Moving from a full office to zero visibility is a whirlwind many businesses have faced in the past few weeks. Amidst the outbreak of coronavirus, many are unsure how to switch over to a home-based workforce. Since most people are stressed (or at the very least unsettled) in the face of a pandemic, it is vital to be supportive and understanding during the adjustment.
For a peaceful transition, careful planning and communication is of utmost importance. Thankfully, there are a multitude of tricks and tools at hand to establish a structured home policy and make the transition run smoothly for the entire staff. Here are a few strategies to jump right in and take action with a scattered workforce:
Invest In Reliable Communication Tools
The basic tools, such as computer, email, telephone conferencing, file-sharing software, and internal network access are the standard to get the ball rolling but investing in further reliable communication tools will be highly beneficial. There are a variety of different communication methods, such as Hangouts, group chats, Slack, and video calling.
Project management systems such as Wrike, Trello, and Asana will allow employees to plan, organize and collaborate to meet goals. Many of these systems offer so many seamless features that managers may find they want to continue using these tools when everything gets back to normal.
Maintain Information Security
Establishing a secure Wi-Fi network can be a challenge with remote workers. As such, it is vital to develop a set cyber security campaign and implement the protocol through a user awareness program so that employees gain a clear understanding of best practices. Requiring employees to log into a trusted virtual private network (VPN) creates a buffer that encrypts data between Wi-Fi and all devices.
If there is a concern about tampering, educate employees on the dangers of using public Wi-Fi systems, which are notoriously insecure and open to hackers who may access sensitive company data. To eliminate threats, switch to cloud-based storage, automate updates for security programs, and ensure that email programs and devices are encrypted.
Set Ground Rules
During the transition to a remote team, the norms and boundaries should be set from the start. The most basic guidelines should cover when employees are working and the preferred methods with which they can be reached. If clear boundaries are not defined, employees may get frustrated with never ending workdays where there is no clear work-life balance. Leaders should focus expectations on goals and accomplishments rather than obsessing over activity and hours spent on a project.
A crucial element in the evolution to a remote workforce is learning to trust employees when they are working on their own. Build this by consistently remaining open and authentic to establish digital trust and not obsess if people are slacking off. By remaining diplomatic and sympathetic during this unique period, employees will continue to be hardworking contributing team members despite the obstacles.
Create A Discussion Forum
Because of COVID-19, many employees will be working from home for the first time; some of them may begin to feel isolated and lonely. Keep the connection alive and boost morale by creating an online discussion forum where “chat” is encouraged. Creating an online forum will help maintain camaraderie and keep the company culture afloat.
Encourage both professional and friendly communication, like sharing the view from a home office or introducing pets to coworkers through shared pictures. Using emojis and gifs in a forum helps keep things light and fun. Allow employees to let loose and be a little creative in this space; encourage them to find common interests that keep them communicating.
Schedule Face-To-Face Time
In an unprecedented time of isolation, committing to face-to-face communication is important. Have employees communicate through video conferencing as much as possible to keep connections strong. Information can be covered in detail much more effectively by responding immediately to any queries.
Furthermore, nonverbal context and tone are not lost in face-to-face conversation, as often happens in email and texting. This prevents misunderstandings and miscommunications from spiraling out of control. Schedule face-to-face time regularly to maintain rapport and enable effective coordination.
Accountability can be a struggle when working remotely, so daily updates help employees stay on target. If commitments are stated publicly, workers are more likely to stick to their promise, so request that team members submit a daily task list.
Daily updates should be shared at the same time each morning for consistency. The list should include what was accomplished the previous workday and what the plan is for that day. Be careful not to fall into the trap of micromanaging these lists, which can be demoralizing for employees.
By enacting these simple guidelines for managing your staff, you can bolster morale and keep productivity strong throughout an otherwise trying time.
Zain Jaffer is an entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Zain Ventures, a global investment firm. More info at https://zain-ventures.com/