The outbreak of COVID-19 and the calls by local, state and federal officials for people to practice social distancing and even shut down businesses has created the need for employers nationwide to begin creating remote working plans to ensure business continuity.
There are several guidelines and practices companies can put in place to ensure their employees are able to continue to work efficiently, effectively and productively while working from home.
When proper remote work programs are instituted in a timely manner, it is possible for companies to continue to meet the needs of their customers and employees while remaining productive and profitable in uncertain times.
Fastech Solutions has created this list of helpful tips and guidelines to keep your business moving forward during a crisis.
Utilize Proper Communications And Collaboration Tools
The primary challenge workers and companies face when adopting remote working strategies tends to be the need to be able to maintain both effective communications and collaboration.
Providing employees with the right hardware and software tools is crucial for employers to create a remote working environment that’s efficient, effective and productive.
Rapid technology evolution and changing workplace dynamics have introduced cloud-based services companies can use for meetings and team collaboration among employees who work remotely. Making them available for workers is essential.
Stay Connected With Video Collaboration
High-speed internet connectivity and other technological advancements that have improved the portability, functionality and availability of the hardware makes rich video-first interactions among remote workers as fast and easy as audio conversations.
The ability to use video collaboration to enhance and support teamwork among employees working remotely is an essential tool employers can use to keep remote workers aware of and focused on the progress and necessary elements of company wide activities, goals and projects.
Employers can use this to keep all their employees on the same page from wherever they are.
Create A Positive Remote Work Culture
Research has shown 86% of workers tend to display more engagement and productivity when they work remotely. The concern is they may have poor team spirit.
Creating a remote work culture where workers feel trusted, connected, and empowered often leads to improved performance. It can be combined with a system for tracking, evaluating and rewarding good performance and collaborative efforts.
This encourages employees to use their talents more effectively, communicate and collaborate with their co-workers and look for ways to increase their productivity. This type of remote work culture can make employees take pride in motivating themselves and each other by communicating online.
Ask For Employee Input, Opinions and Feedback
One key for businesses to successfully transition to remote working practices is to ask for input, opinions and feedback from employees. The IT department can share information on issues related to the security of communications and sensitive information.
Employees can also talk about what type of technology they need to work from home. When the needs, opinions and feedback of the employees and the work they do form the core of the plans for the remote working process, it is easier to make accurate decisions on what hardware, software, communication and collaboration technologies are required to sustain the business and yield higher productivity.
Online Collaboration Banishes Loneliness
Almost 90% of employees prefer working alone and are more productive and efficient away from the distractions of their offices. But they can become lonely and isolated if they do not regularly connect with the other members of their staff.
Fortunately, more than half of remote workers feel connected to their co-workers if they are able to collaborate on projects online, attend video meetings or communicate or interact with them using technology and digital media.
Instant messaging also helps to make remote workers feel connected to and build camaraderie with other employees. Employers can facilitate and encourage this type of fluid, warm, meaningful digital interaction.
Maintain The Human Connection
There are a wealth of tools and technologies remote workers can use to maintain the human connection and build warm, fun, enjoyable, personal relationships with their co-workers. In lieu of in-person meetings and getting together for work related workshops, it’s equally as important to share recreational activities that create a feeling of inclusion.
This can help to create the positive work/life balance work at home employees need. Developing those types of personal, rewarding, relationships can inspire, comfort and encourage remote workers and enhance their quality of life. This can make them happier, better and more productive in their work life.
Enhanced Corporate Information Resources
Companies working to set up good work at home capabilities for their staff can benefit from enhancing their central knowledge bases and other resources so the staff can have access to all the information and materials they need to perform their jobs efficiently and effectively.
That should include company information, organizational charts, educational resources, company alerts, answers to frequently asked questions, continuing educational courses, advanced training and a wide range of other online resources. That type of data and resources can make it much easier for remote workers to be able to quickly and accurately do their jobs each day.
Equip Your Staff The Necessary Technology
In addition to software-based communications and collaboration tools, businesses and organizations need to provide their home-based remote workers with adequate endpoints. They include speakers, cameras, PC USB UCC headsets, IP desktop phones and other types of audio/visual communications hardware endpoints.
These tools can enhance the communication and collaboration experience of employees working from home.
This can help to ensure the employees’ home offices have technological capabilities on par with the company’s regular offices and provides the support that the home-based employees need to have a productive off-site work experience.
Effective Data And Communication Security
One of the concerns that gives companies pause when they are setting up remote working programs is issues surrounding data and communication privacy and security.
Fortunately, substantial progress in the development of advanced data security solutions over the past few years have made providing safe and secure lines of communication and for transmitting sensitive private data easy and affordable to install so everyone can have access to the collateral they need to complete their mission.
Companies now have access to next-generation encryption, multifactor authentication, secure firewalls and network address translation transversal, along with effective IP VPN options that can be quickly put in place to provide secure remote working communication channels and detect suspicious activity.
Implement Compliance And Management Best Practices
Putting clear, concrete, effective, compliance and management best practices in place is another important key to creating a productive, successful, remote working program. This helps to establish clear work rules and expectations governing remote work.
