Beyond the office: Our guide to remote working

At Source, we embrace the flexibility of remote work, allowing our team to operate 100% remotely if they choose. This is embedded in our core values, enabling our lawyers to work flexibly, remotely, and within their preferred hours.

Remote working, like any work setup, comes with its own set of advantages and challenges. While we believe the perks – such as eliminating the commute, self-controlled temperature, and having easy access to snacks – far outweigh the difficulties, getting it right requires careful planning, communication and consideration.

To help, we want to provide an overview that covers:

  1. The common challenges of remote working,
  2. How our team effectively overcomes these challenges, and
  3. Essential health and safety procedures for businesses to implement for remote work.

 

Let’s dive in.

 

Common remote working challenges

From not being able to switch off at the end of the day to feeling disconnected from company culture, remote work does come with its fair share of challenges. Being aware of these – and managing or mitigating them – is the first step in building a thriving remote-first culture.

Some of the most common difficulties we see include:

  1. Day-to-day isolation: Remote work can lead to feelings of loneliness and disconnection.
  2. Lack of face-to-face communication: Without in-person interactions, communication can become less effective and more impersonal.
  3. Blurring of work and home life: It can be difficult to maintain a clear separation between professional and personal life.
  4. Difficulty in building personal connections and understanding company culture: Remote work can make it harder to get to know colleagues personally and to grasp the company’s values and culture.
  5. Limited in-person client interactions: While we communicate with our clients daily, instances where we see them in person can be few and far between.
  6. Physical issues: The absence of a commute can reduce incidental walking, potentially leading to physical health issues, including musculoskeletal problems.
  7. Non work-related distractions: Managing distractions from children, family, friends, and household chores can be challenging.
  8. Cyber security concerns: Ensuring the security of sensitive information while working remotely can be more complex.

 

Overcoming remote working challenges

Each company is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution to overcoming remote work challenges. When it comes to Source, we discussed practical solutions to mitigate these issues on a day-to-day basis, including:

  1. Regular team chats: At Source, we hold regular capacity meetings and one-on-one sessions to check in on workloads and improve collaboration. These meetings are not only work-focused but also provide opportunities to share personal stories and laughs, fostering a sense of community.
  2. Organising in-person social events: Remote work often means colleagues are spread across the country. Fun team-building and social activities that bring colleagues together in person are essential for boosting morale and spending time together outside the screen.
  3. Creating collaboration committees: With team members across the Tasman and new colleagues joining regularly, Source has formed a collaboration committee to enhance teamwork and create cohesive working relationships across jurisdictions. Knowing your colleagues better makes it easier to seek help and collaborate effectively.
  4. Adopting a Buddy system: New employees are paired with a buddy from the existing team to help them settle in and answer any initial questions. This support system ensures new hires feel reassured and welcomed.
  5. Promote wellbeing check-ins: An ‘open door policy’ is challenging in a remote setting, but regular wellbeing check-ins or ‘open door teams chats’ initiated by managers or employees ensure everyone feels seen and heard.
  6. Building relationships within the business: Team and relationship building is crucial for job satisfaction, understanding growth opportunities, and feeling comfortable within the team.
  7. Setting clear working hours: While we often focus on setting defined boundaries to clients, we may forget to set those same boundaries to our colleagues.  Defining and communicating working hours to colleagues is essential. It allows everyone to ‘turn off’ from work outside their set hours, ensuring a healthy work-life balance.
  8. Taking regular breaks: Taking breaks can be overlooked in a remote setting. Incorporating regular breaks into your routine provides necessary mental and physical refreshment, even when workloads are high.
  9. Managing cyber security issues with IT: Employees must understand potential cyber security risks and learn how to minimise them. Clear policies, regular training on remote working security, and clear expectations help manage these issues, especially when dealing with confidential information.

 

Recommended Health & Safety considerations

On top of building culture, employers have health and safety obligations when staff work remotely. To ensure a safe and productive remote working environment, we recommend the following:

  1. Providing the right equipment: Ensure employees have functioning technology and hardware to complete their work efficiently within their work hours.
  2. Setting up ergonomic workstations: Employers should provide ergonomic chairs and desks and ensure workspaces are set up to prevent sedentary or desk-related injuries. This can be achieved by organising ergonomic checks by the company or engaging professional services.
  3. Maintaining well-ventilated and comfortable workspaces: Remote work spaces should have good ventilation, heating, cooling, and lighting. Employers should provide guidelines on creating a well-ventilated and comfortable workspace so employees can replicate.
  4. Regular check-ins to prevent isolation: Maintain regular contact with remote employees through team meetings and one-on-one sessions. Include remote employees in social events to foster team building and reduce isolation.
  5. Opportunities to build relationships: Ensure remote employees understand their growth opportunities and how they operate within the remote work setup. Regular team meetings and well-documented policies can support this.
  6. Managing work hours and breaks to avoid fatigue: Encourage employees to take regular breaks and structure their workloads to avoid working during downtime. Monitor and ensure compliance with designated work hours.
  7. Providing robust operational support systems: Ensure remote employees have access to efficient IT support for any software or hardware issues. Prioritise their needs as they can’t access office services directly.
  8. Establishing emergency procedures: Have a clear emergency procedure for instances when an employee doesn’t connect to work as expected. This should include an emergency contact for the employee and steps to follow in such situations.

 

Embracing remote work offers numerous benefits, from increased flexibility to improved work-life balance. However, it’s essential to address the challenges and ensure a supportive environment for remote employees. By implementing practical solutions and prioritising health and safety considerations, businesses can create a thriving remote work culture. With the right strategies in place, remote work can be a rewarding and successful experience for everyone involved.

 

What solutions have you implemented to build a strong remote work culture in your organisation?

Let us know  – we’d love to hear from you.

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