The work from home (WFH) movement is now in full swing — as many companies are actively practicing social distancing. While a global pandemic influences the current situation, the most logical solution for many organizations is to have their employees work from home during high-risk periods.
However, working from home isn’t always easy. Unexpected challenges can occur when you move your company out of an office structure. Here are a few tips for implementing a remote work program within your organization that will help you maintain business continuity and productivity.
6 Tips to Help Your Company Adopt the WFH Approach
By now, you’ve seen the majority of the business world shift to working from home. What was once considered a perk for senior staff has now become the new normal.
It remains to be seen if this trend will last, but it’s still in a company’s best interests to ensure they have the right systems in place to drive as much value as possible from this sudden shift in the workplace.
So, what things should companies be aware of when considering implementing a WFH policy?
1. Working from Home Requires a Shift in Perspective
The loss of face-to-face contact between employees and their employer can leave either end feeling disconnected. Spontaneous communication that happens whenever necessary is crucial to keeping employees feeling engaged and employers feeling informed. Keeping in touch is an excellent opportunity to reinforce relationships, as well as to hold employees accountable for the work they’re producing.
Regularly checking in on employees will help underscore your availability as an employer. You should encourage workers to reach out when they have questions or concerns. The transition from a physical to a digital workplace can be intimidating and disorienting for employers as well. Asking for feedback following online meetings will not only help participants feel valued for their input, but will allow for a successful transition.
An increased emphasis on setting clear-cut goals for employees to meet, and holding them accountable to these goals is necessary to keep things flowing. This also helps avoid any confusion that’s bound to follow such a drastic move.
Keeping track of what tasks employees are completing on a day-to-day basis, and effectively communicating these daily tasks to your employees is vital to managing a remote workforce that is focused and productive.
Virtual meetings can be difficult to direct. Kicking off these meetings with a clear agenda that has been circulated to every participant can do wonders for keeping discussions on the right track. Perhaps a key takeaway of this article is that constructive communication is fundamental to a remote work program that functions to its full capacity.
2. Maintain a Secure Connection
Implementing a WFH policy isn’t as simple as telling your employees to work from home. A reliable business continuity plan requires access to the right software, a commitment from the company itself, and a culture that empowers employees to do their best work from the comfort of their homes.
You should verify that whatever unified communications as a service (UCaaS) platform you’re using is secure. Employees will want to make sure they’re connection is also secure, especially prior to accessing sensitive data. You’ll want to put the right safeguards in place to minimize potential data breaches and other cybersecurity risks. It’s a good idea to provide your team with specific directions on how to handle certain aspects of cybersecurity and perhaps provide access to some of the tools they’ll need to protect your company’s data. Here are some ideas for how to tighten your business’ security, leaving your team to safely work from their homes:
Protect remote users’ devices: It’s much safer if employees use company-issued computers. They should secure their home router, use strong passwords, set-up two-factor authentication, install IT requested updates regularly, check removable devices for infections, and lock devices so others can’t access them. Reduce infections from data-stealing malware by using security software and practicing good computer hygiene by utilizing the latest versions of all apps along with installing new security patches immediately. System administrators should activate automatic updates or use a patch management tool rather than relying on employees to update apps.
Provide remote workers with a secure connection to your company’s network: You can ensure encryption for remote workers’ Internet traffic by using technologies like virtual private network (VPN). Your team should stick with using the company-sanctioned VPN client when required and avoid using public WiFi.
Practice good communication and data hygiene: Encourage your team to always backup their data, be wary of remote desktop tools, look out for phishing emails and sites, watch for work-from-home scams, ignore questionable files or click links, check validity of email addresses, delete emails asking for personal data, and report suspicious activity to IT.
To increase your company’s chances to have a smooth transition to WFH, it’s important to communicate your online security protocols to your employees and have IT team members available to help troubleshoot and answer questions.
3. Promote a Collaborative Approach
One of the most essential aspects of a successful remote work program is that employees and employers can collaborate effectively. Whether that involves team messaging, video conferencing, or screen sharing — having the right tools for remote work is incredibly important for facilitating hassle-free group communication and is essential for maintaining productivity.
