What We’ve Learnt about Working from Home En Masse

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– Jess Pallot-Cook, HR Consultant

Since the global COVID-19 pandemic arrived in early 2020, employees and employers have had to quickly adjust to the challenges – and opportunities – of remote working. While working from home had been on the increase prior to COVID-19, the pandemic has meant that it has become a necessity. However, ensuring employees remain as engaged and as productive as they are in the office isn’t simple, and requires employers to be adaptive and flexible. After nearly a year of remote working, lessons have been learnt about what employees need and how employers can best respond to these needs. As well as practical issues, such as ensuring employees have all they need to successfully work from home (e.g. appropriate equipment), employers must consider how to keep employees motivated, actively maintain team spirit, and ensure communication is clear and effective.

People Management 

1.     Demonstrating you care

 The importance of a ‘How are you?’ before you start any work-related conversations is critical. Don’t forget that you may be the first person your colleague has spoken to that day – care and support for colleagues, your team and your managers is invaluable. 

2.     Establishing remote-working protocols

Managing remote-workers can be both harder and easier than managing office-based workers. Establishing and communicating clear objectives and expectations is fundamental to fostering a successful working relationship – this is even more the case when you aren’t in the same location. Agreeing ways of working, being clear about how you will work together remotely, keeping each other updated, and establishing how frequently you will check-in, and maintaining operational procedures (e.g. booking annual leave, reporting sickness, etc.) are essential.

Remote-working requires more regular check-ins than office-based working, and deadlines need to be more accurate in order to ensure goals are achieved and focus maintained. Regular check-ins also allow managers to understand and respond when challenges arise.

Establishing remote-working protocols ensures that employee’s individual needs are met and avoids misunderstandings: a manager may feel that they are being collaborative and supportive by letting their team get on with their work without much input, but for some team members, having feedback only at completion of a piece of work can feel overly critical.

3.     Being Flexible

 Employers also have to consider how flexible work schedules can be: do employees have other commitments which prevent them from working normal working hours, for example? Can employers and employees work around such commitments? Enabling the team to flex their work days to try and fit around other commitments hasn’t meant that people have ‘gone missing’; employees can still be as productive working flexibly as they were working 9-5 in the office. When employers can be flexible, they find that their employees give the same flexibility back.

4.     Recognition and Praise

 Praise can feel hollow when delivered via Zoom or Teams but recognising the great work employees are still doing is vital. Maintaining company traditions, e.g. employee awards, albeit remotely, can be a useful way of continuing to highlight the contributions of employees.

5.     Having Difficult Conversations

 It can be easy to put your head in the sand when considering providing constructive feedback or undertaking formal disciplinary procedures whilst we work remotely however its likely to cause larger problems in the long-term. We should aim to continue managing, and supporting, our teams as close to normal as possible. 

6.     Recruitment

Being a remote new starter is hard! We have found establishing more formal sessions to help understand company protocols and policies, complete training programmes, and integrate into the team essential. We’ve also formalised the informal sessions – we make sure there are coffee breaks and the odd glass of wine on a regular basis with different colleagues to ensure our new colleagues have met everyone over the course of their first few weeks. 

Conversely, the recruitment process itself has sped up. Scheduling interviews via Zoom or Teams can be done with a few days’ notice, with everyone’s diaries easier to slide into.

Social Interaction

 1.     Communication within the Team:

Replicating the organic, spontaneous, and easy communication between team members is a challenge for both companies and remote employees. Office-based employees report that being able to chat informally, exchange ideas, and ask for advice easily provides a positive working environment which contribute to creating and maintaining a successful team spirit. Employees who work from home simply don’t make mobile phone calls if they have a question and need advice, not wanting to disturb their colleagues. Employers now need to consider how to ensure that this lateral communication between team members continues when employees are working from home: scheduling regular catch-ups/updates both with and without the team managers can help to foster and maintain teamwork.

2.     Zoom Fatigue is Real

Investing in a video conference tool, such as Zoom or Teams, is money well spent! However, it is important to find the right balance between online meetings and letting employees get on with their work: hours and hours of Zoom meetings can increase fatigue and lead to a dip in employee motivation and engagement. Social interactions with more than 2 people can be challenging online, but the occasional full team get together can be a useful way of maintaining a sense of teamwork and boosting morale.

By using the share-screen function on Zoom or Teams, meetings can still take place, but presenters may need to consider the need for larger screens: are employees ‘watching’ on a laptop, or large monitor? How will the text appear on a small screen? Can the detail be read/seen properly? Here’s where investing in appropriate equipment for home-working is priceless.


While there are undoubtedly challenges for both employees and employers, who are more used to office-based working practices, remote-working offers opportunities to be more flexible, implement more effective ways of working, and explore novel solutions. By being creative, employers can provide an environment where employees can continue to work at the same high standard, to the benefit of all.

For more information on how Savvy can help you streamline your workspace, save money, and improve the overall well-being of your employees, sign up for a free trial today.


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