The Companies Remote Working & Making it Work During COVID-19

laptop on a wooden desk with a hand typing while holding a pen

The Companies Remote Working & Making it Work During COVID-19

Many organisations have been thrust into a remote working operation while the global lockdown to combat COVID-19 takes place.

For organisations and businesses who are new to remote working, this can be a challenging time, and knowing how to manage and support remote workers becomes a very real concern.

To support you in managing your team while remote working, we’ve interviewed companies who have been operating remotely before the COVID-19 pandemic, and those who are now actioning remote working, to give you hints and tips on how to make it work.

These businesses span various sectors and industries, to give you an insight into how it can work.

We cover, the tools they use, how they keep their team supported and morale high, and how they manage their teams projects.

Aira

We spoke to Paddy Moogan, Co-Founder of Aira , about their new remote working operation since the coronavirus pandemic.

How long have you been implementing remote working?

As a company, we went fully remote on Monday 16th March after announcing it on the Friday before. Historically, we’ve always been pretty flexible around remote working and allowed for the team to work from home when they wanted but nudged them toward being in the office as much as possible. When COVID-19 reached the UK and became more serious, we made this even more flexible before going fully remote.

How do you help keep on top of people’s workloads and projects?

From a technical perspective, we use a few tools to help support our teams:

  • Asana – project management and assigning tasks
  • Harvest – time tracking which then feeds into some internal tools for assessing capacity
  • Gsuite – allows for each collaboration/sharing of work such as Google Docs and Google Sheets

On top of that, trust and autonomy have always been a big part of our culture. This helps the team feel trusted to get their jobs done without is micromanaging or looking over their shoulders all of the time.

How do you support people with feeling part of a team while working remotely?

Internal communication is quite high via the use of Slack for day-to-day comms and in the current situation, we are encouraging the use of video calling to help with feeling part of the team and not isolated. This manifests itself with daily meetings in the mornings, as well as an active general chat between the whole company.

We also run a monthly survey using a platform called Workbuzz which lets the team give feedback on different parts of what we do such as leadership, empowerment and their manager.

quote of paddy from aira in a gradient bubble

How do you keep morale up during this time?

With the current situation, it’s a lot more to think about than usual! Something that’s worked well for us though is the introduction of three things:

  • A daily email from myself or my co-founder to share some thoughts on what’s going on in the world right now, along with what Aira is doing and anything we’ve found useful from a remote working perspective.
  • A weekly all hands Zoom call where my co-founder and I talk about the week and how things are going generally, as well as giving the team the chance to ask questions.
  • A weekly remote beer o’clock where we all chill out and chat random stuff on a Friday afternoon at 4pm on Zoom.
free remote working guide for businesses
person working on a laptop with a coffee next to them

The Effective English Company

We spoke to Ali Marsland, Director of The Effective English Company, about their existing remote working operation.

How long have you been implementing remote working?

I’ve been working 100% remotely (from various countries, not just from home in the UK) for about five years.

I set up The Effective English Company to provide flexible support for busy communications teams as and when we’re needed and the remote working model tied in perfectly. With a team of people all working remotely and no physical headquarters we are able to be very responsive to clients’ needs.

How do you help keep on top of people’s workloads and projects?

It’s important to have a good task management system so that everyone can keep on top of their current workload. For this purpose we use Flow

I also have weekly calls with my operations manager and my marketing manager where we run through all their current and upcoming projects. My operations manager manages the day-to-day workload with our writing team, using Flow, supplemented by communication via email and WhatsApp, and I have a monthly catch-up call with each of my writers. This regular communication ensures we all stay on the same page and we have early warning of any potential issues, so we have a chance to address them.

How do you keep morale up during this time?

On my team calls, and any time I see the opportunity, I repeatedly ask all my team to be honest with me and to speak up if they have any concerns whatsoever. I also make sure that if they do bring something to my attention that I react positively. Without good open communication channels it’s likely that small issues will become major problems before you know they exist.

