phone call, 5 minute skype chat or an email to ask
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you working on today?
- Are you finding anything difficult?
- How can we help you?
Be prepared for questions and to chat with staff. Working from home can be isolating, especially when you’re used to throwing ideas around a room of people.
4. If your team is working remotely for a long time
Loneliness and isolation can really kick in when working from home – even when you have family there with you. To help take care of your teams mental health, book in some team building and social times. This can be as easy as:
Friday morning Skype coffees
Or any morning really. 15 minutes of getting together over video chat, having a coffee together and chatting about life. This doesn’t have to be something the whole organisation does together, teams could do it in small groups so everyone has a sense of connection and community with their colleagues.
In the interest of team building, office challenges can be set during lockdown. This could be work specific, an exercise challenge or something silly like who can wear the most ridiculous outfit to team meetings (slowly one upping each other at each meeting). Office challenges are not everyone’s cup of tea so don’t make them compulsory and I don’t recommend implementing any challenge that encourages unhealthy behaviour (like weight loss challenges)
After work wine
Last year my adult dance class and I met up via video chat every week during our regular class slot during lockdown to have a wine and chat. It kept us connected and social after the kids had gone to bed and gave us all some adult time during a time where adult time was hard to come by. If you’re not an organisation that’s in to wine, you could all get together for a desert evening or a craft party.
5. Balance is key
Our team know first-hand that when you’re working from home it’s easy to let work seep into your family time. It’s important to set boundaries around work life and home life and these boundaries should be clearly set from the start. Some work rules that could be set may be:
- Work start and finish times
- Rules around phone calls and when they’re appropriate
- Expectations around keeping casenotes up to date
- Staff are allowed to set a schedule that works with their homelife
- A private workspace for client calls
- Very Important: Rules around accessing Exess/client data within the home
- Rules around client data security within the home
- Rules around at-home antivirus software if accessing Exess
Again check in with your teams regularly to ensure that they are not overworked and that they are clear on the expectations that you have for them.
Remember that each staff member has their own personality and work style and what works for one will not necessarily work for another.
This is a great time to establish clear working from home policies in preparation for any lockdowns in future.
Over the next while we will get more information from our leaders around what will be expected of us in order to get Covid-19 under control in our communities. As we learn more, it’s important that our staff and clients know how changes in how we deliver services will affect them.
Every few days review what you’re doing as an organisation and decide if there’s something you could change to be more successful.
Remote work can be extremely rewarding for staff so long as there are clear processes in place.
Every step of the way, communication is key!
We’ve got you!
As your team adjusts to remote work, remember that we’re here for you!
Our amazing team are used to working remotely and are happy to support you in any way that we can.
Want to know more about us?
With the greater majority of Exess users falling into the category of essential services, the ability to access client files at the click of a button has provided some relief and consistency in an otherwise disruptive time. For the user, Exess provides a reliable system for a modern workforce –secure, up-to-date client data, accessible staff files for management and a stabilising preservation of ongoing business operations with real time reporting.