Going Remote in the Face of COVID-19
Remote work has become a norm for modern organizations; many businesses already take advantage of available technology to promote creativity and innovation outside a traditional office. In 2020, the ability for employees to work remotely has taken on a whole new level of importance. COVID-19 had caused many state and local governments to restrict gatherings and encourage employers to protect their employees and the community through office closure and the use of remote work. This precaution is meant to slow the spread of the disease and protect the most vulnerable in society. With organizations facing profit loss and decreased productivity in the office, it is also be a way to ensure your organization continues to be successful.
Under normal circumstances, providing opportunities for remote work allows flexibility and the freedom that many individuals enjoy to be more productive. In the face of a global pandemic, it allows organizations to remain open while reducing overhead costs, continuing productivity, and ensuring employee satisfaction and safety. That said, moving an entire office to remote work, particularly if it has not been done before, is not without its challenges. Here are some key strategies for preparing for, managing, and ensuring the success of remote workers.
Whether you have one or one-hundred remote employees, communication is the key to setting them up for success and ensuring they feel they are contributing to the larger goals of their department and the organization. Before going remote, set up clear, concise policy and procedure around expectations for employees, communication, and what access employees will have to technology and organizational information. Communicate these new (or renewed) policies to employees to ensure that every employee understands expectations and is comfortable going remote. Communication is not only important in setting expectations, but in the current circumstance can ease some of the discomfort and stress caused by COVID-19 and the changes surrounding potential quarantine.
After going remote, maintain consistent communication with your team. This will allow you to keep morale up and ensure all employees continue to connect their individual goals to those of their department and the overall goals of the organization. Utilizing video conferencing to check in with employees can provide more room for personal connections and building trust. Make sure your employees have as much access as possible from home. From employee laptops and remote servers to use of things like Skype, Slack, Zoom, etc., connection to resources and each other can keep your remote workforce feeling connected and productive.
Communication is not the only thing that changes when a workforce goes remote. Managing a remote workforce presents a whole new world of challenges, benefits, and strategies. Especially if you are new to managing remote workers, it can be tempting to look over their shoulders, asking for hours reports and regular proof of productivity. Asking for too many steps of verification can cause employees to feel they are not trusted or valued. One way to combat this is through keeping up consistent, intentional communication and evaluating employees on the finished product rather than having them report each step.
It is important to remember that flexibility is essential with remote work. Studies show that remote work can provide a foundation for creativity and innovation because it allows employees to change their workspace – and their hours. Employees can cater their hours to when they work best, and for parents, especially when childcare is unavailable, it can allow them the flexibility to work around their child’s schedule. It may be tempting to maintain the 9-5 but, in this situation, being flexible and allowing the workday to be more individualized than a traditional office will empower your employees and ensure the productivity of your organization.
Finally, trust your team. You have hired employees because of their talent, skill, and work ethic. Trust this and focus your efforts on empowering them to do the job that you hired them for. Ensure they have the tools they need and then look to the future. While the COVID-19 situation can be scary, it can also be an opportunity. If remote work is new to your organization, consider how it can be maintained in the future. Either as a perk or a means of expanding your workforce, it can enable your organization to increase employee satisfaction and productivity when things return to normal.