Is Your Team Prepared To Telecommute With COVID-19?

With the recent news that non-critical businesses will not be opening their physical locations during this period of quarantine, you’re probably wondering—especially if you haven’t had to run and manage a remote workforce—‘how in the heck am I going to get as much done at home as I was able at work?’.

I’ve been hearing this question pop up in a variety of conversations over the last few days and thought it’s time to get you back on track with a remote work plan for your staff.

Being in information technology, we have been working remote for our entire careers in one way or another. Today I want to talk about some of the challenges we’ve had to confront with remote work and give you and your team some pointers on how to stay productive at home.

But don’t be fooled—having to telecommute is NOT an excuse to sit around in pajamas and procrastinate. It will be up to you and your managers to start designing and implementing a strong program for your now remote workforce to ensure that everyone is reaping the benefits.

I want you to set up clear guidelines to maintain structure and accountability to be able to hold your teams to their commitments, even if you’re not able to see specifically what they’re doing during their typical work hours.

Here are 4 lessons I’ve learned the hard way to keep your team engaged and focused while at home:

Lesson 1: Just because you’re home by yourself doesn’t mean you’re alone.

When you are at home, you might think that you have the entire day to yourself. Yes, you might have a couple of meetings on your calendar, but you’re planning on dialing in for just those meetings and get back to your at-home routine for the rest of the day.

If you are not facing the people you typically work with in the office while at home, how are you going to make sure you’re working as a team?

Have you ever had to write dozens of emails to explain yourself simply because no one picked up the phone?

When working from home, realize you have your entire team working with you. Make sure everyone feels connected by staying on camera.

Maybe host a Zoom meeting for your entire team to connect to while they are at work. Bottom line: if you and your team is working on camera, you all will be more likely to pick up the phone or chat with others—especially when you are stumped on something.

Don’t isolate yourself away to thinking you have to solve your own issues. Make use of video technologies to stay engaged in regular office work. Set a goal for your people to connect with people during the day (maybe even encourage virtual lunch or coffee breaks for people to catch up).

Lesson 2: Treat working from home like working in an office.

Many of you might see some perks in working from home that might actually lead you to lower productivity or work quality.

It certainly is a plus that by working at home you obliterate your long or stressful commute into the office. Hopping downstairs might be a big plus as you wake up in the morning.

Your challenge? Creating a line between work and home.

Curb the temptation to simply lounge all day in sweatpants. I’m not saying wear a suit, but make sure you are presentable and feel professional when working at home. At very least, consider putting on your shoes. Getting dressed and ready to go into work as you would going into the office will help you define your work hours from playtime.

Consider sitting somewhere away from where you typically do leisurely activities. If you don’t have a home office, consider putting together a defined workspace within your home that you solely use during working hours. By simply having a space defined and being mentally prepared to ‘go into work’, you will have an easier time getting the work you need to get done.

Lesson 3: Get the right hardware in place.

Do you have the right hardware in place to stay connected from home?

Most of us—especially those that might not have planned to take a hiatus from our offices—might not really be equipped to work as productively or securely from our homes.

Yes, maybe occasionally when we’ve worked from home in the past, we’ve gotten what needed to be done for the couple of days we had chosen to work remotely. BUT with the prospect of working nonstop for weeks or months, will you have everything you need at your fingertips from your home?

Router? Spotty WiFi might not be able to handle a video conference very well. Are you in sales? Do you support clients? If you aren’t planning to upgrade your router, you may irritate those listening to you when your choppy connection restricts the effectiveness of your meetings.

Headset? A lot of times, if you’re simply entrusting that headset you haven’t used for years to be your go-to headset for 8 hour work shifts, you might end up with poor quality audio simply because you’re not utilizing a headset built for your work.

Lesson 4: Remote working might require rethinking software choices.

What I’ve learned in working with telecommuters is that there are two essential applications no matter what industry you’re in: softphone apps and instant messaging.

Softphone applications? Be able to get your teams to install a phone application on their cell phones so that they are able to make calls from your office without having to haul around expensive and clunky phone setups.

Instant messaging? Many phone applications will come with instant messaging. If you are using Office 365, Microsoft Teams can be great resource for you and your remote workforce. By linking your teams with the ability to talk to everyone online, you are making it easier for them to communicate—even when working remote. If you use tools like these as part of your normal business operations, your team should be used to the routine already.

A few extra considerations?

I am by no means going through a comprehensive list of work from home necessities in this post. There are way too many considerations that may improve your team’s productivity and security. One of the biggest areas to make sure you have down is that you’re making sure your teams are working securely.

Without your office firewall in their homes, your teams are a lot more susceptible to phishing and ransomware attacks. Make sure your teams are trained and understand how to recognize the latest attacks.

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