Worldwide, we’re a good few months into dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, with many nonessential businesses shutting their doors for the time being. Even those industries that can’t just stop their operations are seeking alternatives, implementing as much of a remote workforce as possible. Many still have questions about doing so and we want to do our best to help answer some of the common questions these business people might ask about remote work.
So, this is really happening, isn’t it?
It sure is. When people are at least strongly encouraged to remain at home (with it becoming enforceable by law in some places) and keep even their family members at a distance, you know we aren’t in a great situation.
It also doesn’t help that there are countless organizations and businesses of all shapes and sizes making the effort to implement remote working practices and strategies. It’s a bit of a mess, but it’ll help to “flatten the curve,” simply help to make sure we don’t exceed the number of simultaneous, hospital-needed infections that our current systems can support. This will help keep the worst-case scenario more manageable.
Is remote work really worth all the effort?
Given the current situation, it is more or less the best way for essential businesses to do what they can to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 while still providing their necessary services. As states across the country have suspended on-site operations, businesses that can operate remotely can continue to do so, allowing their employees to continue supporting their families and making this shutdown much easier to sustain for a prolonged period of time.
Business recovery statistics being what they are, 40 percent of businesses that shut down in the face of any disaster never reopen, and of those that do, 25 percent of them fail within a year. Furthermore, overall trends show that 90 percent of businesses last less than two years after a disaster has struck.
So if remaining open in some form helps you avoid becoming one of these data points, remote work is definitely worth it.
What are some of the biggest concerns and challenges?
Of course, there are plenty of obstacles that you will face, starting with your own hang-ups. We’ll get more into these shortly, but we may as well address some of the other, more external challenges now.
You may be surprised to find out how many of your employees may initially resist the idea of adding remote work capabilities, as the structure of the workplace and the way they communicate will have to change. Anyone in a management position in your organization may be particularly resistant, as it may seem to them that you are removing the point of their title.
Some employees may also not have the resources at home to effectively do their job, just in terms of equipment. Even if the willingness to work is there, it becomes exponentially more difficult to perform if lacking the technology to do so.
Are my employees actually going to do their jobs from home?
More than likely, yes. We’ll get into this more below, but chances are a good employee will continue to take their work seriously. With so much of the workforce being unemployed right now, individuals are probably feeling the pressure. They don’t need that pressure from their employers or managers. If you feel like you have certain individuals that aren’t pulling their weight, it’s probably likely that they weren’t pulling their weight under less trying times.
As a manager or small business owner, it is your responsibility to check in and tackle the challenges of remote work with your staff.
Okay, so what do I need to do to avoid these challenges?
As an employer, there are a few steps you can take.
Provide the Equipment and Infrastructure
In order to permit remote capabilities and other collaborative necessities, your employees will need a reliable means to perform their work-related duties, while at the same time maintaining the security of your infrastructure and its data.
There are a few different ways that this can be accomplished. If they use a laptop in the office, rather than a desktop, their laptop can simply be brought home (assuming it has been equipped with the necessary security features and identify verification requirements) for work to be done on it. Otherwise, secure remote access tools can be used from their approved personal workstations in order to effectively complete their tasks.
The cloud also enables many of these capabilities, as an employee could use their credentials to access data from a cloud storage solution, and use a cloud-based application to complete their tasks from their approved personal device.
Maintain and Update Processes
If you have processes that exist within the office, these processes (or some adaptation of them) should be in place as your employees are working remotely. Don’t cancel meetings because a remote worker is involved–figure out a way to tie them in and incorporate them into your proceedings as usual. If your current processes aren’t a good fit, see what needs to be done to tailor them to be.
It may also help your out-of-office employees stay engaged if you start a new process of reaching out to them directly to check in with them, whether it happens individually, as a group, or some combination of the two. This leads us to our next recommended step…
Insist on Inclusive Communication
As we have established, it is fairly common for remote workers to start to feel isolated and dissociated from their coworkers without sufficient involvement with their activities. Make sure all of your employees know about (and are using) the communication tools available to them during this time. If you have generally strict guidelines for their use, you may even consider temporarily lifting these restrictions and allowing your employees to use them for an increased amount of non-work-related communication with their cohorts. This will help to keep your team working cohesively, despite the distance.
Trust Your Employees
On the topic, don’t assume that your employees need to be babysat in order to effectively work from home. While many employers and managers may assume the opposite, most workers can perform just as well in their home as they could coming into the office itself… if not overwork to accomplish just that much more at home. Unless you have a reason to distrust a member of your staff and are working to address that, make sure that your team doesn’t have to jump through any more extra hoops than are necessary to complete their responsibilities from home. Work with them to make it happen.
What should I tell my employees to do?
When discussing all of this with your team, we recommend that you do the following:
Encourage They Form Habits
Schedules, rituals, whatever they want to call them, set patterns of behavior can help make their transition to remote work easier on them while improving their productivity as they do so. Encouraging a “new normal” for them will be best for the time being, and in trying times, some level of predictability is a welcome thing.
Socialize and Collaborate with Coworkers
As we discussed before, one of the biggest threats that remote workers face is a feeling of isolation, which can have significant influence on their personal lives and professional performance. Keeping your coworkers involved with one another’s work and digitally connected can help counter these feelings.
Insist on Being Involved
Remind your employees that, even as the boss, you are part of the team as well. Reach out to your team members on an individual basis and check in personally if that’s an option for you. Showing that you care may not help the situation much, but it is so much better than doing nothing. A little support can go a surprisingly long way.
In the meantime, CTN Solutions is always here to help support you as your remote team works to keep your business operational. For any IT assistance or collaboration recommendations, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (610) 828- 5500.