Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in late 2019, virtually every business has suffered a tremendous setback. Many companies had to switch to remote work to ensure employee safety as well as business continuity. With the pandemic showing no sign of declining, remote work has become the new normal, at least for a while.
According to Gallup’s recent research findings in April 2020, 62% of employed Americans said they have worked from home during the crisis, a number that has doubled since mid-March 2020. A staggering 59% of Americans also said that once the restrictions are lifted, and if the employer left it up to them, they would continue working remotely as much as possible.
However, the sudden transition from office to the remote work environment may not go down well with all employees and businesses. As a business owner, you have to think about keeping your teams’ productivity as high as it was when they were working from the office.
Here are five tips that can help.
1. Create a Work Environment That Suits Everyone
Working from home is not as easy as it sounds. People often face many difficulties such as sudden connectivity loss, blackouts, lack of dedicated workspace, and family responsibilities, among other things. So, when it comes to creating work policies and rules for your remote employees, you have to be more considerate.
Make sure to create workplace policies that all your remote employees can follow. For example, if client emails were supposed to be responded to within a couple of hours when working from the office, you can change that timeframe, to say 24 hours, when working remotely. It will provide all your employees ample time to respond to your clients.
Before you create any policies, guidelines, or rules, make sure to talk to all your teams. It’ll help you set realistic expectations and avoid putting unnecessary pressure on your employees who may be in an already stressful situation.
Once you have created the rules and guidelines, share the document with your employees. Outline all your policies and processes step-by-step so that they all are on the same page. Ask them to send you an email or instant message confirmation that they have read, understood, and accepted the work policy.
2. Provide Flexible Working Hours
Providing flexible work hours will help establish trust between you and your employees. It essentially tells your employees that you trust them with completing tasks within the given deadlines. Besides, their family responsibilities and personal habits may also undermine their productivity if you set fixed work hours.
For example, most working moms may find it challenging to start working early in the morning. On the other hand, some of your employees may be early risers. That’s why flexible work hours may provide your employees with the extra productivity boost they need.
If required, however, you can create a time period during which all your employees need to be mandatorily reachable. Although you can set flexible work hours, you should still ask your employees to complete their tasks within the given timeframe. While you offer flexibility, you want your employees to be their most productive.
3. Set up Excellent Communication and Collaboration Systems
In the current crisis, constant communication is essential to ensure better productivity. It not only boosts productivity, but also improves employee morale. That’s why you need to use various communication, project management, and collaboration tools like Zoom, Skype, Basecamp, and Trello, among others.
Having multiple tools can ensure business continuity in case one of them fails. However, that isn’t the only criteria for selecting a communication tool for remote work. The tools also need to be secure, easy-to-use, and support document-sharing, instant messaging, and other features that your business needs. You can talk to an IT consultancy company, if required, to get the best and the most affordable tools that suit your requirements.
4. Provide State-of-the-Art IT Support
To make sure all your remote employees can communicate, collaborate, and manage their work without interruption, you need robust IT support. If your software and hardware are not up-to-date and secure, it will not only reduce your productivity, but also compromise the security of your business data.
It’s a plus if your current in-house IT team can handle the extensive and complicated tech support required for a work from home setup. If your tech team is not up to the task, you can hire a managed IT service company to set up and monitor your tech needs.
You need someone capable of knowing your exact technology needs, be it using a communication tool or setting up a new cloud application. Your employees may also need on-site IT support to repair their computers and configure internet connections, among other things. Regular software updates are also necessary to avoid unexpected crashes and downtime. Make sure your IT service provider or your IT team can handle these challenges.
5. Help Employees Upgrade Their Skills
Although your employees are working from home, it shouldn’t stop them from upgrading their skills. You can continue to provide them with online or remote solutions to upgrade their current skills. It can help boost their morale and productivity.
You also need to encourage and reward the employees that meet or exceed your expectations. No matter how small the achievement is, make sure to recognize it. In a crisis like this, even a simple email applauding the successful and timely completion of a project can help boost employee productivity and morale.
If possible, you can also offer small bonuses or gifts to your employees to recognize their achievements. It can also help if you, as a business owner or a leader, can do personal check-ins with your employees regularly. Talk to them, not just about work, but also about their daily life to see how they are doing.
Maintaining high employee productivity in a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge for most businesses. Hopefully, these five tips will help you keep your employees happy, productive, and confident in the present environment. Given the current situation, remote work is likely to become the new normal for a while. So, you need to take this as an opportunity to create a remote work environment robust enough to provide you with a long-term alternative.