A unified communications service delivers a consistent user experience to employees no matter the location. To ensure employees can collaborate effectively, they need access to a common interface and tools for sharing information. Collaboration of dispersed work teams will suffer if they’re working on different application versions or if an operating system or browser doesn’t support it. The key benefits of the cloud-based platform is that all users are routed to a common Internet-hosted server with access across any device, screen and network connectivity environment.
UCaaS connects everyone in your company, allowing your team to communicate more efficiently and effectively from anywhere. If you’re looking for a solution to support your team’s communications, Voyant UCaaS is more than a phone system — it’s an easy to personalize solution that integrates mobility, video and collaboration tools without the cost of maintaining expensive on-site equipment and resources.
4. Encourage Routine Building
Working from home can be a fruitful environment for your staff. Instructing employees to keep regular working hours and encouraging them to stick to a schedule within their workdays is instrumental in maintaining productivity and allowing quick communication whenever necessary.
A clear remote work policy where employees understand what they’re expected to complete in a workday, when their workday is over, and when they need to be available for team meetings is critical to a high-yielding remote workforce.
Teams can track progress using a shared project management app, having regularly scheduled meetings, or by instant messaging with a desktop or mobile client included in a UCaaS solution.
5. Enforce Housekeeping Policies
Growing pains are unavoidable with such a drastic change to a WFH routine. It’s important to establish a set of rules for remote communication — and to stick to them if you want to lessen the side chatter and the temptation to veer off-topic. If respected and enforced, these simple rules will allow for a virtual experience that is as pleasant and constructive as possible under the circumstances.
Reminding everyone that interactions should be respectful may be necessary following the move online, where informality rather than formality is often the norm. And expect that watercooler conversations may be replaced by quick calls through your chosen unified communications solution.
Consider drafting basic communication policies that limit side chatter during group discussions. When communicating with each other, the goal should always be to communicate clearly and concisely as possible to minimize confusion and to fulfill the objective of the meeting. Remember, employers should get in the practice of checking in as to whether everyone had a chance to say what they had to without being missed or interrupted.
A unique challenge employers should be prepared for when implementing a work from home program is having young children and noisy animals in the workplace. Encourage workers to set effective boundaries within the home if and when this is the case. For example, encourage employees to create a “Do Not Disturb” sign to hang on the door of their workspace to prevent them from being interrupted during online meetings. Using the mute button when you’re not speaking is also helpful in avoiding an inevitable dog barking over another meeting attendee.
These simple housekeeping policies may seem minor at first, but they can make a significant impact on the quality of your meetings, productivity and more.
6. Keep Your Employees Checking in
As an employer, the imperative to maintain a workplace that emphasizes friendliness, cooperation and support does not become irrelevant with the transition to digital platforms. Checking in to share relevant, health-promoting articles (such as a guide on how to wash your hands properly), shows concern for employees’ health and helps create an online atmosphere that is far from cold and isolating.
With the loss of a physical workplace comes the loss of friendly face-to-face interactions that have taken place daily for years. Communal lunches, dropping by a coworker’s desk, or having a pleasant conversation by the watercooler are all no longer possible. While the benefits of working remotely are plentiful — a more flexible work schedule, as well as the ability to multitask — can take an unexpected toll.
It’s important to encourage workers to check in, not just with you, but with one another as well. This will ensure everyone is on the same page and that you are aware of any potential problems before they get worse.
Work from Home: Is This the New Norm?
Enabling remote work will have benefits that are bound to last beyond the outbreak of COVID-19. The tools that allow organizations to remain productive when it becomes necessary to work apart will remain equally as valuable when the need to work distantly is no longer as essential — or even required.
The current pandemic may function as the catalyst for a new norm. Online work and the tools that make it possible have been rising in popularity for years. The self-isolating measures of today’s viral pandemic may have only accelerated a trend that has been on the increase for a while now.
What is your company doing to stay productive during the latest global crisis? Do you have access to the right communications tools to ensure your business continuity? Voyant offers industry-leading UCaaS, cloud fax, and SIP trunking services that your company can use to stay connected, productive and profitable during this global pandemic.
Are you interested in learning more?