When people first started talking about the Coronavirus, no one really seemed all that concerned. Many people laughed it off or took to social media to talk about how everyone was overreacting and being ridiculous.
However, in light of recent events, like the NBA cancelling games and New York’s Broadway going dark, people are taking the threat much more seriously. As such, it’s become a very real possibility that some workplaces will need to excuse people from coming to work, either due to illness or the threat of illness.
If this affects your business, and it very likely will, you need to do all you can to be prepared to work remotely, especially if that’s new to you.
Start from the Top
The decision to make the switch to work remotely should come from the very top or head of the business, which in most cases will be the CEO. When this message comes from this level, it’s clear that things are serious and that everyone should take heed.
However, the message also shouldn’t be presented in such a way to cause panic or alarm. It should simply sound as though the company’s head has given a lot of thought and consideration to the matter at hand and has made the best decision possible moving forward. This will inspire confidence and trust in workers, causing them to stay loyal throughout this difficult transition process.
Furthermore, if delivered in the right way, a message from the head won’t make people feel panicked or afraid. Instead, they’ll feel as though they can and will work remotely with ease, especially if the message from the CEO also lets them know a clear, detailed plan of how this will happen, as well as what resources are or will be available to assist them.
Consider Offering “Loaner” Technology
In this day and age, it’s easy to assume that everyone has access to great technology at home. You might think all of your employees have high quality laptops or computers, tablets, or phones, and reliable, consistent internet access.
However, this might not actually be the case. You might have employees whose budgets are stretched more thin than you realize and who might be lacking one or more of these things. Or, you might have employees who live in far-flung areas that make reliable internet a problem.
In any case, you should be prepared to offer options to your workers, such as loaner laptops or tablets. The key thing is that no employee should feel or actually be at a disadvantage due to this unexpected occurrence.
Thus, take inventory of your employees and their concerns about working remotely and then do everything within your business’ power to relieve those worries and to make working remotely a real, viable possibility for every employee.
Stay in Close Contact
The whole point of “going remote” during the whole Coronavirus outbreak is so that you don’t have to come into contact with people who could potentially spread the virus to others. However, that certainly doesn’t mean that you need to cut off all forms of contact, nor should you.
Many people who start working remotely quickly feel disconnected from their job and their employer, but it’s your job not to let that happen. Make communication as easy, instant, and possible as you can.
You might, for example, give employees a phone number where they can reach out to you anytime, or you might hold meetings via Facetime or other apps. Screen-sharing devices and video cheat applications are your best friends in these circumstances.
At Gryffin, we have been using Zoom for many years, and having face-to-face meetings is part of the course with our team members and customers.
Whatever you do, don’t “ghost” your employees. Make yourself available for questions and concerns. The more you do so, the more likely it is that employees will stay engaged with their work and feel “in the loop” about what they’re doing.
Encourage A Schedule
Another tip for managing remote work is to encourage your employees to stick to a schedule or perhaps even enforce one.
When people work from home, they often get into “lazy” routines or, worse yet, no routines at all. They might get on a schedule, for example, where they sleep late and work late, which can make effective communication difficult.
If, however, you encourage your employees to stick to regular working hours or even enforce that all work be submitted by a certain time, you can keep things running productively and in a way that’s effective for everyone.
Of course, on the flipside, don’t allow workers to overwork themselves. Some people will see the digital working environment as a way to work constantly, which is not healthy or productive in the long-run. Thus, do encourage your employees to take breaks and to step away from work. Remind them that they should not be working longer or harder than usual.
Allow for Collaboration
Work done online is often very solo, lonely work. However, it doesn’t have to be, especially with all of the resources that exist today.
If your workers normally work in teams or even if you’d like to try and develop more camaraderie, encourage use of online collaboration tools.
Google Docs, chats and message boards, and so much more can allow people to work together, whether they normally do or not. Not only can this be helpful for people who normally work on teams, but it can also be a great way to enable more experienced remote workers to educate and share resources with those who are new to it.
Encourage you team members to use Skype or Slack to collaborate and chat throughout the day to maintain open lines of communications. At Gryffin, many of us work while leaving Zoom open so anyone can drop in and chat at any time.
