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Preparing our team to work from home

March 19, 2020

Preparing our team to work from home

Last Friday, with the outbreak of Covid-19 making it very likely that we would need to close the office in the very near future, we decided to conduct a company-wide “trial run” of working from home. Thankfully, we all work on laptops and use G-suite as standard, making everything cloud based. Following feedback sessions with all team members, everything went smoothly and we knew that if the situation changed quickly, we’d be ready to roll this out on a more “permanent” basis.

At our weekly Monday All-Hands team meeting, I presented some practical work from home tips, plus some self-care advice if the team found themselves working from home – which by that point we were suggesting they did. We also distributed an internal document to offer some additional tips.

By 5pm and the daily Government update announced that everyone in the country who could work from home should do so, we then took the decision to close the office for the foreseeable from Tuesday onwards.

Achieving a comfortable set-up

Many of our team are used to dual screening when working in the office, and some of the feedback we had following the work from home trial day was that it would be easier to continue as normal if they had a second monitor at home. Being town-centre based, most of our team use public transport or walk to the office, so most had left for what would be the last time for a while with only their laptops. We wanted to ensure our service levels are maintained but also make sure the team are as comfortable as possible.

On Tuesday morning, our Founder Simon and I took to the roads of Reading and beyond to deliver monitors, keyboards and mice to the rest of the team that felt like this would make their new working-from-home lives more comfortable.

Communication is key

One of the key challenges of remote working is ensuring that our usual levels of communication are maintained. We want to make sure that people don’t feel isolated, and keep a level of normality.

We’ve asked that all existing meetings go ahead as usual via Google Hangouts, and where possible, all managers check in with their team members at least three times a day to ensure communication continues to flow. Of course, down-time and fun with our colleagues is also an important part of office life, so we have also set up a communal ‘kitchen chat’ hangout that people can join at any time to chat about anything they wish.

Shoutboard board

Slack is also a great way to keep connected to team members, and ask those quick questions when needed. We have set up various Slack channels to keep everyone connected and informed of what’s going on, including a “Shout Out” board channel to bring our office based kudos board to life.

Looking after the wellbeing of our staff

Wellbeing of the organisation is crucial to us, and so, as Happiness Manager, I have been having regular hangouts with the team to check in with people, have a chat about how they are doing, and offering advice where I can. This is going to be a particularly stressful time for many people, especially through feelings of isolation and the fear and uncertainty of the unknown. Keeping regular dialogue and as much normality as possible is one way we can offer our support.

Enrico Chiodino, one of our SEO Directors, has also put together a “Working from Home Exercise Plan” to support our WFH document, ensuring that the team has the tools to stay healthy.

We are also introducing weekly pulse surveys on wellbeing to check on how everyone is feeling, to see if they have everything they need and whether we can do anything to make things more comfortable.

A new schedule of social activities are also planned, as we have had to postpone many of our usual events. Some of our regular Blue Array sessions can continue as normal, however we are adding some more such as online quizzes and competitions in an attempt to ensure the working environment is kept fun.

It is challenging times for all of us at the moment, however by putting some of these steps in place, we’re hoping we can keep Blue Array as good an environment as we can for productivity and staff wellbeing.

My top working from home tips

Here’s a few of my suggestions for staying productive and happy during a long period of working from home:

  • Be trusting; allow your staff to work and don’t micromanage. It’s down to the employees to manage this change efficiently and effectively, and managers should be there to offer their guidance and support whenever needed.
  • Communicate more than ever; be it a chat about what you had for lunch, a project win, to celebrate a success or keep up with internal events. You can quickly make this the new ‘normal’.
  • Be mindful of isolation and wellbeing; working from home is a huge adjustment to some, not least their spaces may not be set up for it. Be flexible; these are unprecedented times. Regularly assess the mood of your team and act to support them where you can.

Vicky is Talent and Happiness Manager at Blue Array. She began her HR career in learning and development consultancy, and underpinned her experience with a Masters in Human Resources Management. Vicky has spent 10 years working in recruitment and HR and is a member of the CIPD.

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