In Shanghai, China, companies are not allowed to start work before Feb 9. And such news are happening Singapore too. 14-day quarantines are being issued to workers who have been to China recently.
Businesses are taking a hit due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus. So, how can you brace your company in times like this?
For those who can do business by internet and phone, business is as usual amidst the viral outbreak. Chinese firms are asking their staff to work from home instead.
If your company has no prior experience with remote working, here’s how you can implement work from home arrangements.
#1 Iron Out The Details
Before rolling out a work from home program, you should first bring it up with your staff. While most employees see remote working as a major perk, it might not be the case for all.
Are you introducing remote work to be ready for contingencies? Or will it be tapped on in future even after the virus outbreak? These are some concerns that should be addressed to your staff.
Next, determine which jobs will be suitable for remote work. Go through the job scopes of each position to see if working from home is feasible.
Not all jobs can be remote. For such cases, you’ll have to consider how can the employee continue their responsibilities in times of quarantine or emergency. Perhaps, the business might have to hold back on meeting clients and let employees focus on less urgent tasks from home.
Also, it’s good practice to formalise such details in a work from home policy. Having your employees on the same page will help to avoid unwanted miscommunication.
As for jobs that can be done remotely, consider the following steps below.
#2 Using The Right Tech Tools
Working from home means that all work resources must exist on cloud storage accessible to all employees.
If you have your own company server, you might want to consider using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for secure data sharing with remote workers.
Workflow processes must also be digitised. For starters, here are some recommended tools and apps to pull off remote work.
- Slack/Twist: for team communication
- Skype: for video or voice calls
- Google Drive/One Drive: for cloud storage, file sharing, document creation
- Basecamp/Asana/Trello: for project management
This list is non-exhaustive. In fact, if you’re just dipping your toes into remote work, it might scare you. Just remember, it takes time to develop systems that work, and the same goes for remote working too.
Lastly, you’ll have to consider: will the company be providing equipment such as laptops or broadband service? If employees are assigned work laptops, it’s less of a concern.
But if employees are using their personal devices, it can be trickier. Also known as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), this trend introduces security risks (more explained below). Your employees might also be unhappy about mixing business with personal life.
#3 Ensuring Accountability In Remote Teams
How do you ensure that employees are actually doing work at home?
That’s a concern that most people have when it comes to remote work, accountability.
Having scepticism about remote work is common, but it can be tackled. On your part, bosses/managers should set a clear line of reporting.
Assign a direct supervisor to each remote worker, so your employee knows who to report to. On the other hand, the supervisor is responsible for monitoring the performance of their assigned subordinates.
Remote work thrives on trust. That’s a key difference between managing remote employees and on-site staff.
Requesting a play-by-play of their day will (most definitely) upset your employee. It shows that you don’t quite trust your employees, which isn’t great for team morale too.
Instead, you, or the appointed supervisor, can request daily deliverables from the staff. This gives employees the freedom to complete their tasks at their own pace, resulting in better quality work and happier employees.
Another way is to set guidelines on working hours.
Remote work opens up the possibilities of varied working hours. For instance, employees may choose to start work earlier so it frees up their evening.
Figure out if your business allows for such flexibility.
If that’s fine for you, you’d want to set an availability period, where everyone must be online. That gives room for collaborative work, if necessary.
Otherwise, you should communicate clearly the working hours that workers should abide by when working from home.
#4 Tackle Security Concerns
Working from home introduces security and data breaches.
When your employees use their own computers, they might not have sufficient security measures, such as firewalls or antivirus software.
Using public wi-fi also puts the employee, and the company’s sensitive data, in a vulnerable position to be hacked.
To mitigate this, employees need to be aware of potential security risks. On their end, one simple step is to ramp up password protection. Use strong passwords and keep it varied across devices. A password manager can be used to manage this.
You can also implement multi-factor or two-factor authentication. This is where the user’s identity is confirmed after a piece of information, e.g. pin number or answers to secret questions is sent to their mobile phone.
Lastly, when an employee leaves, it’s crucial to revoke their access to company information. Set up a procedure for this and ensure it is dutifully carried out.
#5 Establish Communication Practices
You probably considered the platform you want to use for team communication.
But when you have employees working from home, communication is more than just that.
One of the challenges that remote work poses is isolation from the team. So for a remote team, it’ll be good to schedule one-to-one meetings with your workers to boost inclusiveness.
Touching base with your employees builds relationships. When your staff receives guidance and mentoring, it fosters a stronger sense of belonging to the team.
#6 Pilot And Troubleshoot
Once you’ve worked out the kinks, try out the program for a day or two.
If your team is small enough, you can get your entire team to work from home for a certain period of time.
For larger companies, considering activating a specific department to pilot the program.
Troubleshooting allows you to identify issues and receive feedback, so you know which areas of the program need more work.
That’ll ensure that when necessary, your organisation is ready to let the employees working from home, allowing business to carry on as usual.
It may even translate to a permanent program. Who knows?
When done well, remote work leads to time and money savings, increased productivity, happier employees… the list goes on.
So seize this opportunity to pilot and develop a remote working program, not just for contingencies, but as an alternative to traditional work arrangements too.
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