If logging hours in your home office isn’t already part of your regular workweek, that will likely shift, in real time, over the next few days. Employers all over the world are taking precautions to help slow the spread of COVID-19. There are many benefits to going all remote, yet making the shift quickly due to external factors adds complexity. We spoke with Cary Moretti, co-founder of Proximuto and remote work pioneer, for his recommendations on how to avoid the most common pitfalls when rapidly shifting to an all-remote workforce.
You may already have meeting tech in place, but it is crucial to make sure it works and that everyone knows how to use it. If you don’t, there are many options available—Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and GoToMeeting are just a few. Choose a tool and implement it across the organization. If you don’t, employees will begin selecting tools individually, and the situation will become difficult to manage in a hurry. Don’t assume that everyone is comfortable with the chosen tech either—a little basic training will save hours of frustration in the coming weeks.
Identify the regular in-person meetings that take place in the office and transform those right away into virtual ones. Then, make it the new standard to book meetings using a virtual system so people can join from any location. (This works no matter what your remote policy is). Don’t assume everyone knows the rules of engagement around virtual meetings; for example, those working from home may not notice background noise in their environment. Team members who don’t tend to speak up may need a gentle nudge to add their voices to online discussions. Meeting administrators and leaders should make it a practice to join a few minutes early to ensure they’re familiar with all the controls and be prepared when everyone else logs on.
Many organizations protect sensitive information by using a VPN with limited access. Make sure all employees who will need access to your VPN when working remotely are properly set up. It’s also important to stress test your VPN at full capacity, so do that as soon as possible. Finally, ensure everyone knows how to use the network. Don’t assume the training you provided way back during initial onboarding “stuck.” This is the time to give everyone a refresher on the protocols for your VPN and to ensure they have the latest client installed.
When managing a remote workforce, it becomes even more critical to ensure that employees know how to navigate shared storage. They need to be shown where everything lives and how it is protected. Many organizations maintain both network storage and a collaboration suite simultaneously. This can lead to duplicate files in cases where remote employees are not logging in and saving files appropriately. This problem will be amplified as the number of remote employees increases. Keep in mind that remote employees tend to use their phones for business far more often than they do in the office. Review the mobile features of your collaboration suite and ensure employees have the relevant apps installed on their mobile devices.
This is a great time to get better at using cloud-based tools for project management and real-time collaboration. When direct discussion is less frequent, these tools can help minimize friction and keep work moving forward.
Communication practices are critical for remote teams, so be clear on how that is going to work. If you aren’t already using Slack or a similar real-time messaging app, set one up and take the lead on creating team channels and company-wide message threads. Use messaging tools strategically for cultural and social purposes to keep everyone connected and feeling like they are part of the team.
Remote work often takes on a slightly different schedule than a typical office day. Morning people may start work earlier, as they don’t have a commute to contend with, while others may have interruptions at certain points in the day and need the flexibility to start and stop work. Agree on core hours as a team—or share individuals’ core hours—so everyone is in the loop on availability. Current closures mean your employees have increased responsibilities at home, so it’s important to be flexible.
Go digital with your version of the office water cooler. Make sure that non-business-related conversations continue to take place, and have some fun with them. It’s all too easy for employees to feel isolated when working remotely, and that can be stressful for some. Think about everyone on your team and make sure they are actively included. Don’t be afraid to make a social call on your chat app — it will be appreciated and remembered.