The first time we really paid attention to COVID-19 was in early February this year. By mid-March, we had set-up a COVID-19 Response Team including our heads of IT and People & Development, reviewed our readiness to have everyone working from home, run a successful IT stress test with 40% of our people working from home and, one week later, had 100% of our people working from home.
It was a big job. We sent out monitors and computers to those staff without, we sent out SIM cards and dongles for those people in NBN poor areas, we sent out IT staff to set them up and guide them through this “new world” of working.
We’ve been remote working now for four months with no drop off in client service and no disruption to our business activity. In fact, the productivity of our people has improved. For the moment, it all seems to be working. Here some things we have learnt.
1. Put staff at the centre of your decision making
Our staff all get it. They know there is a global crisis going on. The more they know about its impact on our business, and the more we listen to and address their concerns, the more they can take a deep breath and focus on keeping our business healthy.
Our Response team sends out regular communications to our staff about COVID-19 issues and we provide a monthly briefing to all staff via MS Teams about the state of our business, our lead indicators including work volumes, COVID-19 issues and initiatives and the like.
Through regular “Pulse” surveys, our staff let us know what initiatives work, what don’t, how they are coping with working from home, with being alone or having kids at home. We get feedback and we listen.
2. Trust the experts
It’s pretty simple. We follow government health directives and guidelines. It’s what our staff expect us to do. Our no. 1 priority is their health and well-being.
3. HR is more important than ever!
In addition to the pulse surveys, our People & Development team has provided free and confidential mental health support services through ASSURE, set up MS Teams check-ins with our practice teams, organised video social events, firm wide quizzes and donut deliveries to staff. It’s the small things that count and finding ways to stay socially glued together has been vital.
4. Culture and connectedness are hard to do remotely
Remote working is here to stay but not 100% of the time. Our culture and connectedness, or in other words, how we come together and interact, are important to our staff.
Our staff have told us that training and mentoring have become more difficult during this pandemic. It’s easier to walk to someone’s desk and have a chat about a problem, than to video call them. They’ve also told us that they are missing social interaction with their colleagues. Focused water cooler conversations build staff relationships and aren’t happening as much as they should at the moment.
The challenges of managing a 100% remote working business, especially one as large as ours, are great. And like all businesses, we’re not out of the woods yet.
However, focusing on our staff first has been a powerful and successful strategy for our business. Taking our staff with us on this difficult journey, listening to their needs and including them in our business decisions has been key. We are proud of our amazing staff and remain confident that we will all get through COVID-19 together.