Right now, schools and offices around the country are sending people home to try and prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Fortunately, modern technology gives us the capability to work remotely fairly successfully. However, the task of transitioning entire workforces to working from home poses some serious challenges for business owners.
Aside from the basic challenges that come from managing and leading a remote workforce, it becomes exponentially harder to do so without having a lot of time to prepare. While it would be impossible to transition a previously on-site workforce without setbacks and challenges, by doing their research, business owners can decrease the potential for costly mistakes.
Start by asking the right questions
If you’ve never led a remote workforce before, you probably have a vague idea of the challenges that come with working remotely. To properly prepare your employees, you need to answer several questions:
- Do you have communication channels available for your employees to use? If so, how robust are they?
- Do you have a way to track and collaborate on team projects, specific tasks, and weekly/monthly goals and progress?
- How do you deal with storing and sharing documents and files? Do you have a way to access files remotely?
- How do you plan to promote employee wellness, community, and culture among your remote workforce?
While these questions may be obvious, they’re also essential to ensuring your workforce stays on task and productive. Making remote work work for your business doesn't just require employees who can manage themselves to a certain extent, but an infrastructure—provided by you—that promotes and supports their ability to do so effectively.
First and foremost, your employees need to have the capability to communicate with their team efficiently. If you're thinking that you're covered by just using email, you're gravely mistaken. Email is not robust enough to support your employees' needs. Think about it. How many emails get lost in your inbox every week? How difficult is it to sort through piles of messages in your inbox coming in from your team, clients, and service requests? And how much time does it take to find the discussion you're looking for?
Take the time to ask yourself what your company needs specifically.
- If you want to give your employees the ability to chat with each other directly in a fairly casual way, you may want to provide instant messaging options. Apps such as Slack or Teams allow your employees to talk directly with each other or in curated groups and teams.
- Are there teams in your company that need to meet with each consistently? Conference calls can be confusing and hard to direct. Consider using video messaging apps like Zoom, where your employees can meet face-to-face, share screens, and provide presentations with visual aids.
You may decide you want to go with more than one communication channel. To ensure they are used efficiently, train your employees to use them properly and set up systems and expectations around how and when they should be used.
There are many tools your teams can use to stay on track with projects, and access and share files and documents. Online project management tools like Asana and Monday.com are great ways to organize your teams online, provide assistance, accountability, and coordinate team efforts.
Saving and sharing documents online is also a necessity to minimize the risk of losing important documents due to a malfunction on someone's computer or human error. You also want to ensure that certain materials are always available to your employees, like their employee handbook, or other important resources. Online file storing options like DropBox, OneDrive, and Templafy are useful tools your company can use to manage files.
Again, you must create a system-wide infrastructure that is accessible to your employees.
- Clarify how and where files should be stored
- Create a company-wide nomenclature system
- Organize your communications, projects, and documents systematically
Maintaining a healthy company culture during a time of transition is especially important. Take extra care to ensure your teams are provided the support they need to comfortably and efficiently move to a different format than they're used to. Understand there will be a learning curve, and give your employees the encouragement and patience they need to adjust without the added pressure of fear of failure.
Coach your managers in how to effectively support their teams from a distance. Adjust your meeting and communication policies to fit the changing needs of your workforce. This may mean additional one-on-one check-ins between managers and their teams or increased daily communications.
However it is you end up moving forward, make sure you've done your research. You must understand the needs of your company and find the best solutions to meet those needs. Be patient, give your employees the grace they need to adjust, and always be willing to adjust your methods. With the right effort and preparation, you’ll do just fine.
Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners
Photo by Volodymyr Melnyk