Maintaining “Business as Usual” While Working From Home
Is your business feeling a bit disjointed with different departments suddenly being out of sync due to lack of contact? Some businesses may have been better prepared than others to have different agents operating independently, but everyone could benefit from taking a look at the bigger picture on some of the basic principles of what will help maintain business continuity. Here are some tips to help regain a sense of normalcy during a work from home crisis.
1. Stay Connected (Laptops)
Get your staff set up with a laptop that they can use to connect remotely. You’ll need to grant them access to their operating screen that is set up in the office since that is what they are used to using. They’ll need access to the software and files that are stored on their work computer. If providing laptops for team members is simply not an option due to budget constraints (especially during times of financial crisis), then make arrangements to bring their actual office computers home and provide them with the login credentials that will allow them to connect to office networks.
2. Impart Trust
Giving employees the freedom to work from home might require a giant leap of faith to trust that they will be working in an unsupervised environment, but in extreme circumstances where working from the office is simply not an option, what other choice do you have? It’s important that employers and supervisors communicate the importance of each individual job function and its vital role to the company’s overall success so they will understand the level of responsibility that they are being given by extending the offer to continue working outside of the office. Understanding that the responsibility of working from home is not to be treated as a vacation or as an opportunity [or excuse] to welcome distractions and get little work done will help to remain focused. In the end, employees who feel empowered and feel they have earned the respect and trust of the company will give more and go the extra mile. That empowerment will only strengthen the relationship between employee and company, and it will show in their quality of work and the way they treat customers with a positive attitude.
3. Communicaton is key
Communication with peers, management, and subordinates is not only important for everyone to understand the importance of their role as they work from home, but it is also important for basic work function to commence. Everyone needs to not only have their own basic network connections, but they need to be able to communicate with one another in real time to perform their normal duties. Remote access to email is critical, but you may need to take it one step further and get everyone set up with Skype or other virtual meeting software options to have video teleconferencing available for meetings or instances where detailed verbal communication needs to take place where email just won’t cut it. And remember, not everyone knows what you’re up to while you’re away – you are obviously very aware of what you’ve been doing, but don’t expect that everyone else will be informed. Remember to send regular updates to all parties who would typically rely on your progress reports.
4. Be Flexible
Before sending everyone to work from home, understand that certain individuals may have different personal responsibilities at home and may require different accommodations. Schedules may be affected in some cases as parents are dealing with children being home from school as well. Or maybe they care for elderly relatives at home. Any number of social factors at home could shake up their daily routine. Keeping your business flexible will help ensure that everyone is still able to continue doing their part as best they can, when they can. While not every business has the ability to keep their entire staff employed during shutdowns as their presence in the office or place of business is critical to their job performance, but keeping an open mind on how to keep employees productive in nonessential roles might develop new opportunities or uncover hidden talents in employees that will take them in different directions in the company when things return to normal and everyone returns to the office. Think bigger than the basic day-to-day – maybe there are some areas of the business that need attention that have been put off for some time, and when business is slow, that is the best time to tackle those projects.
5. Learn from Mistakes
Let’s face it, nobody is ever fully ready for a crisis when it actually happens. Certainly not a pandemic like COVID-19. You might go over your emergency preparedness plan in advance and have measures in place to react to certain what-if’s, but when businesses close and workers are sent to work from home, a whole new set of challenges will inevitably present themselves that nobody could have foreseen. And that’s okay. The companies that will come out ahead will be the ones that are able to take a challenge head on and embrace change. Nobody is going to get it right on the first try, but working together, communicating, and learning to adapt will help every great business succeed. Every experience, for better or for worse, can be seen as a positive learning experience to grow and expand.