It’s long been anticipated that WFH (Working From Home) will be the future of operations for many businesses worldwide over the coming years. However, the emergence of the devastating Coronavirus appears to have accelerated the transition of employees from the office into the comfort of their own homes.
While some businesses may be well prepared for a widespread shift from working environments to home environments, smaller companies may have to demonstrate an unnatural level of agility to accommodate a WFH work ethic.
With many nations across the world in some form of lockdown, it’s unclear how long the WFH transition will last. It’s expected that many businesses will look to uphold some form of WFH values in the future even after the pandemic has alleviated.
(Image showing the share of business people working remotely 2.5 days a week or more in different countries as of 2017. Image: Statista)
But, as a startup owner, how can you prepare for the necessity of working from home? Here are five key considerations to make when adapting your business to accommodate remote work:
Use Productivity Tools Wisely
While nothing can compensate for the circumstances that have forced businesses to draft up a WFH policy, 2020 is a time when there are enough innovative productivity and collaboration tools to successfully facilitate your workforce transitioning into home-based work in a range of industries. If the necessity of WFH emerged just 10 years ago, it would likely have been a different story.
The most important way of ensuring that your remote teams succeed while working from home is to work with tools that can help them to stay connected to the company and productive.
Project management apps like Monday or Basecamp, secure messaging apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams and video conferencing software like Google Hangouts and Zoom are all excellent when it comes to keeping your employees switched on even while they’re at home.
Delegation tools can help to maintain a consistent level of insight into how your employees are coping with their respective workloads. By utilising this technology, managers and employees alike can stay on the same page regardless of where they’re working from – whether they’re at home or on-the-go.
The strength of these tools is such that there’s plenty of potential to keep using them long after the Coronavirus pandemic is over and normal life begins to resume. By having an avenue for tracking productivity and delegating tasks, your startup can better optimise the workforce it has.
Maintain a Healthy Level of Communication
It’s hard to atone for lost real-life facetime opportunities and small conversations to check in on how employees are getting on with life in the startup. However, setting up regular check-in routines can be excellent when it comes to communicating your priorities and building personal connections even outside of the office.
Be sure to set up regular video or conference calls to ensure that employees have the chance to talk as if they’re still in the office. The recurrence of these conversations can vary depending on many factors, and can be daily if you’re a dynamic business with ever-changing targets and deadlines, or weekly if your workloads are a little more static, for instance.
Google Hangouts is a great solution when it comes to casually communicating your tasks, workloads and goals with employees remotely, but there’s plenty more premium and specialised setups available.
Your meetings can be focused on small teams within your workforce or company-wide conferences, and they operate as a great asset for building stronger connections between staff and improving company-wide communication.
Encourage Specialised Workspaces
If you’re attempting to adapt to accommodate WFH employees, as many businesses are currently, the chances are that your workers aren’t used to the notion of having a working environment within their homes.
Be sure to communicate to your employees that it’s vital they look at setting up an area of their home that can help with their concentration and productivity. It may even be worth offering a few office supplies to help them along the way.
Of course, not all employees will have the luxury of possessing enough space in their home to create an office-like environment, but by restoring a working environment feel, it can help to keep workers focussed and removed from everyday distractions around the home.
Encourage employees to look at finding a good area where they can create a makeshift office – whether it’s a guest room, basement, attic, walk-in closet or garage – it could pay dividends in helping your staff prepare mentally for work and switch off from their home-based mentality.
Remember to Support Your Workers
One of the most important obligations you have as an employer is to support your workers if it becomes apparent that they need help. Working from home, especially in the time of COVID-19, can lead to negative emotions, feelings of isolation and anxiety. It’s the responsibility of employers to do what they can to provide emotional support to their employees.
Remember, first and foremost, to build a calm and upbeat working environment within whatever avenues of communication you have with your staff. Be sure to clearly communicate what you need from employees in terms of output and make yourself as approachable as possible.
As you will be fully embracing WFH, it’s important to make it clear that you’re available for check-ins throughout the day and are open to answering any questions that employees may have – no matter how unconventional. It could be a good idea to send an email detailing the terms of WFH for employees and signifying a particular instant messaging app where they can freely communicate in confidence their concerns to you.
Startup owners should encourage employees to take care of themselves as they mentally adapt to life as a remote worker. As we’re living in additionally stressful times and unavoidable isolation, it could be worth having weekly team meetings that focus on bonding just as much as work – it could be invaluable for workers who are living alone to have some deeper levels of interaction.
It’s also important as an employer to advocate for remote employees to look after themselves physically, and advice regular exercise, sleep and showers.
There’s Still Room for Team Building
Team building exercises can help to underline many of the points discussed in this piece. They can generate happiness among your workforce, keep workers active, and improve their communication skills with colleagues.
Creating a timeframe for workers to talk about news, hobbies and other topics that they could’ve discussed in the office will help them to feel less isolated and more sociable while at home.
Establishing a team-building remote environment can be easily done, and employers could simply allow for a few minutes before and after conferences to discuss a few light-hearted points.
However, if you’re looking to build more of a rapport among workers, there are plenty of things you can set up to encourage more team building. From virtual happy hours to conference call quizzes and games – there’s plenty of potential.
The emergence of Coronavirus has thrown the business world into widespread uncertainty. Many startups will be among the hardest hit, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t use the difficult start to the year as an opportunity to adapt your business to accommodate WFH employees. By setting up a WFH infrastructure you can better plan for a future of utilising remote work.
These may be uncertain times, but it’s also your chance to prove to your employees that you’re a caring, considerate and conscientious leader who is ready for the WFH future.