In the long-run, you’ll build and enable a positive company culture, which will only serve to help you when you return to working the “normal way.”
Emphasize the Importance of Secure Connections
As mentioned earlier, not everyone within your workforce is necessarily going to have easy, reliable access to the internet from home.
When this is the case, make sure you remind your employees not to use unsecure connections, like the ones at their local coffee shop or library, to perform important or sensitive work operations. Doing so could lead to a security risk for you and your business.
Thus, do your best to ensure you can, within the best of your ability, provide internet access to all employees who need it. And, remind all employees about the importance of working carefully and safely, and define to them what that means.
Make Use Of A Quality Project Management Platform
Many businesses have already started to make use of project management platforms. These are systems that make it easy to communicate with team members, share details and information about a project, and even create step by step workflows for various projects that need to be completed.
We built Gryffin as the most comprehensive, remote work project management platform, preparing for a slow transition as more and more companies decided to work remote.
Never did we expect something like this to happen!
Fortunately, we have spent years building this platform to offer the most comprehensive, flexible, and dynamic solution available for remote working teams.
Promote Good Health
Undoubtedly, as a business owner, your main concern is ensuring that, despite people working remotely, your work still gets done correctly and on time. After all, you have a lot to lose if it doesn’t!
Remember that you also want healthy workers to return to normal work operations as soon as possible. Thus, in addition to focusing on working and getting everything done, also focus on encouraging good health among your employees while they’re out.
Simple reminder emails about washing hands, how to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, or even company Tweets of relevant articles show that you’re concerned about your employees and their wellbeing, which helps to promote positive employer/employee relationships.
Furthermore, it may even help to reduce the spread of sickness, which is important for both your business and the world at large.
Encourage Boundary Setting
Many schools are closing, meaning that not only will your team be at home, they may also be caring for their family members from home. Working at home while having young, active children can be very challenging.
Encourage your team members and employees to set boundaries when their children are home. Some example of boundary-setting strategies include:
- Create a sign with “Do Not Disturb” on the door so your family members know not to interrupt while you are on calls or in meetings
- Give your children activities, goals, and rewards. Get them online playing educational games, and tell them that if they work for a specific time, they can have a reward later (they can order a toy on amazon or get taken out for ice cream when things are better).
- Team up with other local families. Maybe ask if they can watch your kids for a couple of days during work hours, while you watch theirs for a couple of days.
It’s time to get creative and work with others in your team or community to get through this. If there’s one thing this experience can teach us, is to band together as a community.
Have a Plan
With Coronavirus rapidly on the rise and having to transition to remote work, you already have a lot on your plate. However, there is more you have to prepare for. Consider, for example, that problems may come up as people work remotely.
Someone may fall ill, for example, or someone may have to attend to a sick child. There’s also the possibility that someone could have problems with their computer or phone.
Since so many things can go wrong, it’s best to anticipate as many potential problems as you can and to come up with a backup plan for each one. While you can’t plan for everything, the more you do plan, the better.
Plan for the Future
In addition to having a clear plan for what to do in case of any problems or setbacks, also start developing a plan for what you will do when your workers come back.
How will you transition? Will you continue allowing people some days to work remotely? Or maybe fully transition to a remote work company? Will you continue using your current project management system? If so, for how long?
When will people come back to work? Will there be a procedure for ensuring that they’re healthy? Will they be given time to make the shift, or will everyone come back on the same day and at the same time?
Thinking about all of these questions can feel a bit overwhelming, but, if you plan for them now, ahead of time, chances are they’ll feel less so when that “return date” actually comes.
The important thing to remember is that, as much as it may feel like it, you’re not alone.
Many businesses are going through the same thing you are right now- trying to figure out how to transition to remote work. While it may not always be easy and you may run into some challenges, if you maintain a positive attitude, put your workers first, and do your best to follow these tips, the transition can be a lot smoother than you might have imagined.
And, hopefully, this will all be a short-lived transition too. Whether it is or not, you might just learn a thing or two or find a new program that could enable you to work better and faster even after everyone comes back from working remotely!