Our informal WhatsApp is great for this as well; all team members talk to and support each other, sharing advice – and a few jokes to lighten the mood when someone has had a difficult day.

I also try hard to keep everyone up to date and be open with them, for example, if work is looking a bit quiet, I’ll make sure the team knows about all the projects we’ve got in the pipeline to keep things positive.

What other tips or advice do you have for businesses working remotely right now?

Unfortunately, remote working doesn’t always mean flexible hours and some companies still require people to adhere to the traditional 9-5 mentality. But if it is possible, I would encourage firms to be open to allowing their employees to control their own working hours and align them with when they know they work best – everyone’s different in that respect. This is especially relevant now; with schools and nurseries closed for the majority, many parents will now be juggling working from home with looking after their children 24/7 and might find it easier to work outside of the typical 9-5 day.

lego man sat at lego computer

LEGO

We spoke to Rory Unwin, Brand Manager at LEGO about their existing remote working operation.

How long have you been implementing remote working?

We have been set up for remote working for the last few years but there has never been a company directive that we must work remotely. It is available for those that want to/need to occasionally and the business is well set up to make it as easy as possible.

How do you help keep on top of people’s workloads and projects?

We still have the regular updates that you typically get within an organisation, Monthly Business Updates, weekly Huddles, 1:1’s, just now more emphasis is placed on them to check in on how people are. In these meetings we set clear direction at every level, always ensuring ‘big rocks’ are the larger goals and teams, then individuals, work on how to use their time to ladder up to hit these. At the end of the day the ultimate goal is to inspire & develop the builders of tomorrow, and having this in mind keeps everyone levelled.

How do you support people with feeling part of the team while being remote?

We use MS Teams. It is fairly new to our organisation but it has been picked up and implemented quickly to ensure everyone is connected. People share LinkedIn learning courses to help get people up to speed and it is ‘encouraged’ that webcams are used. We’ve also started giving out awards for the previous weeks’ involvement, mainly around fun things like ‘best work space’, ‘best conversation thread’ etc.

How do you keep morale up?

All in all, I think everyone feels super lucky to work at LEGO. People come first, you can clearly feel this at the moment with the business updates we receive. Commercials and business goals always come second to keeping ourselves and our family fit and healthy. Then of course we use fun threads. The usual cat/dog pictures, memes about toilet roll, pictures of each other’s kids etc. There’s a real sense of community and team spirit (especially at the moment) and we’re lucky enough to have that running through the whole business.

man sat in coffee shop on laptop at night time with drink in hand

Museum Hack

We spoke to Tasia Duske, CEO or Museum Hack, about their existing remote working operation, and how they’ve adapted to COVID-19.

How do you help keep on top of people’s workloads and projects?

The main thing to remember when transitioning to a remote work structure is to clearly outline key deliverables and how success will be measured between the employee and their direct manager.

For example, if your current sales associate takes one hundred inbound sales calls a week and closes 30% of them, then they need to know this is still the expectation as they now work from home.

Clear goals and metrics for measuring results alleviates the need to micromanage or fear the employee won’t get the work done.

Sending an end of day survey to your newly remote employees can also be helpful in the beginning to give them a forum for flagging potential snags or issues that have come up and might prevent them from hitting their typical targets (ie. slower wifi, distracting pet, etc.).  These are typically things that can be fixed easily but need to be discussed in order to still meet goals while working remotely. 

How do you support people with feeling part of the team while being remote?

We do remote team building via Slack through something we like to call “Mr. Rogers Calls”– because you are getting to know your virtual neighbours.

At the beginning and end of each week, Slack automatically pairs colleagues off for a 30 minute video call. These calls are paid work time and the only rule is that you aren’t allowed to discuss work or projects. Similar to the icebreakers, these calls allow team members to develop more meaningful friendships as they explore interests and commonalities outside of the office.

