Preparing Your Workforce to Work From Home Due to COVID-19
As more states have ordered people to stay home and advise for physical distancing in response to COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) pandemic, what are the next steps for small to mid-sized businesses? Whether your organization has just started the process of working remotely or you are already a few weeks into it, we have gathered some good tips for how to navigate managing employees outside of the office.
Beginning the Process:
What is Your Business Continuity Plan?
Your business continuity plan is your organization’s strategy for preventing and quickly recovering from any potential threats to your company, like the current COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s also the blueprint for how you intend to continue operations. If you don’t have one, you can follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
What Do You Need to Know to Deploy Your Work From Home Plan?
This all depends on your business continuity plan and the individuals and leaders that you’ve identified to help you carry this plan. Have you identified these individuals? If not, the first step is to identify these people and ensure they each have clearly assigned roles – provide this list to the key participants. Next, assess your technological capabilities and that of your staff.
Ask yourself the following questions. Do you have enough laptops, or would you allow your employees to use their own personal devices? Do they all have internet at home? Does your organization have an IT team that would be able to help with any problems that arise? What are your security and safety protocols? Would you keep your offices open for those that cannot work from home? Which staff can work from home? Which staff need to come to the office? How do you protect information securely?
Should You Have a Work From Home Policy? What Should It Look Like?
Under circumstances like this, where you need to act fast and the information is frequently changing, your work from home policy should both reflect that and be as similar to your regular policy as it can. At this point, your main priority is to keep business operations running as normally as possible. Whatever that is, make sure you clearly communicate these plans with your staff.
Executing Your Plan:
Your coronavirus planning has 3 parts – each of them are critical to your ultimate success.
Information about COVID-19 keeps changing by the minute. In order to make smart and informed decisions, keep yourself and your workforce informed. We recommend getting your information from reputable sources, such as the CDC’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) page, where you can learn about the disease and how to protect your employees.
It may sound cliché, but communication is the key to successfully transitioning your workforce to working from home. Inform them about your decision, and clearly communicate your expectations. Additionally, provide the resources you have available. You may need to do this through a variety of channels, including over the internet, via email, and with phone calls or texts. The goal is to make sure that everyone feels connected, even if they are working from home.
Prepare and Execute Your Plan
There are many ways you can go about it, but here are a few suggestions for your business to operate remotely.
- Take Inventory
What does your work from home staff need? Take inventory of equipment, such as laptops, monitors, keyboards, headsets, printers, phones, office supplies, and other office materials. If employees take company property home, it is a good idea to have them sign a release form to keep track of what needs to be returned once employees are back in the office. Monitor this inventory carefully.
How about materials for those that are staying at the office? Keep plenty of hand sanitizer and soap stocked in order to follow proper hand hygiene standards, and provide disinfectants to keep frequently touched surfaces clean.
- Prepare Your Employees
If you have time, do a test run. Send employees home for a day, and see what they need. Does their technology work? Do they have all of their documents stored electronically or need access to any files from the office? Whatever it is, make sure you continue to communicate with employees who may need support.
If you do have employees that must come to the office, think about special procedures, such as reduced or staggered hours, so there are not that many people present at one time and so they can safely practice the recommended physical distancing. Make sure you contract for periodic deep cleaning of the office.
Managing Your Workforce:
So, with many or all of your staff working from home, how do you manage them? Whether your organization has only 3 people or more than 200, managing a work from home staff can be quite a challenge. To make remote work time productive and successful, you can take the following steps:
- Choose a Method of Communication
Besides email, you want your department and teams to keep engaged and productive. This could be Teams through Office 365, Skype, Zoom, Slack, GoToMeeting, or something similar.
- Give Them Room to Breathe
If you don’t micromanage your employees on the regular, you shouldn’t start now that they are working from home. You know your team, you hired them to get their work done – if something isn’t working, then address it. Just because you’re not able to see your staff, it doesn’t mean that you should stop trusting them.
- Provide “Face to Face” Meeting Opportunities
Just like the method of communication, make sure you set up the right tools to not only keep the whole team connected but also focus on the individual as well. This will help you keep your team engaged, foster personal and professional connections, and facilitate brainstorming and collaboration, just like when you were all at the office.
- Build Relationships and Strengthen Your Team
Many workers are not used to working remotely, and some may not like it, especially now that they need to due to the pandemic. Consider establishing 1:1 meetings with your team members and check in with them. Have virtual team lunches and after-work happy hours. Just because you’re virtual doesn’t mean that you can’t have team bonding activities.
- Be Responsive and Available
You may have an open-door policy at work. Just because your team is working from home doesn’t mean that you are no longer there to help them. Make sure to let your staff know that you still value communication, and ensure that you will be there in case they need help.
- Respect Business Hours
Yes, it can be easy to look at your phone and answer that email after hours, especially now that you are working from home. We understand that the lines can get a bit blurred; however, make sure your staff know that business hours still apply, even when they are working home. This way, they can easily unplug from work and fully pay attention to whatever is happening at home and in their personal lives.
- Acknowledge Accomplishments
This is a great way to boost spirits, especially in the current situation that our world is in. Give praise where praise is earned. Not only will it improve your employees’ morale, but it will also let them know that their work is appreciated and help your team achieve its overall goals.
Now that you have what you need to plan and manage your work from home workforce, we encourage you to keep your employees informed and engaged.