COVID-19: Making 'work from home' work!
Minimizing the impact of COVID-19 has become top priority the world over, and corporate India has been at the forefront of driving necessary steps to stem the outbreak.
Many companies are now encouraging further ‘social distancing’ by announcing mandatory work-from-home and sending their employees home to work remotely. This is the best option for organizations where a few employees have travelled or are in contact with those who have travelled. Companies are also concerned about the health and safety of their employees whose exposure increases when commuting to work and meeting other colleagues. In addition, there is a huge business risk to have employees continue coming to the office because even a single case of Coronavirus would lead to great losses in medical, sanitisation and ensuring business continuity. Regardless, there’s been a flurry of forwards portending the shutting down of offices in India and given that possibility, it's best to prepare NOW on how you can make work-from-home work for your company.
Below are tips based on data shared by several companies which work with us to create family-friendly workplaces in India:
Business Continuity Planning
- Gather a cross-functional team together that includes business-line leaders, IT, HR, communications and facilities to plan for different scenarios and optimise execution to ensure that there is minimal impact on business when everyone connects remotely
- Ensure your employees have the required infrastructure at home to be able to work remotely, including, but not limited to:
- Laptops, mobile phones and chargers
- Internet connectivity to enable video conferencing
- Remote access to company intranet and other tools
- Access to files, systems, equipment and necessary passwords
- Instate new policies and guidelines related to working from home that includes:
- Work hours during this period with systems to ‘clock in’ and ‘clock out’
- Clarification on ‘full work days’, ‘partial work days’ and the use of leaves
- List of official communication channels and collaboration tools
- Training on usage of confidential data and company assets
- Ways in which employees can raise any roadblocks or issues they are facing when working remotely.
- Communication Channels & Collaboration Tools
- Ask your employees to stay logged into company-wide communication channels during core working hours (such as Slack/WhatsApp) and have them available through the day over call, email and chat.
- Continue all regular meetings via video conference (such as Zoom/Google Hangouts)
- Plan and assign tasks among team members using productivity tools (such as Trello, Asana) so that goals and deliverables are clearly defined.
- Have team leads check in with employees at regular intervals to just talk, share wins and address issues. Use breakout rooms with smaller groups for meetings on video conferencing apps to assign tasks and get everyone equally involved and responsible.
- Use sharing tools such as G Suite (Drive, Sheets, Docs, Slides) to collaborate live on documents when working in teams.
- If you feel the need to track all or certain employees more closely, you can use tools such as Time Doctor that send automated screenshots from the employee’s laptop to help track activity.
Tone and Culture
- In a virtual world, communication needs care. So, pace it out, be succinct, and get straight to the context. Convey emotions with care; when you have difficult conversations, it’s important to watch the tone of your voice.
- Prepare your team that this new scenario will require some adjustment from everyone involved, care taken for extra coordination, patience during technical glitches, frequent testing of infrastructure and technology, and above all, sincerity from all those involved, working from home can keep your business active and thriving.
- Encourage your employees to take ‘virtual coffee breaks’ — purely social video conferences with colleagues to minimise the adverse effects of isolation. This is, in a sense, to create a virtual water cooler that preserves the sense of camaraderie.
- The absence of face-to-face communication can be frustrating. So, trust your teams while providing them guard rails with the flexibility to deliver. In that case, also make sure the deliverables are defined clearly.
Having a flexible, distributed workforce is one of the leading trends in the future of work. Several companies have already been reducing their infrastructure and payroll costs by employing candidates who work-from-home or are freelancers. When we are forced to build our muscle in managing a remote team, we could flex that muscle later in identifying roles in our companies that can permanently move to remote working.