Despite the almost-hourly changes regarding COVID-19 news, 3 things have remained constant: wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze, and stay home if you are sick or experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms. The CDC has published extensive guidelines for employers on their website encouraging employees to work from home whenever possible.
As a business owner, not only are you responsible for your own health, but you must make the hard decision of how best to keep your business running during this unprecedented time. If you’ve decided that working remotely is in the best interest of you and your employees—what happens now?
Preparation for Remote Work
First of all, make sure you’ve taken the time to assess what work can and cannot be done effectively by remote employees. Make sure you notify your employees in a timely fashion that they will be working remotely and, if possible, allow them time to prepare their schedules and workload to be handled from a remote location. Now is an excellent time to re-evaluate and prioritize current projects and rearrange your employees’ schedules accordingly.
Make sure your expectations are clear for any employees working from home. Do you expect them to clock in and clock out at their normal times, or will you be allowing them to choose the times they work? Will you be managing projects via email, checking in with phone calls, or using a project management app such as monday.com or Trello?
Nothing is worse than an employee having the chance to work from home only for them to discover that they don’t have the tools they need outside the office. Make sure anyone planning to work remotely has the equipment they will need—laptops, tablets, smartphones, the corresponding chargers, even a favorite pen. If you can, try to test any equipment or apps your employees will need to use while they are away from the office ahead of time. Check that they have the correct login information, including any passwords they will need, and that your employees can successfully access the programs they will need.
Tools to Promote Collaboration
If this is your first foray into remote work, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the different options available to you. Ideally, your business already has remote desktop access set up, but if you don’t, there are plenty of options to get you set up to work remotely quickly. If you need real-time collaboration between groups or teams of employees, programs like Slack or Microsoft Teams allow discussion and communication between employees without cluttering email inboxes. Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype are popular for video-meeting and allowing face-to-face communication between employees or clients.
Google Drive has a suite of free programs allowing for cloud-based creation of documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more with real-time sharing capabilities. If you’ve never tried Google Drawing or Google Jamboard, imagine a whiteboard that can be shared and drawn on in real-time. Pair it with a video conferencing application or phone call, and you can have a productive meeting with participants scattered across the globe.
Keep Your Data Safe
Don’t forget the importance of security protocols when working remotely. Laptops, tablets, and smartphones should be secured with strong passwords/passcodes. Now is an ideal time to implement 2-step authentication to email or remote desktop servers and refresh employees on the security protocols you already have in place. Remind employees that the free Wi-Fi at their favorite coffee shop is not secure, and equipment should not be left out of sight in hotel rooms or vehicles.
While remote work can be time-consuming or frustrating to get started, now is the perfect time to try out different approaches and tools to make remote work a productive and effective part of your business future.