Home working - week 2 - how to work [and learn] from home
Updated: Apr 8
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has led to many organisations worldwide ordering staff to self-isolate and work from home in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus. For many people, this may be their first time working from home, and making the switch from a communal workplace to working remotely can take some adjusting. But global pandemics aside, working remotely is on the rise, and the ability to do so while remaining productive and in communication with your colleagues is a very useful skill for any professional’s toolkit. While this will only be a temporary measure for many people, and not all roles can be carried out remotely, this may inspire some organisations to allow more flexible working policies permanently. So how can we - managers and employees alike - ensure that we’re properly equipped to work (and learn) from home? The number of people who work from home has increased by 140% since 2005. Global Workplace Analytics
1. Get the right technology in place Now is the time to do an audit of your people and the devices they use. Does your team use laptops or desktops? Does everyone have a fast, stable internet connection at home? Do you need to provide headsets, mice, printers or any other equipment to ensure that people can do their jobs effectively from home? Will these be provided from a ‘bank’ of devices, or will they become part of the employee’s permanent setup? Additionally, work with your IT department to make sure that everyone has remote access to any systems they may need. This may involve setting up VPNs or temporarily opening up access to site-only folders, or asking everyone to make copies of important documents onto their own devices. The more flexible your technology and software, the easier it will be to make the transition to home working, allowing you to make any adjustments needed to support working and learning off-site. Flexible learning management systems like Totara Learn are built for adapting rapidly in uncertain times, empowering you to make the right decisions during difficult business times. 2. Ensure your digital learning offering is up to date Firstly, some practical considerations - if you have any face-to-face training sessions scheduled, think about postponing them or moving them online by switching to a webinar or live video conference. Totara Learn’s seminar management functionality allows you to set up and manage online events, including attendance tracking and event reminders. Now is also a good time to check the content on your learning management system. Are all your courses and resources up to date? Do you need to upload new versions of anything? Is your LMS accessible across devices? And, importantly, do you need to add any extra resources to support people who may be working from home for the first time? This might include processes, protocols and expectations. Many organizations are also taking the opportunity to provide timely learning materials to help workers protect themselves from coronavirus. We will provide a list of some of the current coronavirus and infection control modules available from the Totara Partner network at the end of this post. 3. Communication is key Obviously you won’t be bumping into colleagues in the kitchen for a while, and your coworkers won’t be swinging by your desk for status updates, so it’s important to make a concerted effort to maintain communication. This may be with an official organization-owned chat system (such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Yammer, Google Hangouts or Mattermost) or with personal channels such as Skype (though make sure everyone has the relevant people’s contact details, and that people are comfortable with giving them to colleagues if they are using a personal account.) eThink Education's Brian Carlson also highlights the importance of supporting the company culture even when people are working remotely, including having dedicated channels for talking about non-project-related topics. Working from home also means switching to virtual meetings. Everyone is aware of the challenges of conference calls, so stick to best practice - don’t speak over each other, ensure you’re in a quiet location and try not to let meetings overrun - just because people are working from home, that doesn’t mean they don’t have other calls scheduled. Access to online communities can also keep people in the loop and enable people to communicate and collaborate virtually. The Totara Community is a free digital space for people to discuss challenges and ideas on forums, access training resources and stay in touch with other learning professionals, but you may also think about using your own internal forums or workspaces. Totara Engage, an employee engagement platform, will support this virtual engagement and informal learning, so sign up here for more information about its upcoming launch. 4. Maintain regular performance check-ins When people are working remotely, it’s even more crucial that you maintain your regular performance check-ins. For managers, you won’t be able to spot issues in person, and for employees, you won’t have your usual face time with managers and colleagues in the workplace. Some employees may find working from home particularly difficult, so build this into your performance discussions to find out how they’re getting on and whether or not they need any extra support. Working from home for several weeks affects different people in different ways, so recognize the impact - positive or negative - it may have on your people. In terms of performance, make it clear upfront what your expectations are of your employees. Some tasks may be more difficult to perform from home - should these be performed to the best of their ability, or postponed until they are back in their usual workspace? How should the employee share their progress and project status updates? Should they prepare updates for virtual team meetings, or keep people in the loop in real-time? These performance conversations will ensure everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected of them. Totara Perform is coming later in 2020, and will support regular performance check-ins. Sign up now to be the first to hear about our launch plans. 5. Be flexible Recognise that routine work travel will be challenging, if not impossible, for many employees, so ensure you’ve made it clear that they should put their health first and cancel or postpone any non-essential work travel. Also help your team maintain a clear divide between working and non-working hours. Just because people are working from home, that doesn’t mean that they should be available 24/7, so do your best to maintain standard business hours. Where people may need to work outside of their normal hours, allow them the flexibility to claim this time back elsewhere. And, importantly, understand that there are some inevitable "quirks" when it comes to working from home - especially if the employee isn’t used to it. The doorbell may ring in the background, or the dog might start barking - it’s a learning process for everyone, so don’t expect everyone to slip seamlessly into working remotely straight off the bat. For employees, it’s crucial to manage expectations, especially when there are other people at home during your working hours. This could mean setting up a quiet space for calls, ensuring you won’t be disturbed and not being expected to do lots of "quick chores." Ultimately, you will still be working the same hours as you would in your normal workplace, so it’s important that everyone else in your home understands what this means on a practical level. Tips from the Chambury Team "Set your work space up somewhere different in your house to your relaxation space to keep you less distracted. I like to escape to the sofa for lunch, watch a little daytime TV or have a little yoga session. I also make sure I brush my hair and have my make up on so I'm camera ready."
Rebecca Iveson, Business Development and Implementation Manager
"Working from home can be hard, especially when you're used to your office and co-workers being around. So make time for short breaks, and when you make yourself a coffee, call your co-worker for a quick break."
Richard Chambury, Director
"Have regular conversations with your work colleaguesKeep in touch so you don't feel isolated."
Karen Marshall, Learning System Consultant
"Have a to do list with sufficient time allocation to meet your daily objectives."
Muhammed Rahman, Learning Systems Support Advisor
"Stick to a routine; even though you're at home I feel it helps because it's easy to get distracted. Keep hydrated, get some fresh air throughout the day and take breaks from your screen. Get dressed like your going to work - don't stay in your pjs..!"
Lewis Huckerby, eLearning Content Developer