There’s a fair chance that your team is now working from home due to the coronavirus outbreak. If not, chances are you’ll need to switch to remote soon.
While it is daunting and difficult to let your employees work from home for the first time ever, and have your whole team in an async suddenly, the last thing you should do is start panicking.
The situation is more than serious. At the time of writing, there were over 200 000 COVID-19 cases reported worldwide, and the disease has taken more than 6000 lives. More countries are declaring emergency states, urging people to stay at home. Gatherings are forbidden in most countries, bars and restaurants are closed. In some countries, remote work is now mandatory, while in others companies are doing it on a voluntary basis.
If you live in an area where work from home isn’t mandatory yet, and your employees can perform their duties just by having access to a computer and a good internet connection - send them home.
The outbreak has changed all of us - in a personal and professional sense. And before we get into the rest of this article and talk about working from home, we’d like to wish you the best of luck in this time, and we hope everyone around you is safe and healthy.
Why Is It Important to Let Employees Work From Home?
In short - it’s to stop the virus from spreading. To get to work, your employees are probably commuting, therefore they could be in contact with a carrier or someone who is infected. Additionally, your workers could be just carriers, putting in danger everyone around them.
Public health should be everyone’s priority at the moment, therefore we all must do everything we can to stop the spread.
Workpuls team went home last week, and we’ll be working from home indefinitely. We made sure everyone has the equipment they need to work - we even transported a few office chairs to team members that don’t have them. Everyone on the team limited their daily movement to a trip to the convenience store.
Don’t Expect Extreme Productivity and Show Empathy
While the studies have shown that remote workers are more productive than office workers, you must be aware of the circumstances we’re currently in. Some of your employees have never worked from home full time, some of them have kids which aren’t going to school currently, others might have family in affected areas, etc.
Everyone is worried, and it’s normal that their mind will wander off stressing about what’s coming next, whether everyone they know is alright, or if they have enough supplies to go through the quarantine.
Check in with everyone regularly to see how they’re doing. Ask what they are struggling with when it comes to working from home, and try to help them out. Have understanding for each of them, as they’re all going through a rough patch.
If you're using a work from home employee monitoring software to make sure everyone is productive, don't be too alarmed by lower numbers - it's perfectly normal, and we're sure your employees will get back on track once you talk to them.
How to Manage Collaboration When Working From Home?
It’s not going to be easy, and your business won’t run as usual - that’s a fact you’ll have to accept. But there are things you can do to help your team stay on track.
Our teams meet every morning for a briefing, these are short 15-minute video calls where we discuss current tasks, what was done, what will we cover during that day, etc. Each team meets separately, and other team members are added if needed.
Every project that has multiple team members working on it has a Head, who is responsible for making sure each member handles their portion of the work. Since we’re now working on multiple different things at the same time, we needed to create an Urgency board with most urgent projects and tasks. We are using Workpuls to track work from home employees, and every team member has admin access so we can all see when we can expect the project to be finalized without having to distract our coworkers.
How to Handle Communication?
We mentioned daily catch-ups, but besides that we’ve found that we have many more meetings than we usually do. The reason is simple - we can’t just talk across the table to discuss something, and it’s much easier to jump on a call than to chat through Slack.
We recommend that your team gets as much face time as possible during this period. A lot can get lost in written messages, and people can miss out social cues produced by non-verbal communication.
Also, dedicated channels in Slack are a saviour. Our Development team shares new releases and updates in a special channel, while our Marketing team shares latest stats and discusses ideas in another. This way, we’re all aware of changes, and each other’s progress.
We could say that we were never big fans of the #random channel on Slack. We were sitting next to each other, so it was easy to make jokes, talk about weekends and new TV show episodes. Now that we’re far away from each other, we’re using #random regularly! Mostly to share memes and our quarantine playlists, but still - we’re using this channel to keep things light and support each other.
This Won’t Last Forever
Although it’s really hard to project how long we’ll all need to stay in our homes and work that way, we all know this will stop at some point. How bad will it get? Well, it depends on all of us, so stay at home, don’t go out unless you really have to (to the store, or to the pharmacy), wash your hands, disinfect everything when you come from the outside, and stay safe.
This process will definitely make your team stronger, better equipped for any other emergencies. Maybe you’ll even ditch the office forever and continue working remotely. But for now, our priorities should be to keep everyone around us safe, and stay safe ourselves.