Together, my husband and I run a design firm with 12 employees, and in 2020, like the hundreds of other small business owners in the world, we were forced to make significant adjustments to the way we do business.
During the initial stages of the COVID-19 epidemic, our new normal required sending staff home for six weeks while a shelter-in-place order was in effect.
We have made it possible for staff to regularly engage in remote work, and the restriction has been abolished. It turns out that in order to go back to normal, a brand new normal had to be established.
Though difficult, remote management of staff members is doable. In fact, we’ve been able to develop better remote work solutions for employees as working remotely has gone from being a rarity to an everyday occurrence.
Even though it took us a week or two to acquire our bearings, we are now much more effective at remote management thanks to the tools at our disposal.
Strategies for Small Businesses to Work From Home
We can all relate if working from home was supposed to be a temporary solution but has turned into a permanent one. According to Intermedia, the majority of small business owners intend to keep providing remote work opportunities to their staff even when social isolation regulations are lifted.
To ensure the safety of their employees while still turning a profit, many small business owners have had to reevaluate their day-to-day procedures in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.
I’m pleased to say that, with the help of these central tactics, we’ve achieved a state of equilibrium in our company.
1. Set Expectations
In order to keep employees motivated while working from home, it is important to communicate those expectations clearly. While the atmosphere in a remote office may be more relaxed by nature, it is still important to establish clear guidelines for staff to follow. Acknowledge the possibility that it will take some time to adapt to your new work-from-home habit.
Get the word out with a work-from-home FAQ booklet that addresses concerns like these:
- The specific hours you expect employees to be available
- The allowed amount of time before employees respond to texts, emails, or other forms of communication
- How best to communicate with the rest of the team
- Specific performance benchmarks or deliverables.
- How to track hours
- Any changes to how employees receive paychecks, such as direct deposit or picking up checks
Employees who may be worried about keeping up with the workload or who may want to unfairly take advantage of the work-from-home arrangement will have a clear road to success as you establish standards. To keep trust alive and to keep work flowing smoothly, clear expectations are essential.
2. Concentrate on Results and Deliverables
When employees are in the workplace, you can assume they will be productively engaged in their work. While working from home has its advantages, it can also be difficult to focus due to interruptions from family members, chores, and the like.
Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect your employees to work without interruption for an entire workday. We shifted our primary focus from ensuring that all salaried workers put in the required 40 hours per week to monitor their actual output.
This ensures that workers who are based at home are not completely derailed in the event of schedule changes or other disturbances. In this approach, the output for the week is prioritized over the number of hours put in.
Think about what needs to get done, and keep tabs on it until it is done. By doing so, you can keep tabs on your employees’ homework without having to micromanage their time.
3. Control payroll and time:
Concentrating on deliverables doesn’t mean you can ignore the fact that both salaried and hourly employees need to keep track of time in order to submit hours for payroll. The challenge comes from verifying the veracity of reported hours worked.
Connecteam’s GPS tracking and real-time messaging features make it a favorite of ours for keeping track of working hours and coordinating with coworkers.
And it’s not just to keep the books in order; Use an app to track your time and see where you might need to make adjustments. For instance, I provided an employee with supplementary video training after observing that she was spending an excessive amount of time on a single task.
4. Reevaluate Communication
Having regular check-ins with your team can help keep everyone on the same page and productive. Every morning, we all gathered on Zoom for a speedy 15-minute update on the day’s tasks and any problems that needed fixing.
Starting the workday on time and maintaining positive connections with coworkers can be accomplished by making an effort to talk to each other. Conferencing tools like Zoom and Skype simplify teleconferences for your remote staff, but they aren’t their sole option. Find out which services your team enjoys using most by trying out a few at once.
Some potential channels of interaction are:
- Messaging apps like Slack or Gmail Chat
- Google Hangouts
- Project management services like Trello
- Social media channels
5. Minimize Meetings
Reconsider the frequency and purpose of your meetings as you reconsider your approach to communication. Managing the unique challenges of your remote workforce is an opportunity for your small business to provide a healthier work environment.
It may sound contradictory, but having fewer meetings may be the greatest approach to promote a healthy workflow by ensuring that workers aren’t constantly being pulled away from their tasks for longer phone calls.
If you require clarification, perhaps you could send an email rather than schedule a meeting or send a quick message via chat. Instead of having to wait for a face-to-face meeting or get sidetracked in the middle of a conversation about anything else, remote workers can get their work done around their families’ schedules.
A transcription service could be useful if a video meeting is necessary so that people who have to share offices with their families can read the minutes whenever they have the time.
6. Distribute Office Hours
Although the majority of our business operations can be handled digitally, there will be times when staff members will need physical access to the office, such as when delivering or picking up customer plans.
Staff members were given staggered access to the office and its resources at the height of the coronavirus shelter-in-place to ensure that social distancing protocols were not breached.
Employees were given different office days depending on their physical proximity to the office, as the timetable was staggered. Officemates would switch days they came in so they could sit at least 6 feet apart, and we’d organize in-person customer appointments for when the office was otherwise empty.
If you have employees that aren’t happy being in an office environment, a staggered schedule is a long-term solution.
It’s important for employees to have at least a couple of typical days each week, and not simply because of the obvious benefits of equipment availability. It’s important to get around to disinfecting frequently touched areas before the new shift arrives.
7. Adaptive Technology
Typically, workers’ home environments differ significantly from those seen in the workplace. Still, whether they’re located in a kitchen, a closet, or anywhere else, accessibility is crucial to their success.
Making sure everyone in the office has access to a computer, fast Internet, and shared files can have a dramatic effect on how much work gets done.
Collaboration and file sharing is simplified by cloud storage and sharing solutions like Dropbox and Google Drive, and employees’ access to technical assistance can help them work through any hiccups they may experience.
It could be a good moment to purchase new machinery for the business as well. Investing in new laptops or tablets for your staff may seem like a waste of money, but if they help them get more done from home, they may be worth it.
If there are fewer people working at the office, you may also have fewer people to answer the phones. Your phone company should be able to help you set up call forwarding to the correct person, and you should make it plain to your staff when they are expected to be accessible to answer work-related calls.
If you have the means to do so, you may want to compensate employees for a portion of their monthly cell phone costs. Finally, resist the urge to adopt cutting-edge tools and services well in advance of when they’re actually needed.
Use the resources your staff already has access to wherever possible. There is no need to switch file-sharing services if people are already happy with the one they are using, such as Google Drive. By maintaining the status quo, you can save time and money on employee training and allow them to get to work from home more quickly.
When you run a small business, you recognize the value of each employee, customer, and hour. Whether you are considering a work-from-home workforce as a temporary fix or are planning for the long haul, you can benefit from employing tactics that smooth the transition and minimize disruptions to the workflow.
If you take the time to assess and improve your company’s policies, and if you provide your employees the option to work remotely, you can be assured that cutting back on office hours won’t cut back on productivity.