Should Your Company Work From Home During the Coronavirus Outbreak
In this new, cloudy age of quarantine, people wake up, shower, and commute to the kitchen table. Spouses and children (and pets) have become coworkers and coworkers have become penpals.
Thanks to COVID-19, companies have been forced to make decisions fast about whether to institute work-from-home policies.
Unless your line of work relies on hands-on interaction to the extent that no technological substitute could ever suffice (thank you, healthcare workers!), operating remotely right now is best for the health and happiness of your team and the people around them.
But for employers scrambling to build work-from-home structures on the fly, it is easy to grow overwhelmed. Could solo work possibly generate the same output and engagement as in-person communication does?
Remote Work Isn’t New
Even before the reign of COVID-19, an increasing number of companies were dipping their toes in the world of remote work. Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve noted that the portion of the labor force who worked from home had tripled within the past 15 years.
An October Gallup survey found that 43% of Americans will occasionally take their work home, while SmallBizGenius reported that companies which allow employees to work from home have 25% less turnover than those that don’t. Working from home contributes to employees’ overall happiness as it affords flexibility, and alleviates the stress of a long commute.
With such a large-scale global switch to remote work occurring all at once, the pressure is on for companies to adapt fast without losing customer engagement or falling behind on projects. Here are some tips for making this transition as smooth as it can be.
Assess Your Employees’ Technology Access
One of the first priorities for employers when creating work-from-home structures is to get a clear read on which employees have access to the internet, and what technologies are accessible to them at home.
If a few people have spotty WiFi, it will create huge communication gaps down the line. To prevent this frustration, issue a quick survey on employees’ internet access and at-home hardware.
Then, invest in mobile hotspots or other data plans for those whose hardware is not up-to-date. The same goes for devices—if it’s within your budget, assess whether it would be best to buy, rent, or lease the same hardware for everyone during these quarantined months.
If not, issue laptops, webcams, speakers, second monitors, and tablets for those who don’t have them.
The biggest challenge in switching to remote operations is bridging the communication gaps that occur when everyone is not in the same place, talking effortlessly. Instead, you must supplement with rich communications on other platforms.
- Instant Messengers – Platforms like G-chat and Slack are perfect for day-to-day logistical communications. If you shoot someone a question on chat, it is easy for them to respond quickly. These casual, user-friendly services make daily communications feel more conversational.
- Video Conferencing – Platforms like Zoom and Google Hangouts allow teams to communicate face-to-face both one-on-one and in groups. Video conferencing provides an avenue to get everyone on the same page and strengthens connections in the workplace community. Video conferencing platforms are allowing free credits for the ‘pro’ option which allows teams to meet for unlimited amounts of time, collaboratively brainstorm on a virtual Whiteboard, or institute polling.
Other Incredibly Helpful Tools
- Cloud Storage – Without a unified server to save to, it can be tricky to keep files accessible to everyone. Advise your team to save to the Cloud instead using apps like Dropbox and Google Drive. These platforms accommodate files of all different types—from spreadsheets to powerpoints and make it possible to see updates in real-time.
- Remote Collaboration Tools – Combat the isolation of working from home with tools specifically designed to encourage collaboration from afar. Specialized messaging tools like Slack allow teams to communicate quickly and organize conversations. Enterprise social networks like Igloo streamline companies’ communications with stakeholders, suppliers, partners, and vendors. Other unique platforms include Sococo—which simulates a virtual office and allows employees to visit each other and congregate in virtual meeting rooms—and Mural, a visual tool that allows teams to collaborate creatively.
- Project Management Tools – Another challenge of everyone working remotely on flexible schedules is managing everyone’s workflow. Project management programs like Trello, Basecamp, Asana, Airtable, and Monday help alleviate this by making it easier to break down tasks and assign them, and view the progress on different projects with a click.
- Time Tracking Apps – One of the top challenges of remote work is the tendency to get distracted in your own home. Productivity apps like Toggl, Todoist, and Focus Booster keep track of time, monitor progress, and keep people task-focused in these uncertain times.
Promote Healthy Work Habits
While working from home, fight the tendency toward feeling isolated by encouraging rich communications with your team—from morning phone calls and Zoom check-ins to virtual cocktail hours that keep your community connected.
Changing the Space
Encourage your team to set up a space in their home that feels conducive to working – it’s easy to get off track when you’re Zooming in from bed.
Advise them to set up a working zone in a corner of their living space to separate ‘working mode’ from ‘cozy home mode’ in the brain.
Keep Customer Engagement Up
With COVID-19 still not yet at its peak in the US, nobody knows exactly how long we will be working remotely. Without face-to-face interaction with customers, it is important to keep up their engagement in other ways.
Have account managers send out personalized emails and newsletters. Tune into your loyal base by initiating deals and lower costs for long-term customers. Think of specific, creative ways that you can keep connecting with your public from afar.
Working remotely does not mean cutting off connections with coworkers and community. With patience, a sense of humor, and a few tools, your operations should remain stronger than ever.
From our team here at NOW Insurance to yours, we hope your business stays healthy and strong from home. Should you have any questions regarding how this global health crisis will affect your insurance policy, talk to a NOW Insurance expert today.
- US Chamber of Commerce. Top Ten Tech Tools to Keep Your Team Connected During Coronavirus. https://www.uschamber.com/
- ZD Net. Working in a Coronavirus World: Strategies and tools for staying productive. https://www.zdnet.com/
- BBC. Coronavirus: How to Work from Home, the Right Way. https://www.bbc.com/
- Small Biz Genius. The Ultimate List of Remote Work Statistics, 2020 Edition. https://www.smallbizgenius.net/
- CNBC. People Who Work from Home Earn More than Those Who Commute – Here’s why. https://www.cnbc.com/