As of May 28, 2021, the Paycheck Protection Program has run out of funding. You can learn more about the PPP with our COVID-19 resource hub.
How Will Remote Workers Impact Your Business?
Engaging remote employees will be a key to keeping many businesses viable during the crisis. As the COVID-19 virus spreads across America, many states, including California, New York, and Illinois, have begun exercising shelter in place and stay-at-home requirements. The resulting impact is an unprecedented need for businesses to transition from a traditional office setting and into a remote working plan. While this will not be a permanent transition, it’s unclear how long the change will last.
It is no secret that managing a remote workforce can be challenging, especially for small businesses. In this article, we’ll discuss a number of methods for managing a remote team of employees and how you can continue to operate efficiently and effectively over the coming weeks and months.
Set Clear Goals and Parameters
The first thing your business should focus on is setting up a series of clearly defined goals which you would like to accomplish during this period of uncertainty. Maybe this means you would like to start working on a project that you now have extra time for, or maybe you want to focus on driving enough revenues over the next few weeks to simply cover your fixed costs. Whatever your plans are, you should write them out in a clear and understandable manner and distribute them to employees. You won’t be able to check-in on your employees as often as when they are in an office environment, and they won’t be able to ask you or their managers questions as easily. So make sure they understand what they are supposed to be doing from the get go.
You should also communicate a set of parameters around which you plan to assess your progress toward achieving these goals over the next few months. For example, if your goal is to redesign your website, an easy parameter would be what percentage of the project you have completed. You’ll be able to track parameters like these over the next few weeks, enabling you to recognize whether or not your employees and your business are on the right track.
Set Up Strong, Easily Accessible Lines of Communication
Strong communication is going to be more key than ever before. This means setting up easily accessible lines of communication is crucial. There are a number of established and creative ways to do this. Plus, with the easy-to-use nature of modern technology, today’s remote working tools don’t even require employees to have a dedicated home office. If they have a laptop and a webcam, and a small space to work and spread out materials, they can still remain a valued part of the team during this unique time. Collaboration is always important in a small business, so make sure you continue to facilitate it.
Slack messaging is a particularly great option. This online system allows businesses to set up a company-only line of communication, where workers can communicate in a fashion similar to text message. Plus, it enable businesses to set up multiple chat forums, meaning employees can communicate directly with one another, in group forums, or to the entire company. This is a great way for managers and owners to keep in touch and with employees, and it is great way to keep effective project management going. Organzing employees on the forum into teams will enable them to communicate with each other throughout the remote working process. Plus, the text message-like system enables small talk as well, which will help keep your company culture and employee camaraderie intact during this difficult time. In fact, many companies already use Slack as a communication tool in a traditional office setting, so it is a proven method that translates well to remote work.
Zoom and FaceTime and Skype
Another way to maintain employee engagement is with video conferencing apps, such as Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime. Zoom in particular is a great way to host large scale employee meetings, where employees can talk to each other and discuss pressing issues.
Trello is another online system that allows businesses to organize tasks and objectives into groups of boards, categories, and cards. Employees can then be assigned to each of the tasks, and they can notify employers when they have finished their work. Organization will be key in the coming weeks, and many businesses use Trello in traditional offices to keep tasks and objectives in order. There is no doubt that Trello can be incredibly beneficial for remote working. Plus, such a platform enables employees to have a clear guideline for expectations and requirements, improving the employee experience and enabling you to track overall progress on projects and goals.
Google Hangout is similar to Slack in that it is an online chat system. It is another great way to foster employee communication and collaboration.
Phone calls are also an option. While they aren’t as high tech as the other options, they are better than nothing. However, we highly suggest you look into some of the other options.
Don’t Schedule Get-Togethers
Remember, even though it may be tempting to schedule get-togethers with employees from time-to-time for face-to-face interaction, because of the nature of the COVID-19 virus, it is important that you avoid this at all costs. The previously mentioned options may not be as great as personal interaction, but this is one of those times when businesses simply have to make sacrifices.
Keep Your Remote Employees on a Schedule
We understand that working from home can change the work-life balance and necessitate some schedule changes. However, it is still important that you keep employees on a relatively consistent schedule and mandate hours when they can be reached. Obviously, setting working hours can seem restricting, but it will be the only way your business can continue to operate in an effective manner, especially if much of your business’ work relies upon teamwork and project management.
Typically, time-zones won’t be an issue for small businesses, since employees will be located nearby. However, if your business is working with consultants or other professionals who have had to return to a state other than your own because of the new restrictions, it is important to take any time-zone differences into consideration when setting up work schedules and making plans for working hours.
Gather Employee Feedback
A business is only as good as its employees, so maintaining employee satisfaction is important. A great way to do this is to have employees fill out a small form after each week, allowing them to outline what has went well, what they need help with, how they are handling the new working situation, and how they think the overall process can be improved in the coming days and weeks. This will enable you to get a true assessment of how employees are responding. You can then adjust the system to improve the overall work and employee experience.
Just as you need your employees to give you feedback, you should be giving your remote employees feedback during this difficult time. Employee recognition will be a key aspect of keeping employees engaged and maintaining a positive workplace environment. If employees are doing great work or going above and beyond, let them know. Reaffirm your belief in your employees and your business. Remote employee engagement is incredibly important for keeping your business running smoothly.
If your business is financially sound, and you know you are not going to need to let anyone go during this time, let your employees know that to relieve some of the stress. Keep them informed about the business and how hard you are working.
But remember, don’t make any promises or statements you can’t keep. If you think you may have to let people go, be up front about it and make sure they understand the situation. This is a tough time for everyone, so try to minimize the impact for everyone involved.
Summing it Up: How to Keep Remote Employees Engaged
These coming months will be difficult for small businesses and large business alike. But with the proper planning and remote working techniques, you can make sure your business is as productive and efficient and possible. Remote working is difficult, but it can be effective if managed correctly. By utilizing the previously mentioned creative ways for facilitating employee collaboration and camaraderie, you can make sure your employees are as engaged as ever.
Hopefully, all of this will enable your business to hit the ground running again when the time comes to move back into your normal, every day business operations and strategy.