The Coronavirus outbreak first reached the news in December 2019. At the time, nobody could have imagined the nightmare that it was going to cause the entire world. As the virus spread from country to country, the number of cases began to sore and tragically, so did the fatalities. In March 2020, COVID-19 was declared a global health pandemic as countries began imposing stay at home orders.
The ‘stay at home’ orders were not enough to curb this unknown virus. So, the only way forward for many countries was to enforce a complete lockdown. Streets became silent as businesses had no choice but to close. What began as a global health crisis was now causing a global economic crisis.
Each country, and even state, have their own rules as to which businesses could remain open. But almost overnight, all non-essential workers were forced to start working from home. Some companies may have had experience with remote work, while others have to adapt as best as they could.
The truth of the matter is, even when COVID-19 is under control, we will likely remain working at home for weeks to come. When employers and employees begin to see the benefits of remote workers, it is even more possible that this will become a common workplace practice.
Of course, it might take some time to adjust to remote work. In this guide, you will soon see the benefits of working remotely for employers and employees. You’ll also find out how your business can stay successful in 2020 and beyond.
What are the Challenges of Working from Home?
If you have just sent all of your employees home, it’s worth taking some time to put yourself in their shoes. Working from home during a lockdown is not the same as remote working. The chances are, your staff are having to juggle a mountain of new things. For example, homeschooling their children who are also under quarantine. Then, there is the task of trying to take care of the home. Workers will need to develop a completely new routine to work from home during the COVID-19 quarantine.
When the lockdown is lifted, and life begins to return to some kind of normal, workers will have to create a new routine for remote work. Of course, working at home while the kids are at school is going to be far easier.
Some of the most significant challenges with working from home include:
- Distractions—Whether it’s the cleaning or Netflix, while you are working from home, there are always going to be things that tear people away from work.
- Insufficient technology—Employees may have a work laptop, or they have to use their own equipment. Internet networks might not be strong enough. Then there is also the challenge of doing IT jobs—installing new software, such as antivirus and security software or using VPNs.
- Interruptions—If it’s not the children or the partner, friends, and family dropping by and delivery people all have the potential to interrupt the workflow.
- Lack of social interaction—Some people prefer the peace of their home, but there comes the point when they’ll miss the social aspect of the office.
- Reduced communication—One of the biggest concerns of remote work is that communication won’t be as effective when employees are working at home.
What are the benefits of Remote Work for Small Businesses?
Each business will notice its own benefits, but here are some advantages that many businesses have experienced.
- An increase in productivity—The statistics vary, but companies have reported an 8 to 13% increase in productivity when allowing employees to work from home.
- Employee well-being—Working from home encourages flexibility, and this is something that people require more today. One survey found that 70% of millennials in Canada say that the option to work remotely greatly increases their interest in the job. Happy employees result in lower staff turnover. Happier employees also provide better customer experience.
- Lower operating costs—With fewer people in the office, you can reduce your office space, equipment, and utility costs. Studies have shown that companies can save approximately $10,000 annually for each employee who works at home full time.
- Recruiting new talent—When the time comes to expand your team, you will be able to find more qualified candidates at better rates because you are not restricted to your local area.
How Can You Be A Successful Employer of Remote Workers?
Because COVID-19 has affected everybody so quickly, many companies don’t have a remote policy in place. A policy for working remotely is going to be the first place to start. There is so much uncertainty when starting to organize a remote team. So, it makes sense to get things right from the start.
Let’s look at eight crucial practices to ensure business success.
1. Check your insurance
Before allowing anybody to work from home, regardless of the current crisis, confirm that your business insurance coverage extends to employees working from home. The same must be checked for worker’s compensation insurance.
2. Invest in the right technology
The keyword here is ‘invest.’ Even when it seems that you are just buying technology for your team to take home. For staff to be productive at home, they will need the correct technology.
3. Ensure that all employees are using a secure connection
A Wi-Fi that requires a password is not a secure network for remote working. Employees will be working with highly sensitive data, including your company information and client information. With a VPN (Virtual Private Network), data transmitted between devices is encoded and can’t be intercepted.
4. Make sure your employees understand what is expected of them
You need to have a virtual meeting to outline your work from home policies. Discuss the hours that should be worked, the daily and weekly targets, and make sure that each individual is aware of their responsibilities. It is also important to cover what to do in case there is an accident during working hours or how to report any damage to equipment. If this is a new situation for everyone, ask for employee’s input on how the process can be made smoother.
5. Provide advice
Just as employers are entering uncharted territory, employees are too. Some people might find it difficult to adapt to their new working environment. Prepare a short document that includes your expectations, remote work policies, and advice on how employees can remain productive when working at home.
6. Keep in touch with your employees
During the first week, you will have to be in close contact with your employees. Group chats via WhatsApp or Slack are great for keeping everyone updated at the same time. Video conference calls via Skype or Zoom are more beneficial for discussing the project’s progress. Again, included in your advice could be some video conferencing etiquettes to improve the effectiveness of the call. Don’t forget that sometimes, the best way to speak to a person individually is just to pick up the phone.
7. Be careful with the Apps
There are so many apps that will help you to stay in touch and collaborate on projects. That being said, you need to make sure that everyone is using the same technology. Have one instant messaging app, one video call app, and one document sharing app like Google Docs or Dropbox. Too many options may confuse and even lead to a breakdown in communication.
8. Trust your employees
Your team needs to know that you trust them and that you believe they are capable of working from home. They already may be having some doubts about the change, so now is your chance to reassure them and build up their confidence.
How Can Employees Successfully Work from Home?
How can you adjust to working from how and stay productive? Here are five tips that will help you adjust.
1. Create a workspace
Your workspace could be a room or even just a quiet area that has the minimum amount of foot traffic. It should also be as quiet as possible to allow you to concentrate. Your workspace shouldn’t be in an area that is shared by the family. Try to have some natural light so that you can see some nature as this will help improve your concentration and lower your stress levels.
2. Make sure others respect your workspace
Don’t allow others just to enter your workspace, as this will cause delays in your work. Friends and family should know that your workspace should be treated the same way your traditional office was treated. At the same time, you should make sure that your workspace is only for work. This mentality will improve your productivity and keep you organized.
3. Create a new routine that works for homelife
It is important that when you work from home, you start your day at the same time you usually would. Set your alarm, get dressed, and be ready at your desk like any other working day. Try to keep to your normal break times, but if you need to, learn to be flexible. For example, you could collect the kids or do some household jobs during breaks.
4. Have a plan
At the beginning of the week, make a list of your tasks, meetings, and deadlines. Write daily lists to break down the larger goals. Use apps to help you remember what needs to be done and to help you with your time management.
5. Don’t isolate yourself from others
Your employer will probably have regular virtual meetings. However, it’s essential to stay in touch with your co-workers. On the one hand, you will have work-related issues to discuss that you normally would in the office. On the other hand, there is the social element of the workplace that you should try to maintain.
Remote work can allow companies to reduce their overheads without affecting productivity. Increased productivity results in a revenue increase.
For employers, the increased flexibility allows for a happier, healthier workforce. All employees can focus on their work-life balance. Employees can also save money on commuting, which again, increases their happiness and makes them less likely to leave.
In an ideal world, we would have appreciated some time to prepare ourselves for working from home. But the world has thrown us a curveball, and perhaps, encouraged an inevitable change to happen a little sooner.