Remote Workforce Activation in the Midst of COVID-19
With the rapidly evolving threat of COVID-19 to our community and organizations, there is little downside to taking a cautious approach and having a plan in place should your team need to work remotely. The blueprint that you develop for activating your remote workforce should be applicable whether you plan to adopt a work-from-home policy on your own time or because the world is coming together to fight against the spread of COVID-19.
Continue reading for best practices designed to help your employees work-from-home.
At Advance, it is our mission to help improve and support our community’s businesses. We hope that you find our resources helpful, and we encourage you to reach out to Advance with any questions or concerns you may have. As always, we are available 24/7/365 to support your business in any way that we can.
Work-from-Home Best Practices
Technology & Security
Whether you are testing out a work-from-home program because of COVID-19, or your organization has been talking about adopting this policy for awhile, the key to any successful work-from-home program is technology. By setting up your team with what they need to get the job done efficiently and securely, you are setting up the program for success!
Ensure that your team has all the tools that they need in order to do their job well. A “starter-kit” for someone working from home may include:
- Email Functionality
- Phone Conferencing Technology
- Access to Internal Files
- Access to Internal Programs
- Headphones with Microphone
Arming your team with technology is a great starting point, however, there are several other items that your IT resource will need to consider, including:
- Internet Access – don’t assume that all employees have adequate and secure access to the Internet. Prepare to invest in mobile hot spots or allot stipends for employees to purchase at-home solutions.
- Secure Connection – once your employees have access to the Internet, you must ensure that any and all data is safe from cyberattack. In order to prevent interception, be sure to encrypt any transmitted data. Set your team up with a secure VPN (virtual private network) that will allow your employees to leverage a public network with the same safety precautions in place as they would benefit from on your private network. Additionally, use this as an opportunity to continue educating your employees on cybersecurity best practices. As always, employees should be wary of clicking on suspicious links, should update their passwords frequently and should avoid using public or unsecured networks.
- Bandwidth – serious issues can occur when a work-from-home employee requires more bandwidth than is available to them at home in order to get their job done efficiently. Educate users on high-consuming bandwidth activities such as video conferencing or web conferencing so that they may plan accordingly.
- BYOD – Your technology stack for remote employees may consist of a mix of company and personal devices. For instance, your organization may have supplied the laptop (pre-loaded with security measures designed to protect your business), but you may allow employees to leverage personal cell phones for work purposes. Educate your team on security best practices when leveraging personal devices for work-related tasks to protect your business.
Keeping your team on the same page on a day-to-day basis can already be challenging. Keeping your team on the same page as you all work remotely can be a nightmare – if you don’t have a plan. What are some best practices for communicating with your remote workforce?
- Set Expectations – from the get-go, inform your team about how you will be communicating with them and how you expect them to communicate back. Address could-be misconceptions such as how available your team needs to be throughout the day or what an acceptable response time is. Once you’ve communicated, reiterate – have managers cascade this message, post it on your Intranet, send out an all-employee email – do everything in your power to ensure that everyone on your team is receiving the same message.
- Hold All Information in One Place – for easy and consistent messaging, post all important updates in one area so that they are easy to reference at any time. This is especially crucial if you are testing out your work-from-home policy for the first time as there will likely be ongoing changes that your team will need to be aware of.
- Leverage Technology – luckily, there are tools out there designed to help mimic the type of engagements we hold with our coworkers every day. In addition to email and phone calls, we have provided a list of additional communication tools that can help teammates communicate with one another remotely, no matter what the situation calls for:
- Chat – for one-on-one, casual correspondence. Mimics the experience of casual teamwork typically seen throughout the workday.
- Video Chat – for face-to-face communication that would typically take place during a meeting. Video chats can be one-on-one or leveraged by teams.
- Webinar – for larger-scale communication such as a company meeting, leverage a webinar. Webinars are generally used to share updates or information and are not typically as collaborative as a video chat, for instance.
- Proactive Training – ensure that your team understands how to properly utilize the technology necessary to perform their job functions before they leave the building, if possible. Should you need to perform training remotely, one-one-one or small groups are always best.
- Documentation and Guides – provide employees with documentation after the training that details everything that was taught. This will allow your team to reference the training after the fact and will reduce the number of service calls to your help desk once your team is remote.
- Clear Point of Contact – arm your team with the contact information for an expert that they can call should they have any issues leveraging the technology remotely.
In the wake of COVID-19, we understand that not all organizations have the luxury of developing a full-fledged work-from-home policy before they needed to send workers home. In these unprecedented times, it is important that you nail down a few key components of your policy first so that your team understands what is expected of them and so that your organization can continue to operate effectively as your team works from home. Once these core components are communicated to your team, continue to develop your policy to fit the unique needs of your organization.
- Schedule – be very clear about timing. A lot of organizations are wary about allowing employees to work-from-home because there is a fear that their team may take advantage of less supervision and will not complete as much work as if they were in the office. While this is part of the equation, you may also notice that some employees find that working from home encourages them to actually log more hours, as they are not surrounded by environmental reminders that, for instance, it is time to head home, or that it is time for lunch. Remind and encourage your team to take regular breaks and log off of their work stations at a typical time to ensure they are maintaining a healthy level of work/life balance.
- Availability & Responsiveness – set guidelines for your team about how available they should be during the day. Remind employees that they should respond to chats, text messages, emails, and phone calls just as they would in the office. Additionally, if applicable, remind your team that if they need to step away from their workstation for an extended period of time, they should communicate that to their team and/or managers just as they would any other day.
When at all possible, it is best practice to test that an employee’s remote working environment works for them before going fully remote. Should you have the luxury of time as you deploy your work-from-home program, take a staggered approach to sending your team out to work in the field. Start with key, trusted users and ask that they give candid, honest feedback throughout the testing process. If possible, train your employees on-site in the morning, and then send them home in the afternoon to test out the technology for themselves while the training is fresh in their mind. At the end of the workday, set up a call with all new users to gather feedback and ensure that everything is working properly. Most importantly, learn all that you can from this team so that with each new group of employees sent to work remotely, your start-up and training approach is more seamless and efficient.
Download the Webinar: Remote Workforce Activation & Work-from-Home Best Practices
As we adjust to the new normal and prepare for business in the coming months, it is imperative that your organization audit your policy to ensure that your organization is set up to successfully operate for the long haul.
Check out our quick work-from-home best practices webinar that will provide a blueprint that you can use to audit your current technology, security and policy resources and revise as necessary. This guide will not only set you up for success today, but will also ensure that you are building a policy that stands the test of time.
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