Like most businesses, Voxus has had to make significant adjustments over the last few months to streamline operations in a post pandemic world. While some of these adjustments have worked well, others continue to present challenges and need improvement. Since it’s clear the impact from the virus isn’t going away anytime soon (and we don’t have plans to require our teams to return to the office in 2020), our team has been working to transform from a traditional brick-and-mortar company to a new remote workforce.
From an operations perspective, this has presented some new challenges for our boutique agency. We’ve learned and evolved a lot in the last four months and wanted to share some tips. Below are five things to keep in mind when converting to a remote workforce:
1. Encourage Herd Leadership
For most people, change comes with at least a little apprehension. This applies to employees and partners alike. In a boutique company like ours, this can be compounded by not being able to connect with colleagues at work, or share struggles or funny stories around the water cooler. Without this social support, teams can disconnect and morale can stagnate.
Now is the time to encourage everyone to take on more leadership. If everyone takes on the responsibility to communicate more frequently, motivate others, manage up, stay positive, share fun ideas, drive new group learning opportunities, etc., a company can maintain that social connection even with a new remote workforce. But this requires everyone participating and sharing ideas (and management to be supportive of those new ideas, regardless of how out-of-the-box they might be).
2. Take Your Communications Up a Couple Notches
Remote environments tend to push people along a communication spectrum; at one end is abandonment, at the other, the feeling of being micromanaged. The sweet spot in the middle is where the magic happens. Let’s not let doubt or uncertainty creep in. A balanced, empowered approach is really important here. Touching base frequently, sharing goals, setting expectations and sharing both setbacks and successes will bring people together and energize teams to learn and work harder. And just like leadership, taking our communication up a couple notches is something we all can do.
However, it’s important to note that given the dramatic change in the workday, we should also be considerate of team boundaries. Some employees are still working 8-5, but others that have to deal with educating children from home (and more), could be shifting hours. Understanding where those communication boundaries lie is critical to positively increasing communication.
3. Understand How You Use Your Time and Get Organized
Working from home presents a whole host of new distractions and organizational challenges. It sounds obvious, but consider setting up a small area that is exclusively used for work. Look at what tools or solutions might help you stay better organized (and communicate what those are with others; you’re likely not the only one struggling with certain challenges). Good boundaries between personal and professional life end up improving both in the long run.
In addition to organization, tracking time can be super beneficial to understanding how your day breaks out, and reaching your goals. I’m not just talking about billable client time, but also your general day – staying organized and tracking progress can help you stay focused and productive, set boundaries, know where you need help, and more. Investing a little time to understand this up front can pay huge dividends when establishing a schedule and empower you to have productive conversations with team members.
4. Evaluate Your Processes
With all the time you’re saving on that commute 😉, now is a good time to revisit company processes. With so much change and uncertainty abound, catching errors quickly and staying on top of new issues that might arise is more important than ever.
Though we all have new challenges competing for our attention, don’t forget the established tools and systems you’re already using. Are they still beneficial? Take some time to inventory your toolset. Do you still need that parking pass? Is that monitor really big enough now that you’re working from home? For example, from an operations perspective, we’re looking at changing how we use our VoIP phones, server backup procedures, and much more. But from an individual perspective, you should be assessing what is needed to successfully (and happily) work from home.
Furthermore, if you’re part of the onboarding process for new employees or clients, you might need to make dramatic changes to those processes. For example, update existing forms to use DocuSign or Adobe Sign to enable HR documents to flow quickly.
5. Prepare for Sick Days
With the unpredictability of today’s environment, we need to be prepared for more change. Encourage your team to document procedures for tasks specific to them so someone can step in quickly if needed. And if business is slow, ask people to create training docs to help fill in other’s experience gaps. Another idea to safeguard against a sudden hole in the team is to set up a rotation plan between clients or accounts to broaden the experience base of your team members. It might seem like more work up front, but it could pay dividends if an emergency strikes.
While there are likely many additional challenges and solutions to help streamline the transition to a new remote workforce, these are some of the initial buckets our organization has grappled with. Being a smaller organization has some benefits and some challenges. But by focusing on leadership, communication and organization, you’ll be off on the right foot in your new work from home journey.