In line with the governments COVID-19 advice relating to social distancing in the workplace, businesses have been advised to provide flexible work arrangements including working from home (where possible). The coronavirus (officially called COVID-19) pandemic has compelled businesses to revisit work-from-home policies.
Due to the spread of COVID-19, working from home arrangements have become a priority for many RTOs. Many of you have been forced into implementing urgent work-from-home arrangements and it hasn’t been easy. Allowing your staff to work remotely is not only an effective way to mitigate the risk of infection, but it also allows RTO’s to maintain continuity of business operations.
If your RTO doesn’t already have a flexible work from home policy, now is the time to create one. RTO’s business continuity plans (BCP) should incorporate your policy for provisioning your remote workforce. Part of enacting your BCP should include the identification of work that is being done by your workforce and determining if it can be paused, re-located or continued with different environmental controls in place.
Managing staff remotely for success:
RTOs need to ensure that leaders are set up for success in managing teams remotely, and adequate support systems are in place to monitor staff wellbeing and health. Managers should understand that people might be coordinating at different times of the day to balance family responsibilities during a crisis. Additionally, some people can adapt to working from home easily but others may struggle because they find it quite lonely and socially isolating. Mental health issues in the workplace could be exacerbated for some people forced into these situations and RTOs should have appropriate support mechanisms in place to address these issues if they occur.
Effective communication strategies such as:
- Utilising chat tools for quick conversations e.g. WhatsApp, Slack;
- Weekly one on one catch ups via video call e.g. Zoom, Microsoft Teams;
will ensure that your remote employees are productive and engaged. Make sure staff can access all the right tools and resources to effectively work in a remote team environment.
Communicate and manage policy / work expectations:
RTOs need the tools, policies and processes in place to keep your remote workers connected and effectively contributing to your objectives and goals. Your work-from-home policy should be designed to meet staff expectations while maintaining productivity levels. Set, communicate and manage policy and work expectations for staff. For example, in what scenarios staff should stay at home or travel. Your employees must know what your RTO is doing, how you’re doing it, and when, in order to feel certain that any scenario has been accounted for, which will increase feelings of safety. You will need to monitor its effectiveness and the overall wellbeing of staff. This requires planning and review, but with careful consideration you can keep staff safe and productive and come away with learnings on how to continue to provide flexible working environments into the future. While large-scale work from home initiatives may seem difficult when they have to be implemented urgently, RTOs can navigate it successfully with the right tools, strategies, and approach.