Despite all the hype that’s been doing the rounds about work from home (WFH) for over a decade now, the fact remains that it’s not been widely practiced till now. Had it not been for the forced city and country-wide lockdowns that have been triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak, we’d still be sitting on the fence about it. Enter the times of Remote Working as the new reality.
But as with any changes that’s suddenly shoved down your throat, this one has been a nightmare to manage for many companies – even several “veteran” WFH practitioners are sweating out the implications of having entire workforces logging in from home. Common initial issues include productivity, time management, and coordination, not to mention the COVID specialties of anxiety and stress to ice the cake.
We get it, there was little time to prepare. But if you take a deep breath and re-look at things, you’ll realize it’s not as impossible as you think. All it takes is a few tweaks in your way of working (and given how this pandemic took us by storm, how new is change to us?), and you’d be surprised by how seamless it becomes before you realize it. You’ve already taken the first right step in prioritizing employee health and supporting work from home. Here are five tried and tested practices that’ll make that decision a business success.
1. Step up solid operational support for remote working
Any time you affect a change in operations, there’s bound to be some initial teething trouble in the form of employees getting acclimatized with the new way of things. So make sure all your support staff – from IT to admin and HR, besides all team managers and cross-functional personnel – are accessible to respond to any runtime queries and ease the transition. Draw up staffing plans to ensure support for an increased volume of support requests.
While support should be available across communication channels (such as e-mails, phone, and IM), ensure the availability of self-help options wherever possible. Upload and share any support content that can be easily understood and applied to make for quicker, near-real time resolutions and less frazzled nerves.
Finally, remember to ensure that you take care of all special software and hardware requirements. For instance, if any of your employees has specific requirements that force them to work on desktops rather than laptops (designers, for instance), ensure that they can remotely log in using their personal desktops. If they don’t have the required system configuration, arrange to have their office systems delivered to them if investing in new ones is too much of a strain on your resources.
2. Invest in robust collaboration and productivity technology and training to smoothly transition to remote work.
Thank God for cloud collaboration and productivity technologies, if it weren’t for them, we’d never be able to collaborate across geographies and time zones. If you haven’t invested in one or more of these, it’s high time you did – or you’d never be able to get over the vicious cycle of coordination and productivity. Encourage the use of Google Drive to facilitate real-time collaboration, regardless of location. Most importantly, make sure that all managers are available to offer any training support necessary (it doesn’t have to be formal, just need-based will do) for effective use of any new tools.
Once you make these one-time investments, you won’t look back. These flexible, affordable technologies have been purpose-built to ensure seamless, predictable business continuity at all times – something that’s the need of the hour in these times, given we’ve had all the disruption we can take for years to come.
3. Ensure crystal-clear communication, and crank it up a notch as people are not in office. They are working on Remote mode.
The key to successful WFH, regardless of the crisis, is regular communication – more than what you’d normally have in the office. You need to ensure that all employees have a clear, precise idea of their tasks on a daily and weekly basis – at the least – to be able to schedule themselves effectively and deliver work on time. Know that while communication was effortless and frequent in office, it takes more planning and discipline now.
However, you need to walk a thin line between effective communication and micro-management. Resist the urge to constantly ping people asking for updates and unnecessary details. Remember that most employees, especially with schools and universities shut down as well, will need to check up on kids and do other necessary chores that they may have to juggle with work. Find a middle-ground strategy, and stick to it.
Finally, these are worrisome times. Make sure to address all employees’ worries and misgivings with regular communication about the crisis – share relevant news, company measures and policies, and all other information that they’re likely to need at this point of time. Make sure that you share news from reliable sources, and encourage employees to communicate their feelings. Turn your internal communication system into a real-time, two-way, interactive hub. Your employees need it, and so do you.
4. Show your team that you trust them.
Remember the micro-management we just spoke about? It reeks of mistrust. And there’s nothing more insulting to your employees. If you trusted them in office, there’s no reason to not trust them just when they’re working from home (and if you didn’t trust them in office, your problem is a lot larger than you think!). the importance of trust can never be overstated, and for us at Socxo, it never gets old.
It’s a well-known fact that employees who feel trusted are happier and more engaged in their jobs than those that are not. The result? Higher productivity!
You will find this article on building trust within the business relevent, given the times of crisis we are all in.
5. Don’t allow isolation to set in, and watch out for any signs of withdrawal.
This is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face during the crisis. Find out which of your employees are isolating, because all of a sudden, they may start withdrawing. It’s a psychological progression. Watch out for early warning signs – skipping regular meetings, reduced interaction, diminished motivation and interest.
The best strategy in this case is prevention. Keep the engagement up. Have regular fun meetings too. Get everyone into a conference and just have casual exchanges. Encourage sharing. The more involved you get your employees to be, the lower the chances of them withdrawing. Leverage your internal communication network to conduct spot, fun polls, contests, quizzes, and other fun activities to keep employee morale up.
Remote Working on scale is a massive shift, but definitely doable.
We’re not saying that switching from a traditional work environment to a satellite one is cakewalk. But it sure as hell isn’t impossible, either. In fact, it should’ve happened ages ago, given all the time people have been wasting on work commutes for years. Well, better late than never. It’s the right direction, it’s the right decision. All it takes is the will to make it happen.
Let us know how it’s working for you! Stay safe.