Is Your Business Prepared for a Remote Workforce?
Today’s workforce looks vastly different from that of just a decade ago. More companies are not only allowing employees to work from home, but they are encouraging it. In a recent report by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, remote work was found to have increased by 44 percent over the last five years and 91 percent in the past decade. Today, 4.7 million people, 3.4 percent of the U.S. population, now work from home. A FlexJob survey discovered that 74 percent of respondents believe flexible working has “become the new normal.”
Remote working was once viewed as an inhibitor to productivity, yet with the right tools and oversight, it can lower operating costs, improve employee satisfaction and contribute to lower carbon emissions and less traffic. All worthy benefits, but perhaps even more importantly, it can also provide a viable solution in the case of an emergency, something that is on the minds of many business owners right now. Sometimes conditions make it so that people can’t or shouldn’t come into the office. Does your company have a plan?
If you’re a small business that isn’t quite ready to support a completely mobile workforce, now is the time to learn what you can do to prepare in case a situation arises where your employees can no longer come into the office.
Best Practices for Remote Work Situations
There are multiple factors that play into how quickly and easily you can roll out a remote workforce capability, including the type of work required to keep operations running, your technology infrastructure, and internal support are just a few. No matter the situation you may find yourself, here are six best practices that work in any environment:
1. Communicate openly.
Fear of the unknown is considered a fundamental fear. In the case of an emerging crisis or an emergency, the unknown can quickly lead to high levels of anxiety and even panic. While you may not always have all of the information to alleviate employees’ fears, you should aim to at least communicate often what you do know, particularly as it relates to your organization. Keeping all of your employees in the loop as to how the crisis is evolving and impacting your business, how your organization is responding, and what they could/should do in the near term can help relieve anxiety. It also shows you care about the health and well-being of your employees above all else.
2. Set expectations.
If you need to support a remote workforce in the case of an emergency, be sure to set expectations for each employee per their individual role. Be detailed in the tasks they are to complete, the hours they are expected to work (if there is a set number of hours), the process(es) they are to follow, and who they are to report to during the emergency. Establish performance metrics to track productivity. Managers will play a pivotal role in ensuring expectations are clearly articulated to those who report to them, tracking each person’s performance, and providing feedback.
3. Ask employees what support they need.
If you have to create or increase remote work capacity in a pinch, it’s likely your employees will need support in preparing their remote workspace. Depending on the structure of your company, you may designate a single person to manage requests or enlist the help of managers to reach out to each of their employees. You’ll want to know if they have the basics, such as reliable and secure internet/wifi connection, a computer or alternate device to log into email and other apps they need to perform their tasks, phone connection, appropriate office space of some sort, etc. Collect the information and then work with your team to equip people with what they need to do their jobs.
4. Use non-emergency times to discover gaps in technology/space needs.
With #3 in mind, it’s a good idea to survey employees before an emergency arises to understand who has sufficient remote capabilities and who will need help ramping up. If you want to be a nimble organization that is able to quickly mobilize in a crisis, it’s important to know where your vulnerabilities ahead of time are so you can be proactive in planning to mitigate those risks. Work with IT, HR, security or any other departments in your organization to solve any issues and ensure the materials and equipment employees need to be productive is available.
5. Provide employees with tips for working from home.
Many of your employees may have never worked from home before and aren’t sure how to make the most of their new work environment. It’s easy to get distracted, procrastinate, allow interruptions, and become less productive. Here are a few resources you can provide employees who aren’t used to working from home so they can feel more comfortable with remote working:
PC Magazine – 20 Tips for Working from Home
Forbes – Five Crucial Tips for Working from Home
Inc. – 11 Best Productivity Tips for Working from Home
6. Provide a solution to keep the workforce connected.
While working from home may be preferred by many, it can also feel isolating, particularly for employees who are used to working with other people. Gallup says 21 percent of remote workers say their biggest struggle is “loneliness.” For those employees who need it, they recommend establishing online group chats to encourage regular, virtual “hallway chatter” and/or weekly “phone trees” where remote workers can gather around a workplace topic.
Whether your employees enjoy the solitude of remote working or not, it’s important, according to Gallup, to make sure they aren’t “cut off” from the organization. Managers must make a concerted effort to keep their employees “visible and their advancement, development, and recognition top of mind.” They must be engaged not only with their work but with your organization.
How Phone.com Technology Can Help
Phone.com is available 24/7 to help you prepare for the worst-case scenario. We offer more than 50 cloud-based features to keep your remote staff connected and capable no matter where they work, such as video conferencing services, global numbers, SMS text messaging, and multiple productivity and business applications, such as Salesforce, Zoho, Zapier and Haptick. With Phone.com, you can quickly establish and support a completely remote workforce – all from a single, intuitive web interface. In just minutes, you can do all kinds of things, such as:
- Set up auto attendants to route callers to the right person
- Record answering and hold announcements to let callers know how your business is operating during an emergency
- Use our Live Receptionist service to make sure someone answers the phone, even when your employees can’t
- Use unlimited conferencing to have remote meetings
What Phone.com Is Doing to Support Clients During an Emergency
Phone.com is prepared to support our clients during an emergency and any time they need us. Here’s what we’re doing behind the scenes to make sure we’re always prepared so our clients are always prepared:
- We conduct remote-work tests during non-emergency times to ensure that we are prepared
- Our network features multiple geographically-redundant offices and data centers
- We have remote working capabilities for employees in all regions
- We have Business Continuity and Health and Safety plans in place for all Phone.com locations, should they be required
Remote working may not be ideal for your company for the long term, but with Phone.com and the best practices above, you can adapt your business to meet the challenges that may come with an emergency. By giving your employees the technology and protocol they need to remain productive and efficient in a crisis, you can ensure your business stays strong and your employees are as safe and productive as possible.