A shift in how employees work can be jarring for any organization. With a little preparation, your organization can be set up for continued success, and it may reveal that remote work is more valuable than you expected.
Here are five tips to help your teams do their best work while being remote:
1. Scale Your VPN
VPN (Virtual Private Network) software is used to connect your remote employees to your internal networks. If you have any remote workers already, chances are you have a VPN setup. If you aren’t sure, ask your IT department.
Here in the North East, nothing is more frustrating than working from home in a snowstorm and having the VPN fail to scale to larger than average load. Work screeches to a halt and employees fire up their game consoles. Not ideal! As your remote workforce grows due to COVID-19, make sure the on-premises tools are available to your employees by scaling up your VPN to support the extra traffic. Check in with employees to see how their connection has been or if they have noticed anything different, especially as more people start working from home.
2. Verify Your Tools Are Remote-Friendly
Proactively test whether your mission critical tools and software work over VPN and/or that they are well accessible via the cloud. The more you can confirm ahead of time the less likely it is that employees will have to come into the office for an emergency. Ask your employees to help with this test since they are best positioned to know what tools they need to do their jobs. If a tool doesn’t work remotely, talk to your vendor and figure out how to make it work or if something else can work to fill the gap.
3. Be Flexible With Work Hours Where Appropriate
Employees will be struggling with daycare, managing pets, roommates and partners in their space, along with many other distractions. The more flexibility you can provide your employees, the more setup for success they will be to execute on their work. Consider what meetings and calendar invites are essential and which can be shifted to asynchronous communication like email and/or chat.
4. Don’t Stop Talking to One Another
Even though you should provide more flexibility to your employees, encourage communication among them. Some people will feel isolated when working remotely and will do better with some face time. One tactic I’ve taken with remote employees is to open a video chat, voice chat, and/or Slack channel specifically for people to dip in and out of to get a bit of chatter without a structured meeting or agenda. Having leaders schedule remote office hours for employees to opt into can also be helpful. Another idea is to schedule a remote “lunch and learn” or knowledge sharing session. This helps team members have a bit of social time in their workday.
5. Measure Productivity but Use It Differently Than You Expect
I work with Agile teams which basically means teams that operate in sprints to deliver incremental work. One thing that was repeatedly stressed in Agile training was that any major work change, be it with headcount or, as in this case, location, will come with a randomization and readjustment cost. (Randomization in this context is having many different tasks inserted into the day which divides the time and decreases focus and productivity.) This uncontrollable situation is a fantastic opportunity to see how your team reacts to working remotely. Watch your team(s) productivity and mood closely. You may find that there are advantages to remote work for your teams and this could lead to new policy around remote work during normal business operations that make you and your company more productive than ever.