Successfully Transition Your Business to 100% Remote Work in 5 Steps
March 31, 2020
There’s no question we’re facing unprecedented challenges in our attempts to practice social distancing so we can protect ourselves and others from health risks, and as employees and business owners transition to 100% remote work – a stark contrast to the traditional office environment – many are simultaneously assuming the roles of full-time parents and educators, a daunting task even in the best of times.
Good business leaders understand the importance of operating nimbly and staying focused on the core of their organizations to achieve long-term success, but this can be exponentially more difficult when your entire company is telecommuting.
In today’s landscape, it won’t be enough to just “get by” working from home – your organization needs to be proficient at it in order to weather the storm. Here are 5 steps to ensure effective, productive remote work.
- Triple Your Communication Efforts Immediately: Good communication is the key to any organization, but without casual interactions at the office that enable employees to connect on a more meaningful level and to be more efficient, it’s best to triple your communication efforts. This doesn’t mean that you need to contact your employees through every single communications channel to make sure they’re receiving your messages, but rather, you need to figure out the best way to stay connected so everyone’s on the same page. This is a great time to evaluate what communication is working, what’s not, and what can be improved upon. It’s also a great time to evaluate your meetings so you can focus on what’s essential and narrow your priorities.
- Communication Clarity Is Key: Business leaders should start simplifying their communications even more than they typically do, starting by making projects and assignments even clearer and more straightforward than ever before, as they must be easily understood by 100% remote audiences. Consolidating communication so you’re conveying only the most important aspects of a concept is a fantastic management tool, even when you’re not working from home. Try this with a project kickoff email – see how much “fluff” you can eliminate without being too vague.
- Use Your Calendar to Help with Time Management: This is especially critical for employees and business leaders who are working from home with their kids staying home from school. People who really value concentration won’t be able to multitask with this distraction, so it’s important for managers to help them with ideas for how to put structures in place that allow them to have time to concentrate and time to take care of their kids. Here are a few specific, tactical ideas for you and your employees:
- Block Off Time for Childcare: During times that you know your kids will absolutely need your attention (e.g. meals, reading, studying, etc.), put a block on your calendar to maintain expectations with colleagues. Make it clear that anyone who still wants to meet with you during a specific time you have blocked off will have to understand that you’ll also be watching your children.
- Schedule Work/Childcare with Your Partner: If you’re co-parenting, consider creating a clear schedule that details which of you does and does not have responsibility for childcare at specific times throughout the day. Trading time slots with each other and blocking it off on your calendar can make it easier for you both to get work done with less interruption.
- Try to Focus on One Responsibility at a Time: Working on one thing expertly is far better than trying to juggle two or three things and doing a mediocre job at all of them. This concept can definitely be applied to working from home with kids, pets, or a significant other. When you’re getting work done, focus on this and this alone. When you’re watching your child, give them your full attention. When you’re walking the dog, don’t try to host a conference call concurrently. When your significant other becomes your actual work spouse, consider blocking out time on your calendar to just be with each other when you’re not working.
- Take Care of Each Other: Without the ability to “run into” a coworker at the office, there are fewer opportunities to talk about personal matters. It’s important to make time to do this, but it requires patience and empathy, as it can no longer be done face-to-face. It’s okay to discuss your personal matters in virtual meetings. Sharing your concerns, ideas, and stories can help your team feel less alone. Making time for those personal interactions that you’d normally get in an office setting allows you to demonstrate empathy for your co-workers’ situations, and enables you to be more understanding of their personal situations.
- Promote Self-Care and Social Connection: There’s simply not enough separation between work life and home life, and because people aren’t commuting, they’re often working even longer hours than they previously had, which can take its toll on your employees’ mental health. It’s important to offer support and address your teams’ mental health needs lest their personal anxieties begin to impact work-related interactions. Schedule a virtual happy hour or lunch, make sure each department coordinates a virtual bonding activity like a coffee date, class, workshop, or even a trivia night. Encouraging employees to connect with each other socially and practice self-care to get them through hard times is tantamount to prioritizing their physical health and cannot be understated.
Businesses with flexible work from home policies, especially those that issue company laptops in lieu of desktops, should have an easier time adjusting to the new normal. Similarly, two-parent households in which both caretakers are telecommuting and alternating childcare responsibilities will certainly be better positioned to find success working remotely than single parents or guardians.
Even after taking steps toward better communication, time management, and mental health, business leaders should also recognize that every employee will need time to develop their own techniques to make working from home work for them.