The number of remote workers has been rapidly increasing over the past five years, and in early 2020, 3.4% of U.S. workers worked remotely, accounting for millions of individuals.
Today, the coronavirus crisis has increased the need for remote work in almost every business. As businesses across the world faced immediate and unprecedented in-office shutdowns in an attempt to flatten the curve from the coronavirus, they’ve been left scrambling to shift their team to a work-from-home setup.
While having your entire team shift to remote work is a transition, there are steps you can take to make this change quickly and effectively, putting both yourself and your staff at ease.
In this post, we’re going to discuss how you can adapt your business and your team to remote work quickly, efficiently, and successfully.
Get Your Communication System Set-Up Fast
The biggest challenge about working remotely will be efficient communication, so you want to have a system in place to keep things flowing right away. This should be your first priority.
Most teams that benefit from in-person office members will want to rely on immediate, chat-based solutions like Slack or Microsoft Teams. These allow you to have conversation threads with relevant team members that need to see them, and people can read and respond to the messages in real-time.
You’ll also want to look for a video conferencing solution. Google Hangouts can work, though it can be glitchy for some members. Zoom is a great option that’s also free, and you can also try Skype business accounts.
You’re also going to want to rethink those in-office phone systems that you’re using because no one will be there to man them. Consider looking at virtual business mobile apps like Tresta, which can be installed on your staff’s personal phones so they can make and accept business calls from anywhere.
The idea is to be able to communicate with your team quickly, preventing employees working on tasks that need urgent attention from another to have to rely on emails, which may take hours to be seen or responded to.
Establish a Standard Operating Procedure
Once you’ve got your communication channels set up, it’s good to consider your new normal.
If your team was mostly an on-location team and is now purely remote, normal has kind of gone out the window. You can’t see who is physically at their desk and make rounds to see how they’re doing, for example, or have staff see that you’re available with an open office if they need to chat.
Create a standard operating procedure for how you want work from home to go. You may ask that your team checks in for a quick morning call for a brief recap of what they’re working on to ensure everyone is on the same page, or that everyone send you a message on Slack.
You might also make certain individuals on your team more responsible for being a “point person” than they were in the office so that you aren’t slammed with too many phone calls and requests all at once.
Decide if you want your team to work relatively typical hours, or what sorts of work will wait until they’re back in office if this is a relatively temporary arrangement.
Consider Realistic Adjustments that You May Need to Make
Under normal circumstances, you may not have to make many adjustments for work-from-home team members outside of asking that someone calls into a meeting instead of walking into a conference room.
It’s worth pointing out that right now, circumstances are different. Not only are employees thrust into working from home for the first time when they may not have otherwise made that choice, but they may also be doing so with a roommate, spouse, or children that are all now desperate for entertainment.
Be patient, particularly for those with young and school-aged children who need significant oversight, or for those taking care of a sick family member. You may want to let your team work more flexible hours, knocking out tasks after their kids are in bed. Or, you may need to accept that even using Slack, it takes a few minutes to get a response.
Again, while people are in self-isolation or under stay-at-home orders, hang in there, and consider what reasonable accommodations you can make. Expect productivity to drop, especially at first, and prioritize mission-critical tasks. You can give employees lists of what they should be accomplished daily or weekly if needed.
Give Your Team the Resources They Need to Excel
Think about what your team needs to do their job well from home.
This will likely include remote access to any software that you’re using in-office. If you aren’t comfortable letting them install this on their own laptops, consider letting them take home their office laptops or setting up secure access so they’re able to do so.
You may also want to consider what other tools are needed right now. If your team is struggling to keep up with everything, consider project management software like Trello or Asana so that every task can be easily tracked, and you know who is responsible for what and when it’s due. If they’re trying to keep up with chaotic social channels, look at tools like Hootsuite or Agorapulse, which allow you to manage social channels from a single platform.
And if you need to pay for your entire team to download Microsoft Office or upgrade to a business account for Google Drive, consider doing so if it makes collaboration easier.
Still Make Time for Relationship Building
Even with social distancing in place and with your team working remotely, relationship building is actually more important than ever before.
There’s no two-minute exchange between your staff as they’re booting up their computers or pass in the hallway; many people are home with immediate families, feeling cut off from the world. They’re likely stressed and anxious, and may even be worried about losing their job.
Relationship building is a crucial part of remote work even under normal circumstances. On those calls with your staff, take time to check-in and ask how everyone is doing for a few minutes at the beginning of the calls. Create a thread on Slack asking everyone to share highlights of their week, or even their best accomplishments. You can even dedicate a thread to “preparation tips” where people can share non-political resources about what’s going on, including what stores have finally restocked chicken and flour.
This will help everyone feel a little more normal and stay dedicated to the work at hand.
Remote work is an incredible asset and it’s beneficial to many companies. Most of those companies, however, have plenty of time to shift to a fully- or partially-remote system long in advance, however. It is more challenging when you have teams and employees who may not have ever intended on-going remote to suddenly be forced to change directions with extremely little notice.
The good news is that work from home is definitely possible for a large number of office jobs. If TV anchors are able to deliver the news from their homes on Skype, trust us when we say your office can tackle the challenge, too!
Be aware of what these changes will require, and get ready to be adaptable; this is unprecedented for everyone right now, so a little trial and error might take some time. That’s okay; this is one time where we can all afford to be a little more patient.