The coronavirus is disrupting businesses everywhere and people in HR and management positions need to be prepared to field some tough questions. Chief among them is a work from home policy. Remote work is not suitable for every industry or position, but if a majority of your workforce can work from home, now is the time to set up some ground rules.
One of the first things to discuss about working from home is when employees need to be working. Employers need to trust that their employees will still be just as productive at home as in the office, but you need to set a timeline for when employees should be “logged on.” If allowing remote work is a new concept for your organization, then stick to the same schedule as the office. For example, stipulate that employees start working by 8:45am, remain easily reachable throughout the day, and can “log off” come 5:00pm.
Setting clear timelines for when employees need to be working and reachable is a great first step in establishing trust in a remote work relationship.
Establish communication channels
Another key factor in a remote work environment is discussing what communication channels you and your employees will use to stay in touch. Google Hangouts and Slack are widely used and popular choices for fast, convenient communication that can host large numbers of people. If your employees set meetings and typically travel to other businesses to discuss your product or service, consider video conferencing instead. Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Skype are all viable options for secure video meetings.
Canceling face-to-face meetings is less than ideal. But limiting nonessential travel and practicing social distancing are two methods for slowing the spread of the virus, so if you can host that in-person meeting over Zoom, do it.
As a manager, you must decide the rules that everyone must obey, and you should be firm about the consequences. For example, missing the deadline, failing to attend a video conference call, or neglecting to fill out a daily activity sheet could be an unacceptable action that can lead to real consequences.
For example, have employees document what they work on throughout the day. This can be as simple as a few bullet points or as detailed as an explanation for every fifteen minutes.
Talk with IT
It may be necessary to speak with IT to set up hardware, software, and VPNs for remote work. Find out if shared drives and other software will still be accessible from multiple locations. Determine if there are any data-security issues to consider and how best to address them before it has the potential to become an issue.
Schedule one-on-one meetings
It’s great to communicate via Slack, Google Hangouts, and emails, but one-on-one meetings are a great addition to your communication protocols. The news around the virus is changing rapidly, and employees may have to work from home for a longer duration than you originally anticipated. Scheduling regular one-on-one meetings ensures your remote employees stay connected; it provides the chance to dive deeper into current projects, how they’re handling the new work environment, and what they’re accomplishing on a day-to-day basis.
If you’re not a big fan of allowing a majority of your workforce to work from home, look towards the future (and remember the advantages of remote work!). The outbreak will eventually pass, but your employees will remember how you handled it. Stay resilient, establish a plan, and keep your employees safe.
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