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University of Bath

Managing the wellbeing of remote workers

A resource for line managers to support the wellbeing of team members whilst remote working under the current Covid-19 working arrangements.

Managing the Wellbeing of Remote Workers

As a result of the current Covid19 outbreak, many University employees are delivering services, remotely, away from the University campus. Likewise, many line managers will be managing remote workers for the first time. This simple guide is intended to help managers get the best from remote workers by supporting wellbeing, which in turn will support performance and improve outcomes.

Communication

Timely, appropriate, clear and frequent communication is key to managing remote teams. Here are some tips on good communication:

1. Make time for teams to socialise and build community If you are running virtual meetings, set some time aside for team members to “catch up” with each other and to share personal news. Encourage team members to stay in touch with you and one another.

Try to create a shared sense of purpose by setting transparent goals and workloads so that everyone knows who is doing what. Encourage team members to talk about the work they are doing and also to think about how they can support colleagues with their work.

2. Keep private conversations private Avoid having private conversations in team meetings; keep in regular 1-2-1 touch with team members and use these opportunities to check up on their health and wellbeing. If a member of your team is taken ill, or will be absent from work, for whatever reason, then you should discuss and agree with them what they would like you to say to the rest of the team. Do not divulge team members’ personal medical information unless they have specifically given you permission to do so.

Do not discuss individual wellbeing matters or performance issues in team meetings; these meetings need to be safe spaces where everyone feels secure and confident to participate.

3. Take an active interest in the wellbeing of your team Be proactive and ask how team members are. If people are struggling with anxiety, or low mood, then signpost them to the resources and toolkits on the University’s wellbeing pages. You can also signpost the University’s staff counselling provision.

You might also want to make use of the specific wellbeing tools that have been developed to improve employee wellbeing; the wellbeing wheel can be used as a way of identifying issues and potential solutions

4. Over communicate Many of us will be communicating over the telephone or by meeting using “Teams”. Do not rely on this alone; wherever possible follow up any work discussions in writing so that people are clear about what has been said and agreed.

Try and make work visible to others in the team; share information on what you are doing and how your work is going. This could include sharing updates on what is going well and not so well; this will encourage people in virtual teams to share experiences and to collaborate. You can also do retrospectives where you look back on work that has been done to see if there are any lessons learned.

5. Communicate intentionally Plan your communications – What are you going to communicate / share, who with, how and when? Where appropriate, try to communicate in real time using apps like “Teams”.

Make sure you share the “what” and “whys” often so that your team members have a common understanding of the work you are collectively doing and how their contribution fits in.

Pass on any central leadership messages as often as you can; talk people through the arrangements that the University has in place during the Covid19 outbreak. Try to answer questions from team members; if you don’t have an answer signpost people to the covid19enquiries@bath.ac.uk email address so that these can be replied to by HR.

6. Agree when you will be available Don’t try to always respond to messages immediately; this will impact on your ability to complete work tasks. Try to let people when you will be available for catch ups. Wherever possible, try to schedule formal catch ups with team members so that people have clear windows for contacting you but do try to be flexible; sometimes people will need to discuss things outside of the schedule!

Avoid micromanaging; try to get the frequency of meetings right so that people have the freedom to get on with their work.

Put work away at the end of the day. Many apps, including “Teams”, have “Do not disturb” functions that you can activate so people are clear when you are and are not available.

Running effective video conferences

Hosting and taking part in video conferences can be an uncomfortable and sometimes unsettling experience for people who are new to this; it gets easier once you get a bit of experience. Try to establish some protocols for participating in meetings:

  • Where possible, try to be “on camera”; being able to see people as you talk can be more “connecting”. However, do bear in mind that some people may have poor broadband connections so this may not always be possible - you may need to sacrifice seeing people to ensure good sound quality.
  • Try to involve everyone; call on people to ask or answer specific questions through the meeting.
  • Allow for silence; this gives people time to think. If people don’t have immediate answers, give them the opportunity to think about the question and to come back with an answer at a later agreed date.
  • Mute, Mute, Mute! If you are not talking, then mute your microphone.
  • Try to find a space where you will not be disturbed by kids, pets or other members of the household. The Teams app has a function that allows you to blur your background if you don’t want people to see where you are talking from.

Make good use of collaboration tools

Microsoft Teams allows you to share files with team members and for groups of people to work with documents at the same time. This enables remote team working on ideas in real time.

A range of other project management and productivity apps, such as Trello and Planner, are available through Teams. These are designed to be intuitive and easy to use. Manuals can be found online.

Signpost your team to the resources provided by Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) group to enable effective homeworking. These are hosted on the University’s TopDesk site (single-sign on required) and include links to all software and applications available off-site.

Accessing other managment resources

The Development Toolkit is an online tool available to all staff with over 2,000 resources such as top tips, key guides and self-assessments on a range of topics including leadership, personal skills and well-being.

The Workforce Development team has collated some specific resources to assist line managers to manage remote teams. There are also specific resources looking at effective home working and wellbeing that you may want to share with team members as part of their personal development.

The Development toolkit can be accessed here.