Whether you work at a startup, nonprofit organization, small business, or large corporation, remote work has become normalized in recent years. In fact, working from home is so normal, that over the last ten years remote work has increased about 91%. Although a large majority of companies have remote employees, many businesses still prefer that their employees come into the office every day to communicate face-to-face. Although traditional shared collaboration spaces work for some, remote work is a reality everyone will soon face. With the rise of the coronavirus, businesses everywhere are struggling to figure out how to manage their company without one central location.
Many business owners are desperately doing what they can to protect themselves from the coronavirus and keep business running as normally as possible. Whether that translates to the unfortunate reality of layoffs or transitioning to a remote system, adjustments to the way we work is changing quickly. If you’re one of the companies that must switch to a remote team quickly, we have tips for you to ensure that your transition goes smoothly so you can relax through these changes. You’ll find that you can manage a remote workforce and boost team collaboration and communication–all online.
1. Tool Preparation
You must ensure that your employees have the tools they need to stay productive. Since you’re moving to an online model, they will most likely need laptops, computers, tablets, or other devices. Don’t expect your employees to have these things at home. If your employees are expected to communicate with customers via phone, you may want to purchase headsets and purchase business phone software. This ensures that your employees can speak with customers and colleagues efficiently.
Will your employees require software and computer programs, or access to internal company databases and networks? Employees should download any software needed prior to leaving the office. If employees are already remote, ensure that they have direct contact with your IT technicians in case issues arise.
2. Procedure and Practices
The functionality of your business will most likely change, and your employees need to know how things will operate from here on out. Be transparent as to who employees need to report to and what methods they should use (email, phone, or chat).
In addition to communication protocol, you may also find that your core processes will change as well. If your employees are used to filing paper and printing items, you may want to find a way to store documentation safely online. If you aren’t satisfied with an online system, prepare employees to take loads of paperwork home and find methods so that they can easily share and scan paperwork.
Computer-mediated communication can shock some people, but it truly is an effective way to share information. As long as you make communication simple, employees won’t have a hard time transitioning. There are a ton of ways that your team can communicate: email, instant messaging, phone call, and video conferencing. You’ll find that video calls and instant messaging are great and efficient ways to keep everyone on the same page. Here are some popular applications to consider for your business communication needs:
Once you identify communication channels that work for your business, it’s important to communicate with your employees. It’s recommended to call your employees to check in and see how they are doing throughout the day. This helps people get used to their new systems. Video conferencing is also a fantastic way to communicate with employees while also allowing you to observe important nonverbal communication cues.
4. Tracking Productivity and Time
As you adjust to managing a remote workforce, you’ll soon realize that tracking time is crucial. You’ll need to know who is on the clock, who is out, and what projects they are working on. If you don’t know who is working, you won’t know who is working on what, and you won’t know how to delegate tasks. An investment in online time tracking software will assist you in keeping an eye on your team and ensures that business is running optimally.
5. Setting Goals and Expectations
Transitioning to remote work can take time, so you’ll want to help your employees as much as possible. To start, employees should set up a proper home office space that helps them concentrate on their work. Next, try your best to form a clear picture of their daily and weekly job responsibilities. Additionally, you can clarify how many projects they should complete each week along with other expectations. Map this out and document your expectations so they can reference these guidelines when needed.
Let employees know how much flexibility they have with their hours and time. Are some employees expected to work 9-5? Do other employees have more flexibility? How about other employees who don’t require a specific schedule? Some employees may have to work certain hours because they communicate with customers on a daily basis, so you must set those hourly boundaries with them.
Mindful of Life Factors
Many schools closed because of the coronavirus, so parents may have children at home. These parents are not only expected to do their daily jobs, but they are also expected to care for their children and, in some cases, assist with their education. Be understanding that some employees may have to step away from their desks from time-to-time to care for their young ones. If necessary, work out an agreement so they can dedicate time to the company and still take time to care for their children. Remember that many nannies and caregivers are also isolating themselves for safety reasons.
7. Keeping Your Team Motivated
Working from home is a new experience that might take some getting used to. Check on your employees when you can, and make sure that they keep their eyes on the prize. After all, there are many distractions when working from home, so check in with your team to ensure that they are focused and motivated.
Just because you work from home, doesn’t mean that you should stop praising employees for their work. Thanking employees can go a long way. In fact, about 40% of employees say that they would put more energy into their work if they were recognized more often. You can always tell an employee “thank you” or send them a virtual gift card to make them feel important and valued.
You Can Do This
Working from home isn’t as hard as it sounds! As long as your employees have the framework they need to do their jobs, you can transition very quickly. Manage your team like you normally would, but use your new communication tools frequently to stay in touch and track their productivity. If you can manage your employees in an office, you can certainly manage them online.
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