As COVID-19 continues to spread, more states are tightening their regulations requiring employers to allow workers to telecommute if their job functions can be performed remotely. For some employers, this transition may be easy, but many small businesses are not properly equipped to send their workforce home to work remotely. Below are some of the most important considerations for employers to effectively manage remote workers during a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Setup and Equipment
The first, and likely most important step in transitioning workers to telecommuting is to draft a telecommuting policy if your company does not already have one. This policy should outline clear expectations for work hours, equipment, security and communication methods. It should also include any corrective actions that employees can expect if they are not adhering to the policy.
Equipment needs can be outlined in the policy, but employers should provide employees with the necessary tools to perform their duties from home. Giving each employee a home office checklist prior to making the transition can give management a better idea of the equipment that is needed and any other accommodations that might need to be made. If telecommuting is being offered as a short term option only, the policy should also reflect that and the employee(s) should understand that they will be expected back in the office after a specific timeline or event.
Perform a Security Checkup
With telecommuting comes additional security concerns for employers. Before setting employees up to work remotely, ensure all equipment is up to date with the latest software and check that all employee computers are regularly scanning for viruses, Additionally, don’t forget to provide employees with ongoing reminders about proper security protocols and any new cyber security trends that arise while they are telecommuting.
Be Ready for Issues and Errors
During the first day or two of telecommuting, encourage employees to flag and report any issues or errors they come across such as difficulty accessing files, disruption of internet, communication problems, etc. If possible, have extra IT personnel at the ready to handle issues immediately and avoid significant delays in productivity.
Establish Solid Communication Lines and Schedules
Communication can be a struggle for remote employees who are used to being able to touch base with colleagues and supervisors in person and get their questions answered quickly. When working remotely, emails and phone calls may not get immediately answered and employees may feel unsupported. Setting up a quick daily check in is a great way to set employees up for a productive day and answer any important questions they may have. These calls can either be one-on-one between manager and employee, or conference type calls with an entire workforce or department, or a combination of both. However, one-on-one calls should be brief so that managers aren’t stuck spending the bulk of their workday on the phone with employees.
Equipping employees with multiple lines of communication technology is also helpful in keeping communication consistent and supportive. Aside from email and phone calls, consider using alternative platforms such as an organizable chat program like Slack, or video conferencing like Skype or Zoom. This is also a good way to maintain some of the friendly chatter that occurs at a work site, and helps keep employees engaged.
Maintain Consistent Feedback
When telecommuting, employees don’t often receive the same level of feedback on their work as they would in the office. Make sure to provide consistent feedback, even something as simple as saying “great work!” in an email. Also, it is equally as important to ask for and address feedback from employees on how they are adjusting, how they are feeling and any work or non-work struggles they may be having. To encourage honest feedback, employers can send out a survey that gives employees the option to fill out anonymously if they choose.
Telecommuting is a challenge that requires flexibility, trust and a lot of communication, but it can be rewarding too. After the initial transition, you may find that your employees are happier and more productive than you expected. Embracing telecommuting and remote collaboration may seem daunting, but in today’s world it’s more important than ever for employers to find a way to adapt to complexities and move forward.
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Since 1995, Emplicity has provided a smarter, more secure, and integrated platform of employer services to its 300 business clients and their 8,500 employees. As a Professional Employer Organization, or PEO, the California-based HR outsourcing firm simplifies the compliance, administration, and support businesses need in the areas of employee benefits, payroll, and human resources technology.
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