For some of us, working from home (remote/virtual) is a pretty normal part of our day. For some others, working from home is not something they are used to doing.
This goes the same for businesses. In the small business world, it is common to have a home office. All of our meetings are conducted virtually. Our files are stored in the cloud.
For larger organizations however, working from home may not be not a normal part of every day operations. I know this because I come from a corporate environment. But COVID-19 is changing the way we work in every type of business situation, and perhaps changing the way we work now is good for the future.
Of course, work from home (wfm) is not always possible, especially for businesses who serve clients physically and face-to-face. This applies to restaurants, brick and mortar stores, and wellness clinics, amongst others. But for businesses whose operations are predominantly done in the office, now is the time to re-evaluate their operational activities. Not only will it keep the business afloat, it will keep employees safe through social distancing, and it's also good for future work flexibilities for employees who need the flexibility.
So how can organizations adapt their operations so they can operate virtually?
Review your technology needs
🗸 Review what type of technology and equipment your team needs to work from home. For example, a
computer, a cell phone or land line, a web cam, a microphone, and headphones.
🗸 What equipment do they currently have that they can utilize at home?
🗸 What do you have to do (legally) to have them use their own equipment at home?
🗸 This may also mean that you have to provide company equipment to them while they work from home. Take inventory of what your team is using.
🗸 If your team is on the phones (such as a call centre), review with your phone provider how you can re-route the phone system to your employees' phones at home.
Passwords and File Sharing
Being able to access passwords securely is vital to an organization's security. Take a look at using a password management system like LastPass to share passwords among team members.
Review how you are currently sharing files. If you are not already using email / productivity suites like GSuite and Office365, now is the time to get this setup.
🗸 GSuite currently costs only $7.80 per month per user and is a professional business email setup which includes a filing system and the ability to share and edit documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more on the fly. This is one tool we regularly use in our office and recommend to all our clients (if interested, we can set this up for you - just contact us).
🗸 Dropbox has free and paid versions. It's not an email client so this is a good option for businesses who have their own emails setup already and just need a cloud management system. Dropbox has an integrated document management system as well so you can still share and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
Interacting with Your Team
Working from home doesn't mean that you have to be or feel isolated. You can still keep in touch with team members constantly and throughout the day. Slack is a great communication tool. It keeps conversations organized between projects, departments and team members. Not only that, Slack is HIPAA compliant so you don't have to worry about breaching any privacy and confidential laws.
Meetings don't have to stop. With technology like Google Hangouts (included in GSuite) and Zoom, it's really easy to have virtual meetings. Participants can share their screen when it's their turn to speak or present. These tools are useful for having regular internal meetings with your team, where you can discuss business updates and each team member can discuss their recent challenges, solutions and successes.
Amidst COVID-19, many organizations who are hosting workshops and live events are turning their events into virtual ones using Zoom and a tool like Hey Summit to organize their conference.
Project Management and Productivity Tools
Work From Home Policy
It's important to have a Work From Home policy with clear expectations and boundaries. Depending on the nature of the work, this could mean that your employees will have to work between certain core hours. For others, this could mean that employees can choose when they work as long as the work gets done and are available for communication and meetings at certain times.
It's also important to work with your team to create the policy. This helps you get buy-in from them and contributes to a more cohesive team-oriented work environment.
Abandon the Multiple Layers of Approvals
Last but not least, having worked in Corporate I know that getting anything approved can take weeks, thanks to the many layers one has to go through. This hierachy makes it hard to be nimble, especially during a time when we need to be. My recommendation is to drop the policy to have new policies and procedures approved through multiple layers. If necessary, have 1 level up for approval and that's it.
During a pandemic or disaster, we don't have time on our side. We certainly can't wait for weeks, even days, to get a new process approved. We need to be fluid and learn to make changes on the go. That decision to have an in-person event moved to an online event? Just do it. That decision to move a company-wide meeting to an online platform? Just do it. That decision for your business development team to have sales meetings over zoom? Just do it. Now is the time to let go of ego (of not having someone get your approval first). Now is not the time to be rigid. It's the time to be nimble in order for your business to survive and for the well-being of everyone involved.
As a small business, I work from home and virtually 100%. My team members are virtual. I have a team member whom I have never met in person as she lives in another province. Most of my clients (I would say 95% of them), I have never met in person. I use most of the tools mentioned above to run my business. It's possible and once you get used to the remote work structure, it becomes second nature.
COVID-19 is changing the way we work, and perhaps it's for the best. Flexibility in the workplace is becoming more important, especially for employees striving for work-life balance and those with mobility issues. It's a good time to re-evaluate how you do business for now and for the future.