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In this new COVID-19 reality, how can companies reduce business disruption and prepare for success when working from home?

We examine key considerations and technological advances that can help you successfully manage  this shift and make working from home easier.

Practicalities to Ponder

There has been a growing trend towards flexible and work from home scenarios over the last 5 years but many businesses are still unprepared for full-scale remote working.

So, let’s look at some key things to consider when adjusting to working from home.

Of course, not all industries or job roles are suitable for remote work. If your industry isn’t one of them, still consider if there is any other work that they can be doing in the short term outside of their normal remit and that can be accomplished in the home environment.

Now is the time to set and communicate clear guidance around work from home policies including sick pay or leave entitlement and the availability of additional Government support.

Other considerations include:

  • Space: do workers have a practical and secure environment and area at home to work in? Either a a dedicated room, existing desk space or temporary set up.
  • Health & Safety: Health & Safety regulations also apply to your homeworkers. This includes the seating and layout of the desk, computer workstation, electrical equipment testing & certification, adequate lighting, ventilation and heating.

As an employer you will need to communicate these regulations to your homeworkers. Your employees then have the responsibility to apply these policies within their homes. It is recommended that employees do a home risk assessment, document it and inform your employer of the results.

  • Security: homeworkers will need to be able to secure business supplied equipment and protect sensitive information in accordance with data protection regulations such as the GDPR (General Data Protection Act) or CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Law). You may need to re-evaluate and document your new work from home data protection policies and practices if not already done.
  • Equipment: do employees have a telephone line and adequate broadband access? What equipment, like computers and printers, do they need to do their work?
  • Insurance & Costs: review your existing business insurance policy and contact your insurance provider with any additional requirements, which may incur additional costs.

You may also need to investigate your tax, insurance and reporting obligations if you decide to provide homeworking expenses to your employees.

Expenses you may consider include:

  • Equipment
  • Services
  • Furniture
  • Supplies
  • Household expenses like gas or electric

Transform With Technology

Advances in communication and collaboration technology has been key in the shift to remote working. They provide anytime anywhere connection through the internet, cloud-based apps and mobile devices.

You may already have some solutions in place for workers on the go, such as your sales or customer support teams, but now need to consider rolling out to the wider employee network.

Technology to leverage may include:

  • Laptops, Printers & Smart Phones: can be purchased or hired relatively inexpensively to provide the essentials for homeworking.
  • Secure private virtual network (VPN): give remote employees access to relevant files and systems on your company network.  Be careful to look at additional security measures and stress test your servers for home working.
  • Cloud based business solutions: move any localised on-premise solutions such as your CRM, accounting or project management tools to a cloud-based alternative to provide easy access to homeworkers. This can be done quickly and easily with your providers.
  • Phones: keeping contact with colleagues, suppliers, prospects and customers is critical. Easily divert phones through VOIP to home numbers, mobiles or access via software commonly known as a Softphone. Consider how you will track the use and expenses related to employees using personal mobiles and home phones for outward calls.
  • Video Conferencing: reduce the feelings of isolation with video meeting technologies such as GoToMeeting, Cisco Webex, Zoom or Skype etc. Many providers offer free trials so that may be a good option to start with.
  • Communication & Collaboration:  Consider using cloud apps such as MS Team, Slack or Skype for easy messaging and communications.  Manage teams and projects through collaboration tools like Asana, Monday or Trello. Many providers offer Free Trials or low-cost plans.

Conserve Customer Continuity

Enforced isolation and widespread home working has the potential to severely interrupt you daily business activities and ultimately your customer engagement.

Cloud based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software provides an ideal platform for all workers, office and home based, to gain easy access to one single database of up-to-date business wide information.  Maximizer CRM offers a cloud solution CRM Live and a Mobile App that links up your processes and activities, helping to maintain business continuity and customer experience, including:

  • Address Book: contact details for prospects, customer, supplier, partners and colleagues.
  • Activity Updating: including internal and external communications such as email, calls and meetings as well as progress through marketing, sales and customer service processes.
  • Collaboration Tools: calendars, meeting invites, task allocations, notifications and hotlists to deliver cohesive team working and productive time management.
  • Dashboards and Reports: for activity and performance tracking for early issue identification and resolution.
  • Resource Library & Documents: for any new working policies, marketing materials, working templates for proposals/quotations/invoices, contracts and T&Cs etc.

Adding additional users to your existing Cloud solution or moving from on-premise CRM to Cloud should be easy and straightforward to undertake with the help of your provider. If you are new to CRM, then initial set up and deployment of a Cloud based solution is quick and easy.

Managing Remotely

It’s possible to get up and running remotely quite quickly with the right technology, but it’s important to consider performance and review the situation.

Take some time to educate, regularly communicate and support your managers and teams throughout the process.

Consider:

  • Setting clear expectations and goals
  • Demonstrating trust and confidence in your homeworkers
  • Providing guidelines for Managers of homeworkers
  • Developing guidance for homeworkers to manage their own time
  • Training employees on new tools and technologies to work from home
  • Reporting good news and results regularly to keep up moral
  • Organizing flexible scheduling and working arrangements that allow homeworkers to manage their own time but within the best interest of the business
  • Focusing on results to be achieved rather than activity that needs to be done. If goals are not being accomplished, then of course you will need to delve into work from home practices and activities.

Welcome Wellbeing

Sudden social isolation from colleagues, team working, and normal routines may have a negative effect on not only on employee’s productivity but their mental wellbeing.

Your employee duty of care extends also to your homeworkers, especially during these challenging times.

Consider ways to encourage positive mental health:

  • Upping and increasing communication at individual and team level
  • Using video over phone for face to face interactions
  • Creating company culture and team collaboration
  • Recognising and rewarding homeworking results
  • Introduce fun elements or competitions (best photograph, best decorated cake etc) to create community and encourage non-work-related interactions still to happen.
  • Offering mentoring, coaching and emotional support services.

Future Proofing

The trend and desire for remote working will no doubt continue, especially after many more may experience its benefits in the short term. Businesses that are proactive in delivering clear home working policies, guidance, technology, tools and support will be best placed to succeed in this new era.

Looking for more ideas? Read An Everyday Guide To Working From Home with tips on keeping your team productive, organized and effective. Anywhere, anytime.