The coronavirus pandemic has abruptly altered the world in innumerable ways and the day-to-day running of a small or medium sized business is no exception. With lockdown measures and social distancing firmly in place, companies across the world are having to adjust to their entire office suddenly going digital.
Going from the everyday buzz and hubbub of running an office to working from home and communicating by message and video call might feel like a significant upset to small business owners, but it’s a change that should be embraced, rather than endured.
Indeed, according to recently updated figures from Global Workplace Analytics, remote working has grown by 173 per cent since 2005, that’s 11 per cent faster than the rest of the workforce. Coronavirus may have swiftly accelerated the remote work revolution, but the current situation isn’t merely a blip, it’s a preview of what the world of work is increasingly going to be like. Lockdown or no lockdown.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you fully tap into the power of the work-from-home world, so that you and your team can adjust to the new normal and prepare to thrive in the not-so-distant future.
Proper equipment and good lines of communication
First thing’s first, you’ll need to ensure that you and your team have the right equipment to ensure that working remotely doesn’t impact your company’s proper functioning.
Everyone will need a good quality laptop or desktop computer, with the full suite of programs you use already set up, a strong internet connection and the right tools to communicate clearly, quickly and regularly via video and audio.
From working in one office, you’ll probably all be familiar with one phone, conferencing or messaging platform, but it’s paramount to ensure that this system seamlessly transitions into remote working. Make sure everyone has the relevant systems installed on their computers, or set up as apps on their phone.
If you or any of your team are lacking any of the above, then this will need to be sorted as soon as possible. Or you will quickly find that those without the right resources are falling behind or out of the loop
Keep regular contact
Working at home will be a new experience for many and some of your team may find it a strange and difficult thing to adjust to. It’s easy to feel cut off and isolated and one of the most common complaints that people have about remote working is that they find their motivation and concentration lagging.
For reasons such as this, it is vital to keep in regular contact with your team by phone and, as often as possible, by video call. This will not only ensure better communication, as discussions will be much more effective “face-to-face” than by phone or message, it will also help you and your staff feel more connected.
Keeping connected in a regular, meaningful way will also be helpful in ensuring everyone is properly motivated and applied to their work. It is vital to make time for as much communication as possible. Think regular team conference meetings, daily one-on-ones.
The more you’re talking to one another, the less you’ll miss the office environment and begin to take advantage of the benefits remote work can offer.
Make time for “natural” conversation
As previously mentioned, working from home can be an isolating experience. This is especially true for those who may live alone and even more so in the current climate, with public spaces like cafes
and co-working environments closed due to coronavirus.
As your team’s manager, then, it is important that you make the time to check in with your staff to ensure they are coping okay, to enquire about their state of mind and to see if there’s anything you can do to make remote working easier on them.
Make sure that this is a part of your regular video one-on-ones with your team members to ensure everyone feels supported and connected. It doesn’t have to be deadly serious, merely making time for some conversation that doesn’t concern work.
Even something as simple as using gifs and emoticons in messages, rather than just sending bulletin-like instructions, has been shown to be effective in improving communication between people working remotely from one another.
Preparation for the future, not a temporary fix
As we said at the start, remote working is not just an emergency response to an exceptional circumstance, for many people it will be the future of their working lives. According to research by online marketplace Fiverr, 29 per cent of UK SMEs say that they plan to increase flexible working options post-coronavirus.
One thing that will make the sudden move to remote work more successful is recognising that it is not just a temporary fix, but something to be seriously invested in and incorporated into your future business plans.