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The Best Tips and Guides for Remote Working during the Coronavirus Quarantine

Working from home during Coronavirus
Photo by Aleksi Tappura on Unsplash

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes
The Coronavirus – a.k.a. Covid 19 – outbreak is forcing organisations all over the world to send their staff home, putting to test their business continuity planning. This means that businesses that have the structure to enable people to work from home can remain productive amidst the outbreak and other disaster situations.
 

Is your business prepared for the Coronavirus? Ensuring Business Continuity  

I love to work from home but only under certain circumstances. I only enjoy it when I have a task or project that requires serious focus. Otherwise, I prefer the energy and banter in the office. So how can we help our staff prepare for the lone working environment, handle stress and overcome the isolation effects of the Covid 19 pandemic?  

Take a typical day in the office, the chat, the meetings, the advice taken and received and all banter that goes with it. Try pausing it. For most business owners, this idea feels eerie.

Now put yourself in the shoes of the newer staff, the interns and other team members that look to others for guidance and assurance that they are doing the right thing. It tells you one thing: more input. A lot more input and leadership are going to be required to help those staff and protect them from the stresses and pressures that come from isolated working.  

Managing people remotely is more challenging  

Hopefully, you have clear staff roles defined. If not, thanks to the Coronavirus, you have more work to do. Deciding things like this for the first time during a pandemic outbreak is going to be tough, but it’s critical to helping your staff know that they are doing a good job.  

In our business, we manage the workload of the bulk of our team. They are clear on what they have to do and what good looks like. They need to communicate with each other and escalate work to colleagues where required. Even with this clarity, some staff might tend to feel isolated.   

The Power of Collaboration Tools  

The key for us has been to have regular huddles which are performed using MS Teams Meetings. The specific technology doesn’t really matter, and other alternatives such as Slack, Zoom and GoToMeeting have waived some of their fees and offer free solutions.   

Once you choose the technology that suits your purposes, you will need to help your staff bed them into place. We suggest starting slowly where possible. Make sure they all have the technology, headphones, cameras etc. to make this simpler. Make sure that your team also know that we are all prone to distractions such as kids or crazy canines that need walking. We need to be understanding and flexible.   

Our recommendations from lessons learned in Spector  

We have broken down the main recommendations in three headings; Team Motivation, Meetings and Managerial Advice. Towards the end, we are also recommending the best guides and in-depth articles about remote working. By learning and implementing these practices in your organisation, it will be more resilient and flexible than ever, while remaining productive.  

Keeping the Team Motivated

Doing your part in keeping the team motivated is vital, but it’s also crucial that you instruct the crew in practising and developing their own productivity habits while working from home. In a usual scenario, you would have plenty of time to prepare your team, but due to the rush in getting things done during the coronavirus outbreak, people are bound to feel out of place. Be disciplined in your efforts, and you will facilitate the transition for them.

  1. Stimulate communication: Have an Instant Messaging platform for your team and ask everyone to be online there during work hours. Let them know that everyone is available to chat, and if they do not understand something, they can raise their hands and ask. Nothing is more isolating than not knowing what is going on.   
  1. Keep it Light and Allow Banter: we use a Team Channel specifically for banter and chat. We should call it the “You will not believe what just happened” channel because that is what it is. People – suppliers, clients, staff – can request strange and wonderful things when they are under pressure. Somewhere to share that can be beneficial.  
  1. Keep in touch: check-in with each person at the start and end of each working day. Give them a few minutes to tell you where they are at and if there have been any particular challenges that day. Split the work among your senior management to help them develop a new type of rapport with the staff. Most of all, be disciplined.   
  1. Check if people are available: don’t feel bad if you don’t get an immediate response. People may appear free but be talking on the phones, concentrating on something else or hassled by something at home. Ask for a confirmation of arrival after sending a message and let them catch up at later meetings, if required. 
  1. Discuss Difficulties: as mentioned before, the biggest challenge in shifting work environments is the cultural change. People have work habits that are being disrupted, and most of them are probably not used to work at their homes. Be open to hear about their difficulties and provide advice. 

Sharing some material and tips from experienced remote workers has proven to be an excellent start, and we found two links to help on that: 
Tips for working from home, from experienced remote workers;
Working from home when your kids are out of school – especially useful now that school classes have been paused due to the coronavirus outbreak:    

Workplace to remote workers
Photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash

Meetings  

Another common difficulty shared by businesses is in conducting meetings remotely. Again, this topic is particularly sensitive during the Coronavirus outbreak, as the official recommendation from the health authorities has been to avoid physical contact. There is a large number of companies that rely on meetings to present their services or close new businesses, and they must adapt to survive during the reclusion time.  

  1. Scheduled meetings: set aside defined times to meet. Random meeting times do not work. Period. It also helps to have fixed meeting periods — ours last from 5-minute huddles and updates to 45-minute leadership meetings. Nothing goes over the established time.  
  1. Have an agenda: create and share a firm agenda of a small number of important points that are clearly explained to all participants. Allow people to add their own relevant points before the meeting.  
  1. Use your resources: make these meetings eye to eye using Video Conferencing where possible. It adds a higher level of connection and stimulates people to be paying more attention. It’s also suitable to get your team to mute their calls – it helps drown out the noise of the environment. Let them unmute as they need to talk. This is good especially if you are with a larger number of people. 

For more tips on Virtual Meetings, we recommend this article by Harvard Business Review: What it takes to run a great virtual meeting 

Managerial Advice  

Managing remote teams can be challenging as with any change in the way that you work. For this reason, we have compiled some guides from some of the world’s leading companies in remote working.   

Some of these companies were born remotely or made the transition with time. Between them, one should match your managerial style and bring some refreshing insight that you can apply in your reality. To get started rapidly, we recommend the article Transitioning to remote work in a hurry, made by Zapier. After focusing on these first aspects, you can proceed to reflect in more depth on this critical topic. Click on the blue links below to dig deeper into each guide.   

  • Learning about Business Continuity is an excellent way to prepare for this and other disrupting situations that may come to arise. Our article, Is Your Business Ready for the Coronavirus offers practical insight on that.  
  • Insight from real businesses  in this link, 140 companies are answering the most frequent questions about remote work; such as how to manage performance and communications remotely. These companies are very distinct and adopt remote working at different levels, which will provide a multilateral view of the topic.  

Facilitate your Transition to Work Remotely 

As you may have noticed, enabling your workforce to work remotely is not a simple task – and one surrounded by multiple challenges. Even more so in the current global situation. Many of our customers were forced to adapt quickly due to the Coronavirus outbreak, and this seems to be the case for many businesses around the world.

Most companies still lack the structure to work remotely, such as the devices, configurations, and tools that one would require (VPNs, file sharing, cloud servers). Others may have the basics in place but are not yet able to do it securely – without compromising their critical files and database. 

Most business owners are too busy to learn about the level of detail needed to abide by best practice and ensure optimal performance while working remotely. Hence, we recommend finding a partner to facilitate this transition. 

If you need any advice on how to activate your team to work remotely, feel free to make contact with us. We have assisted numerous customers in this task, and hope to aid others in difficult times.

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