Switching To A Remote Workforce In An Emergency

Remote Workforce

As the COVID-19 outbreak grows across the globe, government officials are asking (or in some cases, mandating) employers to cancel all business travel and suggesting employees work from home whenever possible. 

If you’re one of the many companies with an existing flexible work policy, this may not be a dramatic adjustment for your organization. But for many, this sudden request is throwing HR and leadership teams for a loop.

Here are a few challenges your employees will be facing over the coming days – some you might not have thought of – and how to mitigate them as a leader in your organization. 

View Every “Work From Home” Situation as Unique  

An emergency situation like this means your employee likely isn’t the only other family member asked to stay home. They might be sharing a space with their spouse, kids or roommates who are also trying to maintain normalcy (and productivity). It’s important for managers to have open, empathetic conversations to understand every employee’s unique challenges.

Leadership must remain empathetic and flexible. A situation like this is scary enough without the added stress of employees feeling like they aren’t trusted or respected. Understand how much time they’ll truly have in their day, and what their obstacles might be. Be more flexible about when their work gets done, outside of the usual 9‑to‑5. Communication and prioritization is key! I’ll be writing an article about shifting your mindset from WHEN things get done, to HOW they get done. Stay tuned!

Maintain Normal” Levels of Productivity 

Many companies that don’t normally support a remote workforce are likely fearful of a sudden drop in productivity. But based on a lot of research, this is nothing more than a myth. According to several surveys run over the past few years, it has been found that workers actually feel equally or even more productive when working remotely! What’s more promising is that they feel they live better lives when trusted with flexible work schedules. The ongoing spread of COVID-19 is a chance to reevaluate your own stance on remote work. 

Encourage Frequent Virtual Collaboration 

Teams that are accustomed to sitting next to each other in an office every day will struggle with the shift to fully-remote collaboration. Push for daily – or even twice-daily – 15–minute online meetings over video conferencing tools as “water cooler conversation”. These don’t need to be serious or workload-specific. Encourage teams to stay as open and friendly as they would if in the office. Make the conscious effort to check in: how are they handling the shift? Did they do anything fun over the weekend? This will help ensure inclusivity and camaraderie, despite differences in physical location. 

Keep the Company Culture Alive

What makes your company unique? Be sure to continue to support this even if your staff is all working remote. Employees need to feel like you’re still there for them, and they’re a part of a greater organization, especially during a scary time of change. If there are employee organizations for various interests or groups, make sure they are set up to continue meeting remotely. Encourage people to take breaks – whether it’s a regular “mandatory” lunch hour, or an afternoon walk – to avoid non-stop work that can lead quickly to burnout. 

Take a United Stand as Leaders 

This is not the time for leadership to stay quiet or be difficult to reach. Encourage all managers and leaders in your organization to take an active role in keeping their teams calm, happy, and working together. Executives should be readily available to address employee concerns during a changing situation, and mid-level managers should be checking in with each employee individually to ensure their questions are answered and their needs are met. 

If human resources leaders and management can work together to address these challenges, a sudden shift to remote work will be a less bumpy road. 

At Progressive IT Services, we’re here to help!

With the right technology in place for your employees, you can mitigate disruption while keeping people safe and productive, too. We will help you enable successful remote collaboration and remote access. Are you ready?

For more information, including tips to host engaging virtual meetings and events and tech support for remote working, check out our new Remote Workforce Service and our new Remote Work blog posts.