There likely isn’t a single business leader who could have foreseen that in 2020 a global pandemic would force large parts of their organization to work remotely for weeks on end. Across the globe, businesses are weighing difficult, unprecedented decisions while complying with recommendations that can help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in their community.
In a normal business environment, organizational change is stressful — what we are dealing with now was unimaginable just a few weeks ago and we are having to adjust and accommodate the needs of our workforce on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.
The changes brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak can feel crippling to any organization, especially one that hasn’t historically managed a remote workforce. While employees have the tools today to work remotely almost anywhere in the world, it wasn’t always an option to do so. Fortunately, a suite of technology tools and software targeted to remote workers have become widely available in the past decade. Not only can workers now physically work from home, but studies consistently show they are far more productive and efficient when they do. As we navigate a 100% remote workforce during these difficult times, here are a few tips and tricks from our team, a third of whom have always worked remotely and are spread across three states, the United Kingdom and Spain.
This one might seem obvious, but there are protocols that business leaders need to consider and put into place now that remote working is a reality for nearly all businesses nationwide. First, meet with your departments and teams to identify what tools your workforce will need while working remotely, like teleconferencing software, VPN access, extra screens, or laptops versus desktops. Set up a training session to ensure employees know how to access files and data remotely and safely, in addition to best practices for using teleconferencing or messaging software like Zoom or Google Hangouts. Finally, business leaders need to set up a plan that sets guidelines for communication, security procedures and hours of operation.
As workers access company networks from different IP addresses, IT teams should review and test existing structures to be sure there is enough bandwidth to handle increased traffic. If your business uses cloud-based applications and platforms, instruct workers to access those directly instead of through the company network in order to reduce traffic on the network. Most importantly, IT teams will need backup systems so workers can access their work in case of short outages resulting from additional web traffic.
Working remotely can be done as safely as it is in the office with proper counsel. Make sure employee devices have the most up-to-date software and security applications. Research has shown human error is one of the leading causes of data breaches: 90% of breaches occur from inside the organization. This is a core reason many businesses are reluctant to let employees work remotely, so confirming best practices with the entire organization is incredibly important. IT teams can also deploy two-factor authentication to further secure the remote working environment.
To keep employees from feeling secluded and disconnected while working in near isolation, business leaders can do a few things that keep the workplace culture alive even if everyone isn’t in the same place. Check on departments and teams regularly and ask questions to make sure they have what they need to do their jobs well. Introduce opportunities for teams to have facetime online via chat and telephone conferencing. For many workers, the abrupt change of remote work will be scary and new work patterns will have to be created. Managers need to remain calm and patient as they work through the growing pains and employees ramp up to a productive workflow.
No remote work policy is one-size-fits-all, therefore business leaders should routinely assess their policies and procedures and adapt them to the needs of the organization. If your organization typically hasn’t managed a remote workforce, these suggestions can help get everyone up-to-speed while remaining healthy and safe. The silver lining is that once this storm passes, business leaders will have implemented a new structure that allows their organizations to be nimbler and employees to work from locations other than the office should the need arise.