It’s really important to understand that any staff you have kept on at work and not furloughed may be feeling very conflicted. A large part of them will feel guilty that they still get to work and therefore feel some sense of control compared to their furloughed colleagues. A smaller, and very human part, may feel a bit jealous that they don’t get to stay at home and be paid to do nothing. But the biggest bit will be a determination to do everything they can to keep the organisation going and continue to serve your beneficiaries, service users and cause, and keep things going until their furloughed colleagues are back at work.
Working from home on a permanent basis will be, for many, a bit of an odd thing to do. The occasional day working at home is not the same as having to do it every day. And oddly, my experience is that it tends to lead to overwork – not less work. So here are some tips about how to help them remain productive, minimise the tendency to do too much and create some sense of normalcy.
- Create structure for the day – timetable the day so they know what they’re working on each day.
- Create a structure for new teams – if normal management lines no longer exist create temporary new ones. Although working practices will have to change and you are probably now one small team, people do need to feel they have someone for them to go to for advice, support, instruction, permission, ask for a day off etc.
- Diary ‘check-in’ meetings via Zoom/Teams (or whatever virtual comms method you are using) so that there is a clear start to the working day – much as you would warble a cheery, ‘Good morning’ and have a quick chat as you came into the office in the morning. Same time every day.
- Timetable lunch breaks – and ask people to put in the chat group ‘Off to lunch now’ and then ‘Back at the desk’. Just as you would in the office.
- Diarise an end of day meeting to briefly catch up and encourage people to end their working day. If they carry on working because they’re flexing their day to cope with caring responsibilities that’s fine – but you should still have an official end of day when people say, ‘Bye, see you tomorrow’.
- Keep a chatline open for folk just to chunter away about stuff if they need to.
- Encourage gossip and chat just as normal. One of the downsides of virtual meetings is that it tends to self-limit hugely important relationship building conversations about what folk watched on telly or how much they hate Piers Morgan – these conversations may seem trivial but they are extremely important for both team cohesion and mental health – don’t curtail them.
- Diarise normal managerial 1-1’s – now you’ll probably need to have them weekly – so that people feel there is dedicated space for them to talk about what’s happening for them and how they’re coping with both workload and with the stress.
- Make sure you organise days off and have a plan for covering leave. This could go on for a while. They’ll need a break.
- If you have to have cover at the weekends or evenings – share it out. Do a formal rota so they can plan.
Most importantly, be patient with them. We are all learning new ways of working. We all want to get through it and survive as an organisation. Plenty of praise and love and demonstrable care. And good luck to all.