When employers communicate detailed work objectives, indicate hours for remote employees to be available and connected to the company’s network and create effective, easy to use systems for keeping accurate, accessible, project tracking records, it is easier for remote workers to be as connected, effective and productive as possible.
Creating clear systems, processes, and goals is essential to remote working success.
A Remote Work Policy Agreement
For a remote work program to be effective it requires a coordinated, collective, effort from stakeholders at all levels of the organization. Creating a remote work policy agreement where everyone is aware of, understands and buys into the company’s goals and plans, has the tools and technology they need and feel like valued members of the organization, provides greater flexibility and effectiveness in designing and installing a successful remote work program.
The agreement ensures employees understand the rules, rights, responsibilities, challenges, expectations, benefits and advantages of working remotely, support and are willing to adhere to the program.
Develop Organizational Strategies For Improving Performance
One way to improve the chances a remote work program will be successful is to develop and implement organizational strategies that help to improve employee skill levels, performance, compensation, and overall well-being. There several simple things companies can do to motivate, educate and train remote workers and improve their skills, performance, enjoyment of the work and results.
- Having one-on-one meetings with managers
- Learning and development activities for employees
- Planned opportunities for collaborating and socializing
- Virtual brainstorming and planning sessions
Facilitating impromptu conversations, team-building activities, virtual team gatherings, group video calls for non-work face-to-face connections and conversations and fun virtual coffee breaks, lunch breaks and Happy Hour to bring employees closer to each other also helps.
Perks, Compensation And Reimbursement
Another way companies can better facilitate and get employees excited about and willing to embrace remote work programs is to provide them with perks like additional compensation, equipment stipends and reimbursement for the additional electrical energy they have to use to power their equipment to do company-related work from their homes.
Some companies poll employees to find out what benefits are important to them and which ones they would prefer. Those perks and benefits can include providing remote workers with desks, business machines and equipment, computer monitors, upgraded phones and communication equipment and other necessary technology they might require.
It’s important to listen to your employees and help them overcome any challenges they may face. Remember, this is all new to them as well.
Delineate Overtime Compensation Rights And Protections
Remote workers have the same legal rights and protections they would were they working at the office of their employer. To make sure the company is in legal compliance with all applicable worker compensation laws, rules and regulations, an effective process for reporting the number of hours all hourly paid workers complete remotely must be set up and followed.
If remote employees work more than 40 hours a week, they may be entitled to overtime pay. Of course you’ll want to consult with an HR or legal professional in your jurisdictions.
Providing clear guidelines for getting permission for and approval to work overtime and how many overtime hours remote employees can work is essential. This can help to avoid unnecessarily high overtime costs and ensure remote workers are properly compensated for all the hours they work.
Help Establishing A Daily Time Management Routine
Employers can assist remote workers to develop disciplined time management skills by showing them how creating daily rituals that establish a predictable and productive rhythm for working each day can help. Remote workers often need to prepare themselves psychologically to get accustomed to scheduling and following a specific start and end time for their remote work day.
Consistently showering, getting dressed and reporting to a work area they designate in their home at the same time each day can help create and maintain a productive daily work rhythm. Scheduling a regular time to communicate and collaborating with co-workers can enhance productivity, keep remote employees connected to their co-workers and prevent them from feeling isolated.
Provide Regular, Adequate, Effective, Supervision
Managers can check in on their staff on a regular basis to ensure their remote work systems are set up properly, the remote worker can communicate and collaborate with co-workers and they have established a productive, sustainable, daily work rhythm.
If managers focus on how they can help the transition to remote work flow smoothly for the people they supervise, make sure the workers have the data, technology and support they need and initiate and facilitate timely individual and group check-ins via phone calls, video chats and social media, they can give employees the resources and confidence they need to empower them to make working remotely yet cooperatively a success.
Keep Remote Workers Informed And In The Loop
For employees new to working from home, not being able to have unplanned conversations with peers and supervisory staff at the water cooler or over a cup of cappuccino can have a negative effect on them psychologically.
To help them to remain focused, committed, happy and delivering peak performance, employers can organize, schedule and facilitate regular virtual conversations with colleagues and managers for individuals and groups.
This helps remote workers feel confident they are informed and in the loop about what is going on at an organizational level and with co-workers, clients, revenue goals and other common objectives. Giving everyone a chance to be seen and heard in virtual group meetings also helps.
Remote Working Now And In The Future
Although the pandemic has forced companies to have their employees quickly embrace working remotely, it can benefit both the workers and the companies in the future. Telecommuting has been growing steadily over the years and is now more that ever likely to a standard in the workplace of the future.
By getting prepared now, workers are broadening their repertoires and expanding their skillsets. Companies have the opportunity to experiment with a remote workforce and see the actions they will need to take to remain productive and profitable. There’s no better time than now to get your company set up for a remote operation. Contact Fastech Solutions today for a free remote workplace assessment and we’ll work with you to get everything in place so your business can operate from anywhere.