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HR tips for small business owners - managing your office team in the future

23 August 2020

HR Tips for small business owners - managing your office team in the future

When are we going back to the office?

That answer’s still unclear but it’s something we need to prepare for.

Business owners shouldn’t assume normal ways of working will return anytime soon. In fact, chances are things will never be the same at work.

And if that’s the case, how can we prepare for this return?

Employee perspective

Before COVID-19, remote working was often seen as a bit of a luxury.

Some organisations were reluctant to let teams work from home because they weren’t sure just how productive colleagues would be; however, the last few months have shown, by and large, office employees can work just as well from home.

So expect remote working to loom large from now on.

What does that mean for managers?

Flexibility will be key.

Business have to recognise people are working in demanding and stressful circumstances.

We’re faced with a massive global health crisis after all — so they’ll need to reassure employees when they return to work. They’ll need to be flexible and listen to people’s concerns.

Businesses will need to make sure their workplaces are safe and meet government guidelines. They’ll also have to share the measures they’ve taken with their staff.

Here’s a look at some of the key points to consider —

Trust will be key — and that means trust in those on site to follow social distancing and other protocols, as well as in those working at home to get the job done

  • Focus on mental health — the Mental Health Foundation has warned about the long-term risk to mental health of loneliness. One of its recent studies showed almost one quarter of UK adults had felt loneliness because of coronavirus.
  • People react differently to situations too — employers need to be mindful of that and, even more than before, be understanding and flexible.
  • Presenteeism v output — managers will have to focus on what their team produces or delivers than the number of hours they spend at work. And that’s because we’re all juggling commitments. According to the latest Office for National Statistics data, people with children spent 35% more time on average on childcare during lockdown than five years ago.
  • Technology — chances are businesses have invested more in technology during lockdown to make sure colleagues can work well remotely and stay in touch. This will continue to be the case. There will also be a significant travel reduction compared with pre-lockdown levels. All this means that employers will have to keep an eye on the software packages on the market and work out which ones are best for them. Of course, they’ll have to train people to use them well too.

New skills, new approach

All this means managers need to be more flexible in their approach to better manage teams remotely.

Tactics to consider include —

  • Regular, potentially daily, check in calls to offer support including finding out how people are doing, whether they’re feeling isolated and so on
  • Clarity of tasks and expectations
  • A more flexible, output-focused, approach that makes allowances for people’s other commitments
  • Flexible working options. This could include staggered start times to avoid rush hours, or working from home for part of the week
  • Checking people’s readiness to return to work. Some will be keen to get back, others will be concerned

It’ll take time for us all to adjust to the new way of office working; however, the opportunities are there for those keen to make positive changes.

Remember, businesses will be judged by their response to the pandemic.

An business’s reputation, even its future success, comes down to more than what it does for customers and clients, but how it supports colleagues in difficult times.

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