Now Teach is a charity that helps experienced professionals and people returning to work train to become teachers. When Now Teach expanded to East Anglia in 2018 it meant that as an organisation it had to adapt to having remote workers no longer able to come into the central London office. Their staff share their top tips for working from home during the coronavirus lockdown.
Juggling childcare with both parents at home: my partner and I have split the day up into chunks of time so we can each get some focused work done and manage looking after our young daughter (toddler). We set out the plan for the week comparing diaries – and have the day structured between 7am-9pm/10pm, so we can get some time in early/late. Then mark it up in calendar so people can see availability and including availability in a daily update.
Recognising the need to have time together as a family: We’re aiming to have family dinner every evening, and try to manage evening working so we can get some time to rest too. Also using time not working to get fresh air, by doing gardening or taking a walk.
Staying connected with colleagues; it has been really nice during video calls to meet colleagues families and pets as a way of connecting and helping us all feel less isolated. We have often been using start of each meeting to check in on how people are doing. I am also hoping that doing this will allow my toddler to understand what mummy is doing when I am not available.
Working patterns: Establishing how individuals like to work and ensuring this fitted into how we needed to work as a team has been essential. Ensuring the team knew what people’s hours were, and setting expectations for us as a team and for the wider organisation was one of the first things we did to improve collaboration when working remotely.
Regular meetings: Setting up regular 1:1, Programme Team, Management Meetings and wider organisations meetings has meant that we can work on a shared agenda, focus on the nitty gritty and deliver to our expectations.
Handing over: Our big focus is to ensure handovers and briefings on work are created with clear actions and timeframes for those who are being asked to take over things. When communicating in an office environment, communication is often two-way. Remote working can, at times, become one-way communication which is much less successful.
Have Face-to-Face and One-on-One Meetings: Don’t be afraid to turn that webcam on. Yes, it does mean you have to get dressed, but it is worth it to see people’s expressions and reactions. Don’t be afraid to ask, “What have you been working on?” on a weekly thread. Knowing what your colleagues work on or are good at is invaluable for collaboration.
Create a Lunch Club to increase collaboration: Some organisations call it a “virtual water cooler”. It is an opportunity to increase social bonds across a team without talking shop.
Ask for help and offer training: One of the hardest issues with working remotely is it is sometimes hard to train or ask for help. At Now Teach we use screencasts to explain complex issues. We use MS Teams to be able to share our screens easily across teams and departments.
Being flexible about when you are available for work: Lots of people will be juggling caring responsibilities over the next few weeks. Letting people know when you are available for work is key – so other staff know when and how to contact you.
Lower stress levels by offering flexibility and support. Ensure that working from home does not mean working all hours. Demonstrate to your team switching off from work – it is important to consider how you fit in exercise and leisure time. Everyone should lead by example.
Consider mental well-being: Do not always respond immediately to emails (providing they are non-urgent). Make time for social chat/time with colleagues can really encourage bonds between people and provide support.
Trying to ensure that we ‘check in’ with teams regularly. It is best not to do this by email – but by video call. It may seem like micromanagement but sharing a daily update on a shared IM platform such as MS Teams is a great way to share work and improve collaboration – so long as managers do not see it as an opportunity to control employees.
Maintaining motivation is important: Recognise that staff will be distracted at certain points but make sure there is a good prioritisation of work with clear instructions and lots of feedback.