As COVID-19 stealthily continues to make its way around, many people have taken precautionary actions, like stocking up on disinfectant products and even washing their hands, to avoid getting sick.
Companies are hoping to prevent the spread of germs while keeping business running as usual by encouraging employees to work from home. This is much easier said than done, especially for companies without an existing remote work policy in place.
If you find yourself in this boat, it’s time to put a plan together. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when the transition from office to home becomes necessary.
1. Keep all employees updated
First and foremost, be transparent with your staff. Ignoring an issue won’t actually make it disappear, so just be courteous and let employees know that working from home for an extended period of time is a very real possibility. They’ll appreciate the forewarning as well as the extra time to gather necessary materials to be successful from their home offices.
2. Identify key responsibilities within departments
Next, you’ll need to work with individual departments to discuss how any work-related emergencies will be efficiently tackled when team members aren’t all in one place. It’s even worth planning for problematic scenarios you haven’t yet encountered, just to be safe. Also, be realistic about which tasks can be performed from home. It might take a bit of creative thinking, but it’s likely that physical presence in the office isn’t necessary. Cloud-based storage solutions and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) with access to your company’s shared drives and servers can really help cut the need to be in-office, so be sure files are updated and your staff’s hardware is properly equipped.
3. Communication is key
Questions requiring timely responses can no longer be answered by strolling to your colleague’s desk when working from home, so you’ll need various channels of communication available.
Put together a document that includes all employees’ contact info. Work email addresses can usually be accessed from anywhere, but it’s worth making sure all employees are able to sign in via personal devices like smartphones, tablets or laptops. You don’t want to run the risk of someone forgetting a password that can only be accessed via his or her desktop computer at work.
On the topic of communication, you should also have an overall strategy for addressing clients and vendors. In the case that extreme weather or the global spread of a virus hinder your company’s more physical tasks, such as production, manufacturing, and shipping, you’ll need a message that communicates the status of business and any issues you’re facing under the current circumstances, as well as how you intend to get back on track.
4. Implement software that simplifies working remotely
A variety of software, such as those for videoconferencing, customer relationship management (hello, Magazine Manager!) and marketing automation, exist to maintain productivity no matter where you’re working from. In the case that an extended work-from-home period can be anticipated, I wouldn’t recommend introducing a super complex software right before that period starts. But, you’ll definitely want something like a conferencing tool on your side. Skype for Business, Zoom Meeting and GoToMeeting, which is currently offering free additional licensing for existing clients to combat coronavirus disruptions, will make it seem like you’re all back in the company conference room again.
5. Ensure employee understanding of existing software
Evaluate your staff’s understanding of the existing programs your company uses. This should ideally be done regularly and well in advance of any mandatory work-from-home periods, as additional training and familiarizing oneself with software takes time.
Also, consider how everyone will access the software. Are work computers required, or will a personal laptop work just as well? For programs that must be installed onto a specific device, you may need additional licensing if work computers aren’t portable. As previously mentioned, cloud-based storage solutions and VPNs can really come in handy here.
Well, there you have it. Working remotely doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems. With a little planning ahead, you can simultaneously preserve the collective health of your staff while keeping business operating as usual.