Podcast 7 – Budget 2020-21, Remote Working Principles and Tools


This week

The UK budget for 2020-21 has finally landed, with some clarifications to SSP and other support available amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We look at this and also some principles, specific tools and delegation tips to consider if you decide to bring in remote working to your small business to cope with the inevitable self-isolation brought about by corona virus.

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Budget 2020-21

A whole bunch of measures are in place to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, including clarification that the government will reimburse employers with fewer than 250 employees for up to 14 days of SSP per employee, including those who self-isolate. ‘New style’ Employment and Support Allowance is the alternative option to SSP for the self-employed, and it will also be payable from the first day of self-isolation or sickness.

Also, the National Living Wage will be increasing from £8.72 for 2010-21 to £10.50 by 2024. This will result in a Minimum Income Floor for Universal Credit Claimants (who could justifiably work 35 hours per week and are outside the first year of their self-employment) calculated at £1,322 per month from April 2020 and £1,592 from 2024. Universal Credit, for those this applies to, will be calculated on the basis of earnings at this Minimum Income Floor if their actual earnings are less than this amount. Though, in response to COVID-19, this Minimum Earnings Floor is temporarily removed and actual earnings will be used instead, even if they are below this amount, for this temporary period.

I referred to an excellent article from Money Donut during this segment –
https://www.moneydonut.co.uk/blog/20/03/budget-statement-2020-round-key-announcements – and also one from the charity Turn2Us, who specialise in helping people understand available benefits and calculate their eligibility: https://www.turn2us.org.uk/About-Us/News/What-does-Budget-2020-mean-for-you

If you need help in understanding the benefits available to you, especially with regard to the temporary measures put in place to help with the impact of COVID-19, get in touch with Turn2Us at https://www.turn2us.org.uk or Citizens Advice Bureau at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/


Remote working principles

Working remotely as a team can be a challenging setup. A recent article from Harvard Business Review – https://hbr.org/2020/03/coronavirus-could-force-teams-to-work-remotely?ab=hero-main-text – helpfully outlined some of the important principles you may need to adopt, such as reinforcing goals and roles, especially clarifying any changes due to the new working setup. Refer to the article for an outline – it’s helpful stuff.

Most important to remember is that most human communication takes place outside the text of the interaction – so email brings the most chance of miscommunication, voice calls are better and video calls are best, in lieu of actual face-to-face interactions. And since you won’t be able to tell who is more busy than who simply by walking past their desk, or by small-talk at the coffee machine, you’ll need to structure a way to catch up and understand how efficiently workload is being distributed.

It’s also important to remember that, even if you make this work and are broadly happy with the results, you shouldn’t necessarily be drawn to concluding that remote working should become the new norm for your business. There are numerous advantages to working in the same office, and the effect of the loss of those advantages may not become obvious for some time. For most this is not a long term solution!


Remote communication tools and delegation tips

A messaging platform with status and availability indicators can be great for showing who’s available or busy and who’s working on what, which is particularly important for workers to be able to stem the all-too-human suspicion that they might be shirking. In previous employment, I used Lync – now Microsoft Teams – which was useful for synchronising my availability and ‘status’ to my calendar, but there are some free options available that at least offer always-on communication like Signal (I prefer this to WhatsApp, as the data doesn’t live on any servers in a way accessible by third parties e.g. Facebook, and you can set up group chats as required). Google Hangouts and Slack may provide other good alternatives.

When delegating tasks, especially by email, I like to use the 7 golden rules of delegation:

1) Make it SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound)
2) Give context – Why is this task important? What does objectives does it support?
3) Choose a team member according to their skills or strengths, and tell them why you’ve chosen them – this helps to sell the task
4) Provide whatever resources are necessary to complete the task e.g. budget, documentation, contacts to help etc.
5) Provide the authority necessary to complete the task e.g. CC any contacts who you want to participate, making the delegated authority clear
6) Arrange a check-in to see a milestone aspect e.g. “I’ll check in with you on Monday to take a look at a first draft”
7) Depending on the team member’s experience and your trust in their capability to undertake the task, you can either tell them how to do it, suggest how they may do it, ask them how they plan to do it or just verify they’re confident they can find a way to do it. It’s usually far better to let team members find and execute their own way to complete tasks. If you tell them exactly how you expect them to do it all, when they were quite capable of finding their own way, it will come off as micro-managing. They’ll either be unmotivated or, worse still, will accept the micro-management and involve you in every little step! Reserve this only for the first time an untrained team member is taking on a new kind of task. After that, they’ll thank you to leave them to it and you’ll have a happier workforce if you trust in their capabilities.

Using this framework, you can efficiently and effectively delegate a task in one, single, hard-to-misunderstand email. An important skill if you are newly engaging in remote working, but also if you are outsourcing any tasks and generally in your work life when passing jobs back and forth.

Though I didn’t mention it in the podcast, an important follow-up is to praise good work. In particular, it can be extremely motivating if you show your appreciation in sight of their team and/or a superior.

Finally, you can also apply these rules of delegation upward. In particular, if you are given a task that is not completely specified, you can reiterate the task as you understand it using the framework above (aside from item 3) and ask for any missing SMART details/context/resources/authority and suggest your own check-in if one hasn’t been suggested and the task is sufficiently complex. It’s usually more effective to propose what you guess might be the missing information, according to your understanding, rather than to ask for more detail without having made any effort yourself.

Hopefully these tips can make the temporary transition into remote working more effective for everyone involved. Good luck!

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