How do you keep morale up?

One small and very powerful recognition tool we use at Museum Hack is a Slack channel called #you-are-awesome. This channel is the central place where all praise and congratulations are posted from managers to their team members. During reviews, our employees almost always mention the #you-are-awesome channel as either a goal or a highlight of their time at Museum Hack. In addition to public praise, we also send an Amazon Gift card to those who are mentioned in the #you-are-awesome channel to show them that not only do we see them, we are thankful for the value they are creating for the business.

These are small, yet intentional recognition tools that have more than paid for themselves in employee happiness, motivation, and retention.

laptop and phone on a desk with books in the background

Ocushield

We spoke to Dhruvin Patel, Optometrist and Founder of Ocushield, about their existing remote working operation.

How long have you been remote working?

Here at Ocushield we have been implementing remote working for just over 24 months. It’s an integral way of how we work so we’re not restricted to one office or time zone. Although we are a small team of less than 10, we have team members in over four countries.

How do you keep on top of people’s workloads and projects?

We are big fans or using project management software to see tasks at hand such as Trello. We can then use communication software like Slack to be able to communicate on any intrinsic information or questions to do with the project.

We also use slack and its video call feature to catch up now and again as face to face communication in remote working is important, we don’t want to forget we’re real humans behind the keyboards after all!

I wouldn’t recommend time logging through various software out there as this can become tedious and show you do not trust your team.

How do you support people with feeling part of the team while working remotely?

With slack we have an open channel for everyone from different teams to be able to communicate with each other. This allows us to share any news personnel or not, or just to say good morning when someone turns on their computer in the morning.

We also send thank you’s and gifts for special occasions such as Christmas to show the team members they’re appreciated. You can do this for birthdays also, or reactive on any goods news being shared.

How do you keep up morale?

We encourage people to work on their own schedule and not a rigid 9-5 for example.

As long as work is getting completed and people respond in a timely manner we want our staff to have the freedom to live their best lives. Work of course forms a huge part of our lives, therefore the work-life balance is important. By allowing this flexibility our team remains enthusiastic to work on any Ocushield related work.

woman sat working on laptop with a newspaper next to her

Virtalent

We spoke to Anita Vickers, Client Engagement Manager at Virtalent, about their existing remote working operation, and how they’ve made it work for five years.

How long have you been remote working?

We at Virtalent have been around for about 5 years. We supply Virtual Assistants to individuals and businesses of all sizes. Our internal team who manage clients, VAs etc have always been remote workers.

How do you keep on top of people’s workloads and projects?

We use some really handy tools and software to help manage work. TickTick is a great tool for creating to-do lists, you can assign tasks and sync calendars. We have an internal portal which everyone uses to log their time; it is categorised by client so we can easily keep track of how much time they are spending working on each client’s tasks.

How do you support people with feeling part of the team while working remotely?

Slack has been an invaluable tool for us to keep our team connected. We have different threads for the internal and the wider team, and it allows for people to connect individually. Our wider team thread is a great resource for sharing ideas – this can be anything from recommending a piece of software to finding out recommendations for restaurants in London.

person sat on laptopn working with other tech around them

But The Books

We spoke to Zoe Whitman, Founder of But the Books, about their existing remote working operation.

How long have you been remote working?

I’ve always been aware that the business will need to operate without me necessarily being in the office. My staff have always had the option to work from home, and I ran the business from home for much of 2019 when my second child was tiny.

How do you keep on top of people’s workloads and projects?

We have a quick video call in the morning to check in, we also track our work using Monday.

How do you support people with feeling part of the team while working remotely?

We have a call each morning and I make sure it’s not just business, we talk about how everyone’s doing. I’m available on the phone any time and we also have a team whatsapp group.

woman sat in garden on laptop

MilknBizz

We spoke to Danielle Wallington, Founder of MilknBizz, about their existing remote working operation.

