Recent times have forced us to look at remote workers a little differently. Previously, as a business owner, you would have analyzed your business’ success based on benefits such as lower staff turnover, higher productivity, and lower real-estate costs. Now, with uncertain times and non-essential closures or restrictions due to COVID-19, you may look at the remote worker as the critical asset to your company and a way to serve and retain your valued customers. Maintaining and analyzing remote working capabilities can provide your business growth opportunities by offering customers consistent service as well as resiliency during times of uncertainty.
Remote work is not achieved overnight, and to prepare, you should have a plan to: determine, prepare, communicate, evaluate, train, and deploy this new workforce. With these steps in mind, also remember to watch for characteristics in new hires that match your remote worker initiative: self-disciplined, requires little supervision, dependable, etc.
Once your remote workforce is in place (or your plan to deploy is in place), you can and will be ready for any environment without skipping a beat in your business plan or customer service continuity. At the end of the day, your employees, customers, and bottom line will be thankful you planned ahead and planned ahead well.
With technology today, there are few tasks that can’t be handled virtually. You want to make sure your business plan is still intact if you handle it remotely. Example: if your business support model is to greet each customer as they walk in the door, you would not want to set up a virtual receptionist. Also, determine the remote working balance for your workers and your business. This means analyzing how often and in what capabilities employees or teams can work remotely. Some offices can operate entirely as a virtual office while others may need employees to physically be in the office on certain days.
Be prepared to supply the remote worker with the equipment necessary to do their job in their home office. If you supply the equipment, you can assure better quality and consistency as well as better security. Don’t forget to allow for remote maintenance on the equipment as well. Program updates and patches are necessary for proper cybersecurity.
Help the remote worker stay engaged in your business with regular scheduled meetings. Plan on a mix of face-to-face meetings (if possible or necessary), individual meetings, and performance reviews. Setting communication standards ahead of time will keep your team progressing forward with better organization, clearer expectations, and mutual understanding.
If past performance reviews were measured on attendance, overtime, or even the number of hours spent on a particular job, it is time to rethink those goals. Look to a more results-oriented structure to fit your business. Your remote workers performance needs to be measurable for effectiveness to ensure the success of your overall business goals.
Virtual on-demand training is now accessible to all workers regardless of location. Many of your employees may already attend webinars or virtual meetings. Those employees will be well-equipped to train remotely. If your associates are not used to working with virtual resources, this may need to be your first training session. Spending the time to educate your employees on their equipment, resources, and ongoing training tools will serve your business well into the future.
Poll your current workforce to see who would be interested in trying it out. Launch a pilot program to iron out any kinks in the strategy before you fully deploy. You can start your program on a limited basis (1-2 days per week) to further navigate the changes and challenges. Businesses as well as employees may need transition time as they restructure the logistics of their workflow and communication.