As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak develops, the government is encouraging people to embark in social distancing and recommending they work from home. But what does that mean for your business?
In this article, we look at the steps you can take to help your employees work remotely in order to ensure your business can keep functioning as best as possible.
Why working from home can keep your business moving
If your employees are working from home (or working remotely), it will allow your business to keep functioning. Your payroll and HR team will be able to stay on top of their daily requirements and ensure your employees get paid on time.
Your finance team will be able to monitor cash flow and see that invoices are followed up and paid, so you can continue to track your business finances.
And your sales and marketing teams will be able to keep functioning, so you can reach out to your existing customers and clients, and keep working to find new customers.
By putting the measures in place to help your employees work from home, you’ll help your company to keep moving. And for those employees who are unable to work remotely, it’s important to make sure they are treated equally.
What employers can do to help employees work from home
There are a series of things you can do to help your employees work from home. In some cases, you may have a number of staff who already work remotely.
But for those who haven’t experienced it before, it can be a big change. Here are six things you can do to make it a smooth one.
1. Put a work from home strategy in place
By putting a work from home strategy in place, you’ll be able to ensure your employees can keep working as required.
This can involve working with your IT team to make sure your staff have the equipment to work remotely, such as the right hardware and software; offering clarity on working hours and job responsibilities, and providing regular communication between managers and teams.
Part of your company’s work from home strategy could be to adopt cloud computing.
If you have your data stored in the cloud rather than on individual devices, this means information can be accessed as long as your employees have an internet connection.
By adopting cloud computing, your teams will be able to work at anytime and anywhere.
2. Ensure you give your employees the right tools
If your employees are to keep working, they’ll need access to the right technology. Access to laptops and tablets, as well as work phones if they have and use them, will help to keep them functioning.
Or if there isn’t availability to use work equipment, it’s worth looking into programs they can access on their own home equipment.
Using cloud solutions, such as Google Drive and Dropbox, can allow them to access documents they require. And, of course, an adequate internet connection will be needed.
Work with your IT team to make sure the right security measures are in place for when it comes to sharing potentially sensitive business data.
Coronavirus: Government funding support tool
Use this simple tool to help you understand which government schemes your business is likely to be eligible for and guidance on accessing them.
3. Help employees with extra costs
If your employees are working from home, it’s likely they’ll be incurring extra costs on the likes of electricity and heating. To help, it’s possible for them to receive some additional financial help.
To support your employees, you can pay up to £6 per week as a tax-free payment.
If your employees are working from home and you’re not in a position to pay expenses for extra costs, your employees can apply to have the amount taken from their taxable income.
For the latter option, your employees can apply online.
4. Use virtual meetings in light of travel restrictions
With the government advising against non-essential foreign travel, the days of travelling to meet customers and clients abroad are likely to be on hold for now.
While inconvenient, this don’t have to slow your business down. Again, tech can play a role here.
By using solutions that encourage remote working, your employees will be able to have meetings virtually.
Using the likes of Microsoft Teams or Skype will allow your employees to engage with customers and clients in order to keep your business moving.
5. Help employees stick to their working hours
Working from home presents significant challenges but one that should be highlighted is around working hours.
It’s all too easy for your employees to feel like they should keep working, even beyond their normal hours. Not having the workplace structure in place might lead to some employees working for longer than they need to (and should do).
Speak to your employees and empower them to work their contracted hours, offering for flexibility where needed – perhaps they need to help a family member with their shopping and want to make up the time a bit later on in the day.
The last thing you want your employees to be doing is starting work at the crack of dawn and soldiering on until the end of the day because there’s no one around to say “go home”.
6. Encourage your employees to take breaks away from their screens
Following on from the point above, employee wellbeing is an important things to consider when people are working from home.
As with working in a office environment, it can be all to easy for your employees to clock in at the start of the day and remain sat at their desks right up until home time.
Encourage your employees to take regular breaks away from their screens, even if it’s a short break so they can stretch out and give their eyes a rest. The same goes for taking a lunch break – with no colleagues to join, it’s easy to keep working.
But a break to eat (away from their work) will mean your employees come back refreshed and ready to tackle the tasks at hand.
Conclusion on working from home
While things remain uncertainly as the coronavirus outbreak continues, keeping your business moving is important – both to your customers and clients but also to your employees.
Staying on top of cash flow and generating revenue will be challenging but by doing what you can to keep things ticking along, you’ll give your company the best chance to keep functioning.
Editor’s note: This article was first published on 19 March 2020 and has been updated for relevance.