Transitioning your workforce to remote needn’t be a hassle
Many business owners were faced with a difficult and novel situation when the COVID-19 pandemic started. There were brand new considerations to get used to, such as keeping employees virus-free, creating different health standards and best practices, and ensuring customers could practice social distancing. On top of that, businesses had to follow and adhere to city and state mandates for closures and alternative ways to operate.
One of the biggest changes that resulted from COVID-19 was creating virtual workplaces and work-from-home options for teams. Although many employees have been advocating for greater flexibility in working from home pre-COVID, not all companies have warmed to the prospect. Now, however, with non-essential businesses ordered to temporarily shut their doors and operate virtually, the case for remote work grows stronger.
My Facebook advertising agency – AdvertiseMint, is among the companies that had to unexpectedly transition to a virtual office. I’m sharing the steps I took to ensure the company could run efficiently while team members began working from home.
1. Conduct “in-person” meetings the modern way
Phone calls will suffice for some business conversations, but when you need to go in-depth with the team or get a lot of people involved in the conversation, you’ll need a more real-life way to communicate. Virtual meetings can take place in a variety of places and meet different budgets. For example, online Facebook and Google meetings are free options, while Zoom is a more advanced paid option.
My advice is to hold quick, daily meetings with your team. During those meetings, discuss yesterday’s actions and today’s goals. Creating this standard will keep the team on track and informed about what’s happening in the company, even if they have to step away for a few hours or the rest of the day. It also keeps you updated on each individual’s progress and any roadblocks you can help solve.
2. Don’t assume everyone has a ready-to-go home office
Make sure each member of your team has what they need to do their job well and efficiently, like a fast computer, reliable internet, a phone that gets service (which means a landline may be necessary) and must-have office supplies. When you supply equipment to your employees, you’ll have to keep track of who has what. That way, if a computer breaks or is lost or stolen, you’ll know if it’s still under warranty.
Apple computers, for example, offer three years of AppleCare, which lets anyone on your team get tech support in an Apple Store. Consider getting refurbished Apple laptops, which can cost 10% to 15% less than brand new ones and still come with AppleCare protection.
3. Keep an eye on what employees are doing
When your employees aren’t working in your office, it’s difficult to know how much time they’re actually spending on work. Tracking hours means ensuring employees are paid for the time they put in, and it also can show that work is being accomplished just as efficiently as when the office was open.
There are a lot of time-tracking tools to explore, with Toggl being a top choice. There are both automated and manual tracking modes for employees and management can watch how an individual or team is progressing on a project. You can then get detailed time reports, audit them for accuracy, and manually update them in case info is missing.
4. Communicate without cluttering your inbox
Email is still ideal for different types of communication, but when it comes to frequent conversations with dispersed team members, there are far better tools to rely on. Slack is an excellent way to keep discussions flowing and organized without having to check your email every few minutes.
With Slack, you can speak with individuals or groups of people privately; open up the conversation to an entire team; and create different channels for all sorts of purposes. Within a conversation, you can start a sub-conversation thread to continue discussing a point without clogging the main window. You can also share everything from emojis and GIFs to screenshots, files and links.
5. Streamline project management
When you can’t physically get together with coworkers to plan projects and discuss progress, you need a new, virtual way to keep work flowing. Project management tools like Asana, Monday and Trello have clever features and integration opportunities so that everything for a project can be gathered, viewed and updated in one place.
Often, these tools operate like kanban boards, meaning you can create different columns to reflect how a task or project is progressing. When it’s finished with one stage, it can be moved to the next. Common features include assigning team members to certain projects, setting deadlines and sub-deadlines, commenting on projects with updates and attaching related documents.
6. Find a way to provide office-like niceties
If you always keep your office’s fridge stocked with drinks and snacks, or you always have gourmet coffee at the ready, try to keep that practice going even as your employees work remotely. For example, you can regularly send out Amazon gift cards so that your team members can order their favorite provisions to help them get through the workday. Or, if you have a small team or a big budget, you can order each person a monthly coffee or snack box that’ll be delivered to their door.
7. Get everyone together to raise their spirits
Team-building activities help employees stay connected, familiar with one another and excited about their job. Plus, when so many people are socially distancing and quarantining, connecting with others is a way to keep spirits high.
Virtual team-building activities can be more fun-focused than work-centric. For example, you can have trivia sessions each week or hold a video happy hour on Friday afternoons.
We like to play a game with new employees where each current employee gets to ask the new employee one question. The team learns more about each other and uncovers similarities that lead to other conversations and deeper connections.
When you’ve never had remote employees, transitioning to an entirely remote team – and getting each person set up to effectively work from home – can feel like an enormous task. When you start with the basics, though, it’s a lot easier to adapt as needed and create a remote work setup that caters to your company’s and team’s needs.