As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise around the country, more employees are working from home. Some companies started offering the option to work from home in order to be responsive to the current crisis, but increasingly, municipal or state mandates are driving the decision as the ability to gather in groups is severely limited. Prior to this pandemic, 25 percent of Americans worked from home at least occasionally, but that leaves a large portion of the workforce working separately from each other and without their usual office necessities for the first time. Companies without a remote work contingency plan are finding this emergency setup challenging, as there are no clear policies or advanced training. As an employer, how can you help ease this transition for your employees while maintaining a reasonable level of productivity? Since we don’t currently know how long this situation may last, it’s important to take some proactive steps to ensure your employees remain engaged and your business stays viable.
One of the most important aspects of remote work is also one of the easiest to address. Staying connected as a team and as a company helps keep your employees engaged and productive while avoiding feelings of isolation. Set up regular meetings to encourage frequent and consistent communication. While a phone call can get the job done in a pinch, there are multiple free options that let you meet one-on-one, by department, or even company-wide. Consider Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Skype. Cover the same type of topics and content that you would normally in your meetings, but make sure to add on time to talk about personal topics, too. These online meetings can serve as an important social outlet for your employees if they’re quarantined or self-isolating. If your technology budget permits, consider a communication tool like Slack, which is a great way to encourage communication. There are a variety of other tools that are similar, if Slack is too expensive or complex for your company’s needs.
Determine home office needs
Internet speed and bandwidth will vary greatly at your employees’ homes so don’t assume their accessibility will be the same as it is in the office. If employees will need to access files and utilize conference calls, bandwidth is important. Check with your local internet provider to determine what the best download and upload speeds are for your scope of work.
Depending on how your company has set up file storage, you may run into issues sharing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. While this isn’t the right time to set up a whole new process, the most important components should be uploaded to tools like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, or even just Google Docs or Sheets. Such tools are more efficient, more secure, and less frustrating than emailing individual files. Plus, they let employees easily collaborate on the same files without losing changes to prior versions.
Another important remote work consideration is whether employees can use their own computers, phones, and other equipment or whether those items will need to be acquired. While employers weren’t given enough time to adequately plan ahead for this situation and provide all employees with computers and equipment, think creatively about ways to meet this need. Can your IT department ship employee laptops to your workers at their homes? Can you afford to provide a stipend to cover required office supplies or to upgrade an internet plan? Most employees will have furniture at home that can be used for a desk in a pinch (a kitchen table, for example). These solutions may not provide enough ergonomic support to prevent injury, so consider sending your remote workforce the basics of how to set up an ergonomic workstation at home.
Provide technical support
Again, since most companies couldn’t plan for this situation, it’s likely that many staff are having difficulties setting up and accessing systems. Set up a plan for addressing employee issues without overwhelming your existing IT help desks. Work with your IT team to share any existing troubleshooting resources and videos and start creating new resources that address common issues. By providing a wealth of resources, you’ll empower your employees to take control and resolve problems on their own. If employees commonly forget passwords or get locked out of applications, consider cloud-based password resets and account unlocks that assist employees without requiring IT’s help, such as LastPass, Dashlane, or 1Password.
A large group of employees working without the framework of your company’s IT department can create security problems, especially if those employees are connecting to corporate networks. Virtual private networks (VPNs) are usually installed on company devices to enhance security. If employees are using their own equipment, VPNs should be installed on those personal devices as well, for added corporate security. Company policies may frown on using personal computers to access corporate networks but in this new environment, it may be required in order to keep employees working. Quickly and efficiently expanding a VPN infrastructure isn’t easy, so an alternative worth considering is a cloud-based gateway that generates secure access to network applications.
HiringThing has been a 100% remote software company since 2012, so we’re experts when it comes to working from home. Check out our Remote Work Hub for more remote work tips that’ll help keep your team happy and productive.
Author: Ashley Ellingson
Ashley Ellingson is a marketing content writer at HiringThing, an award-winning online recruiting software provider dedicated to changing the way businesses hire talent. Questions? Contact HiringThing Marketing.