The decision for many companies to start a remote workforce were made and executed in a hurry as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic escalated quickly and continues to do so. Employees who may have thrived in a social office setting are suddenly finding themselves alone. Others may wish they were alone as they share workspace with a partner and possibly kids.
Having the right tools to support remote staff can help to keep productivity high. Tools should start with something as uncomplicated as a contact list. Every employee should be provided with the phone numbers and email addresses of the people they work with. They should also know the preferred method for contacting their manager during what time frame, since remote office hours may now blend into personal time. And, when someone reaches out and leaves a message, it is important for morale to promptly contact that person back.
And then there is the method of communicating. Were employees sent home with their desk phones? Are they using personal cell phones? What is your company’s preferred chat software? There are a number of teleconferencing and chat options available that can help you establish consistency across your organization. A number of teleconference tools offer free options such as Zoom, Skype, Webex and Google Hangouts. Chat tools are available a-plenty like Slack, Google Hangouts Chat and if your organization uses Office 365, Microsoft Teams. TechRadar put together a comprehensive list of software options you may find useful.
Determine which software and tools make the most sense for your organization. If you aren’t sure, ask your team for their input. Allowing them to have buy-in and implementing the necessary tools to support productivity will increase the chances of a positive work-from-home transition.
Your employees need to know they weren’t just set adrift to fend for themselves. Keep productive, effective routines in place or establish new routines. These should include regular one-on-one sessions, team meetings, and organization-wide updates. What may previously have taken place in an aisle, an office, or conference room, can now be handled through teleconferencing.
You may also realize that some previously “essential” meetings are unnecessary or redundant given the new virtual communication structure. Josh Bersin calls this The Big Reset – you have the opportunity to “simplify, do less with less, [and] make work easier.”
Do not pretend it’s business as usual. Employees are shaken up. Host regularly-scheduled COVID-19 updates, sharing facts and especially anything your organization is doing to help them and their families. Share timely, relevant resources with your employees like our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center to keep them abreast of information like policy changes and funding assistance.
Check-in with team members weekly, not only for work-related updates but also to see how each of your employees is doing. Remind them of applicable benefits that can help them through this period such as a company-sponsored EAP program or financial counseling through a financial wellness benefit.
Although you may be concerned over a loss in productivity, you may find the opposite to be true. Without the common disruptions within a typical office setting, employees have a tendency to work through breaks and office hours tend to blur into personal time. In an office environment, meetings and collaboration often involved getting up and moving to another location. Working alone can reduce the amount of movement. Help your employees maintain their health, both physically and mentally, by encouraging work-life balance.
Get creative. If you previously hosted lunch and learn sessions – continue them. Have everyone grab their lunch or coffee, set up a teleconference session and share your screen. Sure, you could share a video or webinar link for everyone to view on their own but this gives your team a chance to brainstorm, collaborate, and be part of a whole. Let’s use technology and remote work to our advantage.
We’re all in this together.