The working from home challenge in response to Coronavirus

Alex Beamer, MD at Yorkshire based business software company Smashed Crab Studio discusses the challenge of adapting his company to the Covid-19 situation and how he keeps his homeworkers motivated.

“Unfortunately we can’t change our business to manufacture something for the Coronavirus fight, but we can and are keeping our employees (and their jobs) safe by facilitating them working from home.

The initial set-up of moving our offices wasn’t too complicated, as a technology company, it’s easy enough to work from other locations as long as we have the hardware. Google Drive allows us to share our files just as we were when sitting next to each other. The only real problem was having enough laptops and making sure everyone would be comfortable in their home office. But after a week, we got everything sorted & delivered, and the home working began.

Our working Day

Each member of the team has different ‘home offices’ but we are all communicating well. We begin each day with a group good morning chat just as we would in the office. I feel this helps remind us all that we are still a team and that each member is just as valid as the next. I don’t dictate the daily start time as we all have different lives and requirements, we just all work together as a team to ensure the work gets done. At the end of each day, we have a quick ‘what have we done today’ group discussion to make up for those snippets of information we would normally hark out across the office.

Advice to struggling Managers

I’m sure lots of Managers would have worried and perhaps still are, that their staff wouldn’t work as hard at home as they aren’t under constant supervision. I understand this completely, but my advice is to trust them, give direction at the beginning of the day if needed then leave them for a while and communicate as and when needed. This allows them to get into their own working groove. Remember, they are adapting as much as the business as a whole is.

Remember to ask about their lives too, even if just in passing. Where did you take the dog for a walk today, or did your husband manage to get those shelves put up you mentioned? We are all human, and not only coping with a change to our working life, but also in our personal lives, and that can be difficult.

Making up for the things we are missing out on

Once a month we have a company meal out, but in March we couldn’t. I didn’t want anyone to miss out, so instead of eating in a restaurant together I provided a take away to each family on the night we would have gone out. Not quite the same as we still missed out on the office banter, but we all still enjoyed not cooking and washing up for the night!

Work within your regular culture. If you normally have a fruit basket in the office, consider sending a fruit hamper to employees through a local farm shop. If you go to a pub for an hour every Friday night, consider issuing a shop voucher and having a video call beer instead.

Our working results

We are working well and continue to support our current clients. This has included a temporary reworking of SLAs (Service Level Agreements) and agreed maintenance hours to reflect these changes to their business and help reduce their costs, but also by building additional software to help them adapt to the current situation.

Because we are working so well, we are able to take on new clients as well as managing all current work. We can help those businesses whose current CRM is missing functionality or those that need to communicate job/task status between multiple people/sites. This may be especially important to them once lock-down is over and they need to increase efficiency to make up for lost time.

In essence, we are just a small company trying to survive an unprecedented and unpredictable situation, one which will affect businesses and indeed individuals for a while yet, let's try to make the journey as smooth as possible for all involved.”

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