In the wake of a pandemic, most businesses are preparing to switch to a complete remote working strategy where possible. In the digital age, it’s possible for many employees to continue to work from anywhere without disrupting the business. To follow safety guidelines, it makes sense that businesses are looking to keep their employees at home while minimising the affect it has on both productivity and profitability.
Globally, 3.2% of the workforce, which is equal to 4.3 million employees currently work from home at least half of the time. However, only 30% of business leaders feel their organisation is prepared for the rise in remote working Covoid-19 is expected to bring.
So how exactly can you prepare a business for remote working during a global crisis? We’ve put together a list of key things that should help you and your workers to transition smoothly.
Create a checklist
All good planning starts with a list, we all know that! To effectively equip your workforce to work remotely, a great place to start is creating a checklist. You could create one for team leaders when compiling your remote working strategy to ensure nothing is overlooked but also for employees to ensure they have everything they need before leaving the office. Make note of important things your team need including logins and copies of any documents that are essential to their everyday work and you leave less margin for error when your workforce is separated. It also means nothing vital is left behind if panic sets in, which is likely in such uncertain times.
Give everyone access to tech
Remember that while some of your employees may be able to log in and work from anywhere, others may not. Source laptops for those who don’t have company laptops already or ensure they have other work they can be getting on with so that remote working isn’t an issue. If employees need specialist equipment, try and find a way to take it to them in their homes. This could be as simple as getting them to sign a document to recognise you’ve loaned equipment to them, or you may need to look into external services to help move equipment.
Make sure all files can be accessed remotely by storing them in a cloud-based system like Google Drive or SharePoint; the last thing you want is someone unable to finish a job because they can’t open a file.
Next, you should assess access to all specialist software, like the Adobe creative cloud, may be available on any computer with the correct login, but if not, this is something that needs to be resolved quickly so production doesn’t stall.
Assess pre-planned meetings
We’ve all sat in meetings and thought, “this could have been a phone call” and now is your chance to change that!
When planning to work remotely, review the meetings already in your calendar. While you won’t want to miss anything important, this gives you and your team chance to decide what can be a phone call, what needs to be a video conference and what can be resolved over email. You’ll save time and become a lot more proactive; plus, it will help you to assess all future meetings when you’re back in the office. During a pandemic, it’s best to keep all face to face meetings to a minimum, which is why Skype and other video conferencing calls will form an essential part of your remote working strategy.
Equip your management
Many employees in the digital age will be able to work remotely with minimal issues; with emails and the internet it’s never been easier. However, it’s one thing to work remotely and another to lead. Ensure leaders are given correct training in how they should communicate, how often they should check on employees and how they should manage workload when they aren’t in the office. Usual face-to-face meetings will not occur, but you need to ensure that managers are available to all staff as and when they’re needed.
It’s also vital to ensure that managers aren’t micromanaging staff. Trying to manage a team’s every move when they’re all in different locations will be a disaster as it’s almost impossible when they’re in the same office. Instead, managers should trust that the team they’ve built will get the job done by the deadline and focus on the bigger picture. Rather than taking a task-focused approach, now is the time to give staff more responsibility and managers can oversee on a wider level.
Have a communication plan
Whether teams have a phone call at the start of the day, you’re always available on an instant messaging platform or you’re going to skype once a week; it’s vital that communication remains strong. However, with remote working it’s also vital to make sure employees know when to stop working, and when to stop checking their emails to maintain a healthy work life balance.
Build a robust plan for communicating while remote working and life will be easier for everyone involved. With tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts, constant communication is so simple it will feel like you’ve never even left the office.
But remember, without daily office chitchat, tone of voice and intent can often be lost via instant messaging and email. Employees may think they’re in trouble if you’re a little blunt or could be less perceptive to the urgency of a task if you simply message them about it, clarity is key. Of course, email and text-based communications are great but can cause a lot of issues if they’re your only form of communication. With feelings of loneliness and isolation being a very common problem for those that work remotely, don’t be scared to pick up the phone! Sometimes picking up the phone to check in can brighten people’s day and it will keep relationships strong when you return to work.
Make a system for paper trails
If your meetings and face to face interactions are suddenly changed to phone calls or video chats, ensure you follow every important call up with an email. While you may think this seems a bit excessive, you need to have a record of any decisions made to confirm what was decided. After all, if you’re speaking over the phone there will be no one to back you up if that customer or client changes their mind like if you were in a meeting with 6 other people. Make sure all employees are aware that any decisions and actions over the phone are backed up via email. You’ll thank yourselves for implementing this process when everyone is back in the office and its business as usual as it will keep your team in the loop and will avoid confusion for all parties.
Test a remote working day
If time is on your side, testing a remote working day could help save your business. Ask all employees to work from home so that you can assess how well your communication methods work, understand what isn’t working well and address the issues before you must turn to remote working for long periods. However, in this midst of a pandemic there isn’t always going to be time to test your strategy. Instead leaders must be aware that their approach to remote working will have to adapt to be sustainable. You’ll realise quickly what works and what doesn’t, so use this as a period of learning; you’ll soon be able to refine a strategy that works for your business and employees.
Hopefully these tips will make it much easier for you to implement a remote working strategy that works throughout the business. While the safety of employees is the most vital thing, it’s important that the day to day running of the business remains stable to avoid future implications. Remember that your strategy must be adaptable in uncertain times but with a huge amount of software and digital platforms available, compiling a remote working strategy that works for your business should not be too complex.