How long have you been remote working?

I have been running the milknbizz virtual office since June last year, it was set up originally to be there to support mums who were about to head into the summer holidays but still wanted to feel connected while they were working remotely as lots of groups close during the school holidays.

How do you keep on top of people’s workloads and projects?

We have a zoom call every week where we set our goals, and we are just in the process of setting up an accountability partner programme, so we have someone to keep us motivated.

How do you support people with feeling part of the team while working remotely?

As well as talking about our work we have lots of social aspects too, we have a water cooler chat, forums to discuss Netflix recommendations, the more we can get to know each other the more people feel part of the milknbizz team.

What other tips or advice would you offer?

Make sure you have a purpose to meetings, so set a weekly schedule, plan it in advance so people know what to expect. If you can download the tool on your phone as anAPP this is also a bonus especially if you are out and about so your not always tied at home to the laptop, so if you fancy getting some fresh air you can still stay on the team call. Understand when to log off(this is important) treat it as you are still in the office and set a time to finish each day so your not still working at 11pm at night. Make use of video as much as possible – especially now as we may not be seeing other people as much.

Jessica Hodkinson

We spoke to Jessica Hodkinson, PR & Marketing professional, about how her business has ran remotely since it started.

How long have you been remote working?

I have been working remotely for over a year now and as I run as a one man band (with the support of other freelancers) – it has been easier to implement and make the shift from agency culture.

How do you keep on top of people’s workloads and projects?

I keep on track of projects by holding myself accountable and using tools such as Clockify to track my time on billable work and business development. It’s such an easy tool to use and very visual. I think experience enables you to be organised and disciplined and the good old to-do list is still a favourite of mine.

What other tips or advice would you offer?

I think it can be a big adjustment for all employees to move to fully remote working. Regular communication is key. I have worked in large agencies where the simple lines of communication break down and teams start to become siloed. Even though face to face has gone out of the window, group emails, conferencing software and even Google hangouts are still available. Keep in touch with each other and look out for one another. Don’t work against each other at a time like this and priorities the tasks that are really important.

if that doesn't inspire you... this will...

woman on the phone and working on the laptop

UpCircle Beauty

We spoke to Anna Brightman, Founder of UpCircle Beauty, about how they’ve had to adapt to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How have you adapted to remote working?

We’ve had to completely rethink our roles. Our entire team is now working from home except for William (brother and co-founder) and I.

However, some of our team’s roles are not at all suited to working from home, so we’ve had to get creative… For example, our logistics and warehouse manager Barbs is now in charge of creating some new and exciting blog content!

She’s drawing on her own interests to create relevant posts – at home work outs, links to live insta yoga sessions, recipes from cupboard staple ingredients – that sort of thing!

She is also contacting new businesses to enquire about certain by-products which we would like to start developing into our 2021 product launches. Safe to say, we’re all figuring it out day by day, staying open-minded, adaptable and most importantly – positive!

Key Take-aways

After reading the way these businesses are managing their remote team, there are some key things you should be doing to implement successful remote working;

  • Trust your team
  • Use tools to help manage work
  • Communicate in different ways and often
  • Be flexible – especially during this crisis
  • Create fun and keep the culture going
  • Conduct regular surveys to identify any issues

 

If you would like more help or support in implementing remote working, contact us about our flexible and remote working consultancy, or download our Ultimate Guide to Remote Working eBook which provides a step-by-step guide.

DON'T MISS OUT

Join our monthly newsletter

Receive latest news and exclusive resources straight to your inbox

About The Author

Lizzie Benton is a people and culture specialist who supports organisations in developing a unique company culture and building engaged teams. Lizzie has been recognised as a millennial changing the world of work, and has been featured in the Metro, HuffingtonPost and has spoken across the UK on employee engagement. When not consulting or running a workshop, Lizzie can be found in rural Lincolnshire enjoying afternoon tea and fresh air.