Especially in multigenerational workplaces, the spread of illness should be taken seriously. Many offices around the world are telling their employees to work from home as COVID-19 (the coronavirus) encourages workplace health and safety. Quarantine can seem like the worst case scenario for active professionals, but the benefits of remote work will surprise you. Telecommuting can be both more productive and more rewarding for your entire team. If you heed the right advice and migrate to a paperless office, you can make remote work an absolute boon.
Cultivate a Balanced Working Environment
CEOs and even shareholders are worried about company output during quarantine. Laziness and distraction are common cries of the old guard to discredit remote work. “Employees slack off when they’re not at the office.” “How can you be productive if there’s no one there to monitor your performance?” The truth is that, according to a recent study, 79% of remote workers credit increased productivity/focus as a main reason for choosing to work from home. However, 38% of remote workers receive no training on how to work remotely. With the right know-how, your employees can raise productivity instead of losing it.
Maintain a mirrored schedule to the daily hours at the office. Some employers believe that working from home means less drive time and that their employees should therefore put in more hours for proportionally less pay. Actually, at-home employees put in upwards of forty-hours-per-week 43% more than on-site workers do. Remote workers also report putting in these extra hours because they are salaried but enjoy what they do. Rather than demanding more time that would otherwise be spent commuting, allow your employees to take the initiative. You may even choose to instate flex hours, where an employee can log on up to three hours early and then log off as many hours earlier at the end of the day. As long as you reserve a few core hours every day where everyone is online for meetings, and as long as everyone logs their hours and gives notice about their schedule, this can not only work but also benefit everyone. Your team will be happier and more positive.
It’s still important to eliminate distractions and find or create a dedicated workspace. This includes moving away from a bed or couch, out of the den and into an office room, dining room, or kitchen. At times when not under quarantine, we recommend finding a quiet café or local library, especially if conference calls are rare. For those at home, it is a good idea to use the same workspace in your house or apartment every day. This routine will foster focus and reinforce the normalcy of being at home without engaging in your typical activities. Get up with time to spare every morning. Make a healthy breakfast, like fruit and granola. Give yourself time to exercise or just do some casual yoga before punching the clock. Employers should disseminate these tips to the rest of their office. A healthy, bright-eyed squad in the morning is more possible with remote work than after a long commute.
Invest in Ways to Communicate, and Make In-Person Time Count
Many companies are offering their team members ways to commute part-time while working full-time. 40% of global companies are hybrid, which means a mix of remote and on-site work. Some organizations require one day every week on-site with the rest of the week working from home or on the go. It is imperative that, when employees are present, you make the most of the face-to-face time they give you. Otherwise, your team will start to doubt that they even need to show up to the office. During quarantine, since these visits aren’t possible, it becomes even more important that the time before and after lockdown is used wisely.
Another urgent concern about telecommuting is, well, the “tele” part. Whether you’re old school or new to your field, everyone can agree that keeping the whole team on one wavelength is key. We hear horror stories of entire projects going belly up because one misinterpreted email caused weeks of delay or gross misuse of assets. These serious blunders can even happen in shared office spaces, so potential mistakes increase dramatically with remote work. Communication should be redundant – send an email to your assistant and then call to make sure he got it, call your boss about the meeting you just had and then share thoughts with her on Slack throughout the day. Which brings us to the elephant in the room. Telecommuting demands adoption of modern tech your organization may have been avoiding.
Teams of users don’t just need to log onto Skype and share ideas. There are also files to be shared. Emails need to be added to documents and processed. Expense reports need to be sent and reviewed. Purchase orders require approval. RFPs must be securely sent to a colleague. Not all of these processes work with just email. Not to mention storing all of this data in a single, secure repository where all of the relevant employees can access it. Enterprise Content Management software enables file saving and sharing like this. With options to install the product locally, in the cloud, or both, more and more companies are leveraging ECM in anticipation of COVID-19 quarantine and needs for remote access. The right ECM will have automated workflows; secure file sharing capabilities; PDF compression to maximize storage capacity; and options for install clients, browser access, and even mobile applications. Your entire company can work from home without worrying about data risks or productivity deficits.
Online Assets and the Remote Community
Freelancers are having the last laugh right now. Working from home offices, cafes, on vacation, and over holidays is nothing new to them. While outsourcing options abound and span the globe, you can even find freelance specialists in your own backyard. Everything from marketing to tech support, customer service to graphic design, office administration to accounting. If there is an in-house position for it, then there is a contractor who can do the job. While employers understandably prefer to work with a dedicated team full-time, a freelancer can fill in the gaps as they appear for short-term projects or ongoing maintenance. Many charge by the hour, so you could end up footing a pretty substantial bill. Nevertheless, the utility of the freelance community is invaluable in this situation, and fierce competition ensures that you can always find someone to fit your needs and budget. Paired with the online work of your staff, contract projects during the quarantine can ensure a smooth transition into and out of this situation.
Working from home can be facilitated by a number of best practices, online assets, modern software, and process updates back at the office. With the right ECM technology and scheduling know-how, there is no reason your company can’t thrive in remote locations, even for an extended period of time. More and more companies are not only allowing regular remote work but encouraging it. The Coronavirus is cause for concern, and we recommend following the guidelines to prevent spread of the disease issued by the highest health authorities. As for productivity under quarantine and beyond, we recommend following the tips above.