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Managing a team working remotely during the Waterloo disruption

As most commuters are already aware, a large section of London’s rail network will be severely disrupted by upgrades to Waterloo station, which will see over half of its platforms closed for the majority of August.
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The Waterloo disruption, however, should not be seen as an inconvenience to employers, but as an opportunity to increase productivity instead. After all, remote working can boost motivation and profitability by allowing people to work from convenient “outside of office” locations.

As an employer, there’s no better time to reap the benefits of a flexible workforce than when disruption is set to wreak havoc on commuters. However, many business leaders remain unsure about how to manage a team working remotely.

Communication is key

Establishing how you will communicate with team members while they are working flexibly is fundamental to an effective business strategy. Many leaders’ reservations stem from concerns about how they will communicate with employees when teams aren’t all in one location. For many, implementing a more formal internal communication plan is an effective solution.

This internal plan should clearly set out how employees are expected to keep in touch with the rest of their team throughout the day, whether that be by phone, or instant message platforms such as Slack.

While instant messaging platforms may seem more informal, they often prove beneficial for asking quick questions or giving updates. However, employers also shouldn’t underestimate the power of calling employees when they need to discuss tasks or provide feedback.

Check in on progress without micro-managing

Another common concern leaders have is how to ensure their employees remain productive and complete all their tasks. It’s important to refrain from micro-managing remote workers though. Trust is key. If managers fail to show they trust their staff, flexible working strategies are less likely to be successful.

Especially now, with Waterloo disruptions possibly keeping staff from commuting for the rest of the month, it is important to set out what you expect from employees and give them the opportunity to ask questions or discuss matters just as you would in the office.

It may be worth scheduling a brief catch-up call half way through the day, or asking them to send a quick update on specific tasks around the team at the end of the day.

Measures to maintain team rapport

For companies where some team members work flexibly for the majority of their time, it’s important to consider how to build and maintain team rapport. While it may seem like a daunting task, simple measures such as having regular video calls, or arranging weekly meetings for the whole team can help build relationships between office-based and remote workers.

Leaders implementing flexible working strategies should agree on a time and location for at least weekly face to face catch-ups, and take the time to arrange regular bonding events or activities for team members.

Utilising new technology

With the technology needed to facilitate flexible working now readily available, employers have no excuse to refrain from offering employees the opportunity. Conferencing technology, instant messaging platforms, and collaborative working tools all allow employees to work from locations that suit them best, without reducing overall productivity or hindering effective working relationships.

When it comes to implementing and maintaining a flexible working structure, organisation is key. It’s crucial to trust employees and inspire them to work productivity and efficiently when they are away from their normal working environment.

Leaders can create structure by introducing a formalised flexible working plan prior to employees working remotely and making sure the entire team understands what is expected of them.

With research from Stanford University finding that remote workers are 13 per cent more productive, take fewer sick days and benefit from a quieter working environment, the business benefits are clear, and employers should take the disruption caused by Waterloo as an opportunity to improve productivity.

Jason Downes is founder of the Smarter Working Initiative

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As the champion of UK enterprise for 20 years, Real Business is the most-read SME website dedicated to high-growth businesses and entrepreneurs. Through daily news, unique insight and invaluable guides we are an essential resource for thriving businesses.

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