Did you have a work-from-home strategy in mid-February? It’s certainly possible that you did, as remote working has been growing in popularity for some years now, but it’s just as likely — if not more so — that you viewed remote working as a vague possibility. Something to take seriously one day, but also something you could safely leave on the backburner.
Regardless, the events of March surely upended your operation, turning working from home from an interesting notion to an international requirement. In the blink of an eye, every company that could operate remotely had to make that change, and any company that couldn’t had to qualify as an essential business or shut down altogether (whether temporarily or permanently).
As I write this, we’re entering the middle of April with no end in sight. It’s possible — perhaps even probable — that businesses will need to continue operating remotely for many months to come. This means that working from home isn’t something you can view as a temporary blip: instead, you have to treat it like the new state of normalcy.
To keep productivity high in the midst of this, then, you must be ready and willing to refine your remote working strategy. Here are some key tips for managing it:
Frequently review your processes
Moving to a remote working setup doesn’t necessarily make things more complicated for the average business (modern offices already run largely through computer software, so it isn’t a massive shift), but it does require that some key processes be adjusted or replaced entirely to accommodate the lack of in-person communication.
Take regular meetings, for instance. When you can’t gather everyone together, how should you handle them? You could use Hangouts, invest in Zoom, or look for alternatives: the choice is yours, but it needs to best fit how you work. And even once you’ve chosen, you should wait until you’ve reviewed it fully to determine whether you want to stick with it or try something else: if the onboarding process is mediocre, for instance, it won’t be a good sign.
Another key concern is security. Since it’s important for a business to use a proxy server (if you’re unfamiliar, here’s how it works), you need a suitable security service, but there are so many options out there that you need to pick carefully. What if you select something that works well in principle but confuses your employees? If so, it might end up being better to swap it for something that doesn’t have as many features but avoids a lot of IT-related headaches.
Speak to your employees individually
Everyone works differently, but having various people working together in an office environment hides some of those differences. When they’re working from home and can fully relax about how they approach their work, you’ll see some major differences — some good, and some bad.
Some workers might be considerably more productive when working remotely, for instance, no longer being distracted by general office chatter. Others might struggle to get things done without direct oversight. Some might be happy to work in isolation, while others might miss the camaraderie of the office and struggle to be positive and enthusiastic.
To optimize your work-from-home strategy, you need to understand your employees’ individual needs and preferences. Figure out what arrangement will maximize productivity and morale for each employee and let them work that way. What matters more in the end: having everyone work in the way you feel is best, or having everyone produce the best results? If you require a night owl to start work at 7am, you won’t make the most of their talents.
Encourage constructive criticism
I already noted that you should care more about what gets done than how it gets done, but you shouldn’t stop at running A/B tests based on conversations you instigate until you get optimal results. You should also encourage everyone — and this goes for clients as well as employees — to give you their honest feedback whenever they think it might be useful, and ensure that you’re capable of handling it appropriately (try these tips from Impraise).
Employees will usually answer questions readily enough, but being proactive in making suggestions can induce a lot of anxiety. It’s even worse now that the employment world is going through such troubles: it isn’t unheard of for someone to be fired for questioning their employer, and no one wants to lose their job during a pandemic.
Due to this, you need to make a concerted effort to assure all your employees that you’re not going to fire anyone for providing constructive criticism. You should also explain to all your clients that you’re adapting to the new paradigm (like everyone else) and might make some mistakes along the way, so their feedback is appreciated. With employees and clients alike letting you know when you’re going in the wrong direction, you can course-correct with ease.
You aren’t going to achieve a well-optimized work-from-home strategy in a matter of weeks, so don’t have that kind of expectation. Instead, seek to refine it gradually using these tips. In the event that this situation drags on as it seems likely to, you should find it easier and easier to work effectively as the months go by.
By Rodney Laws, Editor at EcommercePlatforms.io