Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and the disruption of people’s daily routines, humans and businesses have been greeted with what seems to be the new normal way of life (at least for now). Humans have been asked to practice a measure of social distancing, which includes – staying indoors, avoiding events with a large number of people, wearing masks, gloves and shoe covers. Companies, on the other hand, have been asked to close offices and send every employee to work remotely from home.
While a few companies (Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter) have adopted this work structure, we shouldn’t expect to see too many companies follow suit just yet as it could be tough to implement a remote working system, particularly within a short notice.
Companies who are new to or haven’t tested the remote work structure might find it challenging to make the transition whilst still ensuring maximum employee productivity, adherence to certain company procedures and culture without disrupting processes vital to the survival of the company.
Should you as an employer find yourself in a situation needing to quickly set up remote work for some or all of your workers, this guide presents some recommendations on how to get started as quickly and as seamlessly as possible.
1. Organize orientation and training sessions
It is expected that many of your staff new to remote working will be anxious and have a lot of questions about it. You want to help them get set up and running as quickly and easily as possible.
Organize 30 minutes to 1-hour long orientation sessions discussing the nuances of remote work. Topics to be discussed should include:
- How to maintain concentration working from home
- Setting up your home office with an ergonomic and comfortable set of desks and chairs, and the all-important internet connection.
- An overview and training of the online tools and services to be used for communication, collaboration, reporting, project management and all that’s required.
- How to set working hours and break periods.
- Interacting with family members, pets and reducing distractions during working hours.
- Maintaining physical and mental fitness while working from home.
- Setting up and using company communication channels and staying up to date with company news and updates.
- Where to seek help whenever you need to.
Have in mind that people may frequently need support as to why their face isn’t showing on the Video call or why their Mic isn’t working, it is important to have someone dedicated to helping out at these times.
2. Communicate clear productivity and accountability expectations
It’s vital to develop a strategic plan that ensures productivity and efficiency won’t reduce during this transition. The first step is to establish clear expectations and procedures that must be taken by employees. For instance, set clear procedures on how to report when something goes wrong and the necessary steps for resolution. Another example is setting KPIs and deliverables just as you would have done if you were working from the office.
There are a number of analytics tools that help you track and measure employees’ productivity, efficiency, and behavioral patterns.
3. Invest in online platforms for people work in
The reality of an effective remote work setup is not possible without a set of core tools that allow employees to do their work, communicate and collaborate with other team members. You may decide to use Google’s range of products (Docs, Sheet, and Slides) for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations respectively. Basecamp is one of the best platforms for project management and collaboration. Basecamp allows team members to work together on delivering specific projects and it even allows you to invite your client onboard. Basecamp is my personal favorite and I would be willing to help out if you have challenges with it. Zoom is great for video meetings, while Loom is great for recording and sharing your computer screen. You can also recommend Dropbox for file sharing and Brain.fm app for music that helps concentration during work or rest.
It is very necessary to maintain an open platform for communication as this remains the most vital feature of a remote team. Open, clear and unambiguous messages are required from all members of the team.
This is the reason it is important to hold an orientation session before commencing remote work, as this will help your staff become familiar with these tools.
Project management and collaboration tools should be set up in this manner for the most effective use.
- Company – this holds all the members of the company and messages that are company-wide are to be posted here.
- Teams – this holds team members that are in the same team or department. For example, HR, Accounting, Web Design, Backend Developers, etc.
- And then, Projects – This holds employees from various departments that have to work together to deliver a particular project. You can “Project Cyber Monday Sales” and will include members from Sales, Distribution, Finance, Legal and so on, you get the drift.
Some remote companies have introduced social channels on their collaboration tools, such as music, sports, and yoga. You might consider adding that on a later date.
4. Schedule meetings and check-ins times and make it public
I am not sure you know, but employees do not like unscheduled calls or visits to their offices as this may disrupt their work rhythm and affect their productivity. With remote work, it is vital to set specific days and times for meetings and make those periods public and noticeable for all concerned employees. As regularly as possible, try video conferencing for meetings, this adds an extra layer of warmth to meetings and helps team members feel more connected together. P.S, people still have to dress appropriately and look the part. Also, Managers are advised to check in with employees that might have serious issues coping with working from home and devise measures to help them succeed.
5. Expect and support a period of staff adjustment
Remote work is not all rosy, while some employees believe that avoiding commuting and working from home is of great benefit to them, it is different for the other employees who need the social and work structure of an office to thrive at work. The goal of this initiative is to make policies and adjustments that help workers succeed and communicate to them that they are valued as much as the actual business is.
Anticipate a period of adjustment and ensure that managers or supervisors have the proper orientation to support staff during these periods. Staff are humans, not robots and will need some time to adjust to this new normal way of living and working.
Invite staff to give feedback about the online tools, platforms, and communication channels you are using and ask for ways to make their work easier. Remember that a happy customer and a happy staff are the two main ingredients you need to build successful businesses not just only during a virus pandemic but at all times.
Also, remember to publish regular news and updates from the Government about the virus to your company communication channels for employees to digest.
Being patient with the above recommendations will grant your business a huge chance of standing strong during these periods of uncertainties.