Covid-19: a practitioner’s experience, part 3

Caroline Harridence, founder of Counting Clouds Cambridgeshire, sets out how flexibility, daily catch ups and even a joke at the start of a meeting ensures her team is remote working at their best

Published 14 April 2020

We were thrown into remote working as a result of the covid-19 outbreak and this gave rise to hurdles for many accountants as they had to adopt new digital products and processes in order to continue to trade.

Many have now adapted and created a workable home working space and have continued to communicate with our clients through various methods including Facebook and WhatsApp groups and Zoom meetings. But what can you do to keep your team working efficiently and to prevent them from feeling isolated?

Daily team catch up

Many firms have started to have a daily team get together. Here they discuss what they did yesterday, what they plan to do today and go through any problems that they have. This will allow the progress of work to be monitored and also will ensure there is regular team contact.

It is also a good idea to hold these meetings using video conferencing such as Zoom or Skype as this allows everyone to see one another. Another tip is to hold meetings standing up as this ensures people do not sit at their desk all day as this is a common issue when working at home.

Communication channels

Ensure you have an easy way for staff to communicate with one another. Using an application such as Slack or Microsoft Teams allows for instant messaging between your team and channels can be set up for smaller sub-teams to communicate with each other. Setting up WhatsApp groups are also a popular option for easy communication.

Flexible hours

With many people having to not only cope with the prospect of working from home for a prolonged period but also having to act as part-time teacher to one or more children, flexibility is the key to working productively. Whether that is getting up early to put in a couple of hours before breakfast or taking an early or late lunch to fit in around schoolwork, being flexible with your team is key.

Also consider moving away from working 9am-5pm and set the team members tasks to complete. It is not uncommon for those working remotely to get through work more quickly as they are away from distractions and also cannot chat to work colleagues. When your team member has completed their tasks for the day then let them finish for the day rather than waiting for the clock to signal the end of the working day.

Start meetings with funny stories

It is a nice touch to start the day with someone telling the team a funny story or joke as this really lightens the mood. Allocate this task to a team member at the end of the previous meeting so everyone is involved.

Buddy up

Allocate all team members a buddy. This can be a team member whom they can contact or talk to if they have work questions or if they just want to chat. This will also help avoid the feeling of isolation and the individuals will tend to look out for their buddy and ensure they have not got any issues.

Time to relax

Have a weekly online yoga, Pilates or meditation session to help the team relax and take some time out from work. There are many online free classes available but if you have a local practitioner then you can ask them if they will run an online session for you and your team. This will then allow you to support a local business as well as help the mental wellbeing of your team.

Celebrate end of the week

We cannot go out for a drink when we finish work at the end of the week, but you could create an online event for your team to get together and relax and have some fun. Examples include online quizzes, discos and there are apps such as HouseParty where you can create an online party and even include karaoke!

Care packages

A nice surprise for your team would be for a care package to arrive unexpectedly one day! This would be a lovely surprise and would make them feel very valued. We could create these ourselves or we could buy gifts online and arrange for these to be delivered to the team. Examples of what you could put in the gift box are chocolates, candles, books and cupcakes – the list is endless!

Remote working can be a very difficult change for your team and the feeling of isolation can very easily arise. Make sure that you continue to engage with your staff, make them feel valued and inject some fun into their working week so that staff morale remains high.

Caroline Harridence is the founder of Counting Clouds Cambridgeshire – a digital and technology focussed firm specialising in cloud strategy and app advisory for both businesses and accountancy practices.