Scott O Hirsch discusses the strategy shifts involved to create a highly productive work from home workforce in the COVID-19 era.
Even though telecommuting has been a popular option for over a decade, this is probably the first time most brands have adopted remote working for the backbone of their workforce. There’s certainly a steep learning curve involved but it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable challenge; it simply requires the right collaboration tools and heightened communication. Here are some of the tactics that have served me well for the past 15 years with work from home employees and contractors. Scott O Hirsch provides more detail below.
Make Company-Wide Communication Effortless
When you were working in an office space with co-workers just a few steps away, it was easy for employees to ask for clarification whenever they needed a little help. Remote workers are much less likely to pick up the phone or send an email over something minor though, which often leads to mistakes and/or wasted time trying to research the answer themselves. As a company leader, you have to set the tone for collaboration to continue so daily/weekly/monthly goals stay on track.
Start with grabbing a collaboration app and implementing it company-wide. Slack and Trello are great apps for handing out assignments and getting basic questions answered throughout the day, while Zoom or GoToMeeting are ideal for video conferencing when the face to face stuff matters. You’ll also want to move towards collaborating documents online- it’s hard to beat the Google Drive suite since it’s 100% free. All of these recommendations can be implemented within minutes and they won’t break the bank.
Shift Focus Away from the Standard Work Week
As every remote employee learns the hard way, there are 10,000 distractions at home that will interrupt the workday. From a barking dog to an Amazon delivery to screaming kids, the typical 9 to 5 mentality simply doesn’t work for all your employees in the COVID-19 era. So instead of worrying about employees “punching a time clock” each day and being at their desks at 8:57 AM exactly, relax standards for the typical workday and encourage employees to choose the hours that work best for them during this pandemic.
You might be thinking, “But what if I need someone now and they’re not working?” That’s what those nifty collaboration tools are for on each employee’s smartphone. By making each workday more about getting things accomplished than sticking to set hours, your staff will actually accomplish more and they’ll appreciate you for understanding their unique situations. A goal-oriented approach will also make the transition to remote work a lot easier for everyone involved.
Don’t Forget to Share Praise Where it’s Deserved
One final tip that often gets overlooked with a remote workforce is giving praise- your management team absolutely has to call out employees that have gone above and beyond on a regular basis. Even if it’s only a quick email or messenger post, these little things keep spirits high and allow your employees to feel confident in their actions. The same can be said for struggling employees- reach out early and often to keep team members on track with the right mindset.
At the same time, however, it’s important to find a balance between communicating and actually getting things done. Many companies entering a virtual workforce will schedule several back to back video conferences daily to stay in the loop on everything, but there’s a point where this actually becomes counterproductive for everyone involved. You’ll have to keep in-house video chats to a minimum- and never for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. Each chat should have a clear goal and a set time limit to avoid wasting too much of the workday.
Scott O Hirsch is a well-known serial entrepreneur that’s built and sold multiple $100M brands through innovative digital marketing. He’s been accredited as a co-founder of email marketing and many of today’s most popular display advertising tactics.