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This article was written by Alex Sixt, a member of Entrepreneur NEXT supported by the Assemble Content team. Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble is a freelance matching platform leading the future of work. If you're struggling to find, review, and hire the right freelancers for your business, Entrepreneur NEXT can help you hire the freelancers you need, exactly when you need them. From business to marketing, sales, design, finance to technology, we have the top 3 percent of freelance professionals ready to work for you.
The global pandemic has had an incredible impact on the way we work, but the most obvious is the change in the way we work: since the pandemic began, 88 percent of companies have encouraged or asked their employees to work from home. For millions of people, the workplace is no longer viewed as an office space or cubicle. Instead, it has become a busy breakfast table or couch in the living room.
Going remote is a dramatic change for everyone, especially business owners who are faced with the challenge of preparing their employees for a new environment. If your company has not been used to using a digital system, it can come as a shock to the system. However, remote control is no problem as technology has evolved for a post-COVID world. More than ever, companies are taking advantage of a team spread across a city (or even a country) and still be as productive as in an office.
If you are feeling overwhelmed at the thought of moving your team remotely for the foreseeable future, follow these steps to set your team up for success in a remote environment.
Update the company's labor policy.
Outside of the office, the typical work day looks incredibly different. Your staff will likely be available to accommodate their families at different times, and communication will change too. To prepare for a remote hiring, you need to update work guidelines and adjust expectations for a variety of situations. For example, consider whether employees need to be online at certain times (or allow a flexible schedule) and how you can usually switch manual processes like printing, scanning, etc. to digital.
As you create your new expectations, keep in mind that your employees are adapting or working in a completely new way, and plan with flexibility. Before you set these guidelines in stone, share them with your team so everyone knows the new expectations and can plan their work accordingly.
Related: Survey Reveals 4 Transformative Remote Working Trends
The biggest problem entrepreneurs have in common today is finding, reviewing, hiring, and maintaining expertise.
Choose a communication channel.
In a typical office environment, most employees have their personal phone with them all day to answer calls, texts or emails. This may not be the case with remote working, as employees are tasked with working and running their households at the same time. Since an instant response is not always possible in a remote environment, adding a collaboration channel dedicated to your team is the next best option.
There are many options for communication channels. However, before choosing one, do your research to make sure it aligns with your team's setup and goals. Slack is a popular choice (also due to its wonderful library of gifs), but other options include Skype for Business and Google Hangouts. Most have plans that will fit your budget, and you'll be thankful in the future for setting up a dedicated channel for work-related communication.
Related: 7 Best Apps To Help Your Team Succeed At Social Distance
Create an internal communication document.
In the office, you can easily walk to each other's desks and get the information you need without sending text or email. Now that your team is away, they will have to rely on each other's contact information to set up calls or discuss urgent matters that cannot be addressed in chat.
To avoid panic caused by work emergencies, write down the contact information of all team members, preferably in a Google Sheet or Excel document that can be modified as needed. In a remote setting, it's easy to accidentally miss the typical work day. Therefore, it is advisable to include in your records the times your employees are familiar with contacting you as a guideline. Team members may feel uncomfortable sharing information such as their personal cell phone number. So be sure to ask before you pass them on to the team.
Related: 6 Tips to Make Remote Working Really Work
Do you have strong IT support (or do you know where to go).
Even in a remote environment, if not handled properly, technology can become disrupted and potentially affect the productivity of the entire team. If you're fortunate enough to have an in-house IT team, come up with a plan to help resolve technical issues that arise. To resolve issues quickly, circulate information to your team, including those that should be targeted based on the technical issue, and give mercy to staff when things go wrong, if necessary.
If your company doesn't have an IT team, don't worry. It is still entirely possible to easily solve problems with outsourced help. Gather a list of contacts from the software platforms you use to quickly find who to call if you have problems. And most importantly, direct your staff to update the team if any technical issues arise. This will help reduce the friction between members resulting from productivity delays.
Related Topics: Why Remote Work Makes Teams (and Executives) Better
Understand your limits.
As wonderful as remote working sounds, there's no denying that it also brings challenges. For some, a home environment is infinitely more stressful and chaotic than the office. When setting up your team for a successful remote environment, it is important to consider these limitations and encourage the team to consider each other's situations.
For example, it may not be possible for every employee to create a quiet area for a Zoom call. To alleviate your employees' worries, identify adherence to "norms" such as children and pets coming on screen and other typical home disruptions. This will help calm employees' nerves about their work area and create a foundation for respect within the team.
See Also: The Latest Parent Challenge: Working At Home While Your Children Are Going To School
Set limits for yourself and others.
It's no secret that working in a remote setting can blur the line between work and life. When work is just a few steps away from your relaxation spot, it is tempting to send another email to your team after the day is over for moving forward tomorrow. However, sending "just one more email" can quickly become another hour of work, adversely affecting your health and general health. Try to set a work break time and turn off all work-related items like computers completely. Turn off notifications from your designated communication channel to get the time it takes to recharge.
Encourage your team to set strong boundaries for themselves as well. Write in your policy that employees must shut down at a specified (and appropriate) time to ensure they are being charged. Burned out employees = low productivity. In order to avoid a lack of quality of work, it is important that your team has the opportunity to relax and mentally prepare for tomorrow.
Related: 10 Healthy Habits For People Who Work Remotely
It's not impossible to put your team in a completely remote environment. With current technology, it has become a lot easier to keep your team connected and productive even remotely. As you work through the problems of a remote environment, remember to use each day as a learning experience and improve your team's setup over time. After some time, you will have a deeper understanding of how your team works and the best practices to keep them connected.
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