In the last few weeks, the global threat of COVID-19 has transformed the way employees work for most businesses. And unless your business was fully remote to begin with, you’ve likely had to think fast and adapt even faster.
In times like this, the first order of business is functionality, which means enabling your employees to work effectively in a remote environment.
Creating a Functional Remote Workplace
Whether you’ve allowed limited telecommuting in the past or are trying remote work for the first time, creating a functional remote workplace in the middle of a crisis is a challenge! Start by making sure your team has the basics covered: technology, environment, and team connections.
The first step in creating a functional remote workspace is to make sure employees actually have the technology needed to do their work. They must either have a home computer that can handle the requirements of their work or be provided with company equipment.
Then, there’s the issue of connectivity. Does your employee have sufficient home WiFi coverage? Does their home network have the bandwidth to handle their work, especially if children and other family members are on the network, too? The strongest and most secure connection will always be to directly connect to your modem when possible.
Voice over IP or VoIP systems make it easy to stay connected while working remotely. There are several ways to connect a line at home to your current systems. Phone systems can be brought home from the office and directly connect to the modem. Softphone headsets are available and connect directly to your phone system through your computer. Most VoIP providers have an app that can be directly downloaded to your personal cell.
Another issue to consider is how your employees access your company network. If your employees require access to private databases and resources housed within your company network, they likely still need that access when working from home. For the best at-home security, we recommend employees access their company network using a full-tunnel VPN. A VPN is a virtual private network — the benefit of using one is that it allows devices on the network to access company resources without the security risks of a public connection.
Be proactive and think about these issues before they become a major problem.
With kids home from school and other family members also trying to work at home, staying focused while working remote can prove to be a huge challenge. Encourage your employees to find a quiet space to claim as their own, even if it’s just a walk-in closet or a guest room. Consider buying employees noise-cancelling headphones to help them better focus.
It’s also easy for some employees to over-focus on work when working from home, which can cause extra stress and frustration. Encourage employees to take short breaks throughout the day, make time to eat lunch, and go for walks around their neighborhood if needed.
For remote employees, staying connected with their team is critical. One way to make this happen is by having internal teams schedule regular virtual meetings. This will not only help team members stay in sync, but it will provide a structured schedule to keep remote employees on track. Tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Slack are all great places to start if you’re trying to encourage team collaboration.
Besides keeping connected to stay productive, one of the biggest challenges of remote work can be the loss of the small, personal interactions that build unity and camaraderie in teams. Experiment to see how you can help your team connect in ways that aren’t work-related. This might look like a dedicated Slack channel just for office chatting or an unstructured video chat where team members can come and go.
Try a few things out and see what your team gravitates toward.
Adapting your to remote work may seem incredibly challenging while we face the threat of COVID-19. But, looking ahead, having a workforce that can become mobile and still be highly functional will be an incredible competitive advantage for your business. Once you’ve mastered remote work, you may find that you can downsize your physical office to reduce overhead. At the very least, if you have the flexibility to work remotely, you’ll be better prepared to handle other disruptive events — like hurricanes — without missing a beat.