How small business owners can support remote workers

10 April 2020

Due to the situation regarding the coronavirus, as a business owner your team may be working from home for the time being. Many businesses may already have remote workers forming part of their team. However, for those who are new to home working, this can add a level of uncertainty and worry in regards to how to manage a team remotely.

Below, we share our tips for how you can support your team who are now working from home.

Make use of technology

Making full use of technology is now more important then ever when it comes to supporting your team while they are working at home. Encourage your team to keep in regular contact with each other via video conferencing and instant messenger. This not only allows them to work collaboratively on projects, but it can also add a social element to the working day which they may be missing while they’re not in the office.

Managers should also ensure that they are regularly checking in with their team via video call or phone. This can help them to identify where people may need additional support, or where they may be struggling with workloads, for example, while they’re not seeing them face to face every day. You could also explore the option of holding full company meetings and updates via video conference. Scheduling these in on a Friday afternoon, for example, could be a great way for your team to check in with each other and discuss their learnings and challenges from the last week. It can also help to boost morale when your team are able to interact with each other, albeit virtually.

Shared drives and folders can make it easy for your team to work on projects together, regardless of their physical location. This can save your team the hassle of needing to email the latest versions of documents in order to ensure that they are working on the correct version.

Prioritise mental health

During these unprecedented times, it’s vital to look after your mental health as well as your physical health. As a business owner, it’s important to ensure that your team are looking after their own mental health too.

Eugene Farrell, Mental Health Lead at AXA Health, shares his tips for how business owners can support the mental health of their team during this time:

  • Keep in touch with your team and let them know that you care. During these unprecedented times, many people will feel worried and anxious about what the future may hold. Keeping in touch with your team and letting them know that you’re there should they need some support can help to ease these feelings of uncertainty
  • Get employees to collaborate and work together as a way of keeping in touch. With so many people now working from home, there can be a tendency for communication to drop off between your team as they’re no longer seeing each other face to face every day. However, encouraging your team to utilise technology such as video conferencing means that they’re still able to work collaboratively on projects and maintain a level of social interaction
  • Read the mood of your team and be aware of negative mood change. It’s completely normal for people to experience mood changes during periods of significant change. However, tuning in to the mood of your team and looking out for signs of negative mood change can help you to adapt your communication and provide the appropriate levels of support to the employees that may need it
  • Listen out for distress and struggling in things people say and in their tone. While some members of your team may feel comfortable openly talking about how they’re feeling, others may have a tendency to keep their emotions bottled up and try to deal with them themselves. You should therefore be alert and listen out for distress and struggling in the things that your employees say and their tone
  • Watch out for behaviour changes that indicate that things are not right. Is one of your team replying to your emails in the middle of the night? Or have you noticed on a conference call that a normally upbeat and positive team member is unusually quiet and upset? This may indicate that they’re struggling with the current situation and may need additional support
  • Instinct is powerful – use it. You know your people better than you think. When you’re used to spending every working day with your team, you get to know each of them as individuals. You should therefore trust your instincts – if someone in your team doesn’t seem quite right, or isn’t behaving like they normally would do, have an honest conversation with them to find out if there’s a way that you can help them
  • Promote any support that is available. If you provide any support services for your team, ensure that they know how to access them should they need it and that they are clearly signposted so they know that help is available  

Encourage a positive work life balance

When members of your team work from home, it can be easy for them to let their work time spill over into their personal time. However, this can start to have a negative impact on their work life balance as there is no clear divide between when their work ends and their personal time starts. 

One study found that over a third (39%) of people who mostly work from home often work additional hours to complete their tasks, compared with less than a quarter (24%) of those in fixed workplaces1. The same study found that 44% of remote workers struggle to relax and unwind after work, compared with 38% of employees who work in fixed locations1.

It’s therefore important to encourage your team to set clear boundaries between their working time and their personal time in order to give themselves chance to switch off and unwind after the working day ends. There’s a number of ways this can be achieved, they could have a cup of tea in the garden, take part in a virtual yoga class or catch up with a friend over the phone, for example. Even though it can be hard when you’re spending so much of your time at home, the key is to ensure that there’s a clear separation between work time and leisure time. 

You may be well accustomed to having your team work from home, or it may be a brand new experience for you. However, making sure that you are staying in regular contact, prioritising mental health and maintaining a positive work life balance are steps that can help to ease the pressure of remote working. 

Sources and references

1Cardiff University, 2017

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