The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the world down for some time, shutting down nonessential businesses until conditions are controlled well enough for their employees to return to work. In the interim, many businesses have largely shifted to remote operations in as many processes as they can. Many still have questions about remote operations, so we’ve done our best to answer them.
Is this really happening?
Unfortunately, yes. With some places enforcing stay-at-home orders by law, and most people keeping everyone at a safe distance, there is clearly an issue at hand that we haven’t seen (at least on this scale) for generations.
To try and circumvent the impacts of these changes, many organizations have worked to shift their operations to a remote methodology. While this has created some additional disruption, it is far better for the welfare of their employees. After all, remote operations can help reduce (or at least stagger out) the spread of COVID-19, reducing the toll taken on the healthcare system, and decreasing the severity of the potential worst-case scenario.
Is it going to be worth the effort to implement remote work?
Honestly, it seems to be the only way that many businesses that are considered “essential” will be able to operate without putting their employees at risk. Numerous states have put a moratorium on any on-site operations, but there are no such restrictions on working remotely. As a result, these businesses can continue at least some level of their operations, giving their employees the opportunity to support their own lives more effectively. Overall, this will make this shutdown that much easier for those with these capabilities.
This is especially important when you consider the business recovery statistics that we have observed in the past. Of all businesses that need to shut down and suspend their operations due to any kind of disaster, 40 percent of them never resume. Of the 60 percent that make it that far, another 25 percent don’t last another year. Less than two years after a disaster strikes, more than 90 percent of businesses ultimately fail.
So, if keeping your business open (even in a limited sense) helps to prevent your business from adding to these statistics, it only makes sense to do so with a remote work strategy.
What concerns will I have to deal with?
In addition to your own hesitation (which we shall address in more depth later on), putting this into motion will also subject you to other challenges and resistance. For instance, many of your employees may not be entirely open to the idea of remote work, and not for the reasons you might initially assume.
Some of your employees may just be comfortable working in the workplace environment, having grown accustomed to the predictable routines and communication patterns they have developed during their time there. The resistance you encounter may be just that: resistance to the perceived changes that such a shift will bring. Some managers may not see how they can effectively manage employees as they operate remotely, and might be particularly opposed to remote operations.
You also need to consider that some of your employees may not have the same resources at home as you provide in the office, as far as the equipment available is concerned. Without the right tools, even the most dedicated employee can only contribute so much.
But are my employees actually going to work from home?
This is a common point of contention for many managers and executives, and it really boils down to how much trust they have in their team. Breathe easy, and rest assured--any employee you have who does a good job in the office will most likely do a good job from home. We’ll return to this topic later on, but just take a moment to consider current events. With so many workers being laid off or otherwise left without income as businesses close, the employees you have hired are more than likely very motivated to keep their jobs. As a result, it is a pretty safe assumption that any of your employees who aren’t fully contributing now are the same ones who never fully contributed anyways.
In actuality, it is just as (if not more) likely that your employees would face other challenges that would interrupt their remote work. Therefore, as the authority, they all will look to you to help them resolve these deficits in some way.
But what can I do to fix these problems?
There are a few steps that any employer can take to help their staff fully embrace remote functionality.
Ensure Your Team Has the Necessary Tools
In order to be productive and collaborative while working remotely, each team member will need access to the same solutions and data they would be privy to in the office. However, this needs to be accomplished without sacrificing any of your business’ security.
For this, there are a few options to pick from. If their in-office workstation is a laptop device, it can simply accompany them home--so long as it has the prerequisite identity verification and security measures--or remote access tools can be deployed to an approved desktop with the proper defensive measures applied. Otherwise, a secured Internet connection could be used to access a cloud resource, making use of any data or applications hosted there to accomplish their objectives.
Keep Procedures Updated
As you are sure to have set processes and workflows in place in the office, these same processes should carry over to remote work as well. Don’t postpone meetings or exclude your remote team members from them out of convenience. Use the technology available to them to keep them as involved as possible. If these adjustments don’t work with your current processes, reconsider the processes you are relying on.
To help your remote team members to feel like more a part of the team, make sure you take the time to reach out to them and check in. Whether this is on a one-on-one basis, as a means of addressing your assembled remote resources, or even some combination of the two approaches is up to you. This is a big part of our next piece of advice.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
In order to keep your entire team on the same page, especially when working with remote employees, you have to make sure that everyone is using the communication tools that they have access to in the workplace. In fact, if the majority of your workforce is suddenly forced to work remotely, it may not be a bad idea to loosen the restrictions you may have in place regarding non-work-related conversations. These casual conversations can actually do a lot of good for morale, as well as the tendency for your team to collaborate with each other.
Have Faith in the People You’ve Hired
And we’re back to the real crux of the matter: can your employees be trusted to work diligently when nobody is supervising them? While many managers and supervisors may feel that the answer is “no,” the truth is that remote employees working more than they should is just as common of an issue. Unless you have reason to believe that a particular team member isn’t living up to their responsibilities while working from home and are trying to address that issue, don’t overcomplicate the working from home process you have in place. If someone does seem to be having issues, work with them to resolve them.
What do my employees need to do?
As for your employees, they can all play a role in how successful your remote work implementation ultimately is.
Or, if they prefer, habits, rituals, or schedules. Subscribing to standard repetitions of work can help ease the culture shock of the transition as it improves their productivity. A comfortable employee is a good employee, so helping them get used to the new method of doing things is best for everyone.
Remaining in touch with the rest of the team can help keep any employee from succumbing to feelings of loneliness or isolation, either of which could heavily impact their professional and personal lives. The more opportunities your employees have to collaborate with one another, the less prone to the aforementioned negative feelings they will be.
Remember, the boss is still a member of the team. Make sure you are remaining connected to your employees, even if that means reaching out to them individually. Being there for your team can help quite a bit, even if it seems silly in the grand scheme of things.
As far as your team’s technology is concerned, we can be in their corner as well, supporting their operations and making sure that they have access to an IT resource if needed. To learn more about what we offer, including our collaboration-based tools, give us a call at (215) 853-2266 today.