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Updated: April 23rd, 2020
If you’re one of the millions of American business owners now thrust into working remotely during the COVID-19 business crisis, no doubt your routine has been turned on its head. Chances are you’ve been introduced to a whole different set of pros and cons for 40 hours or more per week in your new work environment.
Many people dream about the perks associated with remote working. That is until you actually have no choice, and oh yeah, it’s during a global pandemic and most likely under a “shelter-in-place” order. We are right there with you. Figuring out how to work from home efficiently and effectively is a balancing act for business owners. It is one that involves remaining sensitive to the needs of both your customers and your staff.
The good news is that while there may appear to be limitations to off-site working, there are also a host of new opportunities to this workflow. We have some work from home tips to help business owners adapt.
If you’re one of the businesses bringing your operations online during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone. Many entrepreneurs like you are doing the same in order to adapt to the current environment and survive.
Double-check that you have the right technology set-up in place throughout every level of your business. This means high-speed internet, and a desktop computer, or a laptop that has audio and camera features for video calls. In a pinch, a smartphone with great wifi can work, at least temporarily. In some cases, this could mean providing equipment to employees who aren’t prepared to work from home.
Just like in the office, the tech gremlins could interfere with your equipment working properly. If troubleshooting technology isn’t for you, find an online IT shop that could help remotely with any tech-related issues you encounter along the way. Always remember to search either Google or Youtube for a solution to your question first. Chances are you may be able to solve your problem at no cost to you. Just be patient with yourself, you will be able to work it out.
As you go through the transition into working from home, you may find that the extent to which certain roles can continue online will vary. When it comes to setting expectations for you and your staff, be honest and transparent. The earlier, the better. The more they know, the more you will know and all the better for the business.
Download any apps on your mobile phone that will support your new business model, such as video apps for conference calls, payment apps, or maybe you suddenly need to launch an e-commerce app of your own. There are software solutions available to make this process easier.
You’ll also find plenty of apps already out there designed to complement your workflow. For instance, Slack and Microsoft Teams are popular for companies that have various projects going on at once. Each one allows you to break the communication down into specific channels, so only the relevant teams are seeing the discussion.
The Facebook-owned chat application, WhatsApp, also has a free version for small businesses dubbed WhatsApp Business. It works for messaging, sending images, etc. WhatsApp Business also supports group chats and is a popular tool for engaging with customers.
Zoom is useful for video conferencing, which is sure to become a significant part of how you work from home. However, be aware that the app has been in the news for privacy issues that the company is now addressing. Alternatives include Google Hangouts and Skype.
A company called LogMeIn has designed a “Remote Work Toolkit” for business owners to help in the transition to working remotely or other new environments. In it, they suggest using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, to “mask” your identity, so your server and location details aren’t shared. VPNs are a tool in the fight against hackers, which you can further strengthen by integrating multi-factor authentication.
Working remotely is an adjustment for everyone, from the business owner to employees. But if you’re fortunate enough to be able to keep your employees on the payroll, you’ll want to make sure they’re staying productive. To keep things as healthy as possible, here’s a work from home tip: set parameters. This refers to things like asking employees to check-in at various times throughout the day.
The last thing you want to do is spy on your employees to make sure they’re doing their jobs and breach that trust. But if you notice a trend of lower production or maybe someone signing on later than usual, you may need to take matters into your own hands with a quick 1:1 conversation. Avoid “blanket statements” in work-from-home situations as they tend to make everyone feel at fault because they only have visibility into their own workload and will take any communication coming from the boss personally.
If your business allows for it, this might be the perfect time to allow for some flexibility for when work gets done. In this case, you could get more out of your employees as they produce when their creativity is at its peak level during the day. Open and honest communication comes into play again about expectations and results. The more clear those lines are, the better for the business.
Company morale could easily take a hit during this time of uncertainty. To fix this, here’s a piece of work from home advice: lighten things up a bit using technology as a way to connect with your staff. Some ideas include:
If things go better than expected – and depending on the nature of your business – you may just decide to continue working remotely for the long haul. Even once this crisis is over, working from home could be a great way to boost employee morale and improve efficiency. Follow a few of these work from home tips now and reap the rewards well into the future.
Jessica Holcomb is the Content Marketing Manager at Funding Circle, specializing in small business marketing and social media. She has a degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Prior to Funding Circle, Jessica was a Marketing Manager at a successful social games company and a freelancer for many small businesses in the Bay Area. Her work can be seen in top retail, gaming, and financial small business resource sites.