COVID-19 and Remote Working
The COVID-19 pandemic is creating significant disruption in all areas of business and life. To help you to find some order in the chaos and adjust to new ways of doing and being, Doctor Digital has put together a series of COVID-19 blogs with tips, tricks, hacks and suggestions for how digital and e-commerce tools can support you and your business.
Doctor Digital Says:
COVID-19 is a significant disruption globally. In the short to medium term as people socially distance and isolate, it is going to have an impact on how and where you work. Depending on your situation, you may already have the capacity to work flexibly or remotely. Even if you are familiar with this style of working occasionally, it is worth thinking about how this will work best for you as your daily style of work in the next few weeks.
Remote working can be defined broadly as work that happens predominantly outside an office/fixed environment. In the case of COVID-19, remote working will be undertaken from home to limit cross infection through social isolation. Remote workers can be freelancers and solopreneurs that have chosen to deliver their services from home, they can be individuals who work for organisations from two employees to 100,000 employees. With adequate and mobile network access, remote workers are locationally independent.
All of the technology and infrastructure required to enable remote working already exists. If your business already uses the cloud for information storage, then you will be able to access your systems remotely. The predominant change in how you do your business will be how you manage communications and accountability in a non face-to-face environment. For the best chance at success when you are thinking about how you manage a remote work environment for your teams, consider these elements:
- Ensure that your remote team communications are strategically managed, rather than on demand.
- Provide clear guidance so individuals know your expectations, can track their projects and critical outputs.
- Use the best available tools for your business: you need the right technologies in place for supporting remote workers and your clients.
Which businesses are best suited to remote working?
Remote work is not for every business or sector. Hands on manufacturing on the factory floor, customer service where face-to-face interaction is integral like a café or B&B, harvesting, milking cows - these are all occupations where you need to be hands-on, on site, and therefore are not suitable candidates for remote working. Shut downs for these type of businesses in a pandemic environment are the most likely scenario. Government will advise on when these restrictions to business are mandated. Until then, you can implement social distancing and strong hygiene protocols for your customers.
There is a significant list of industries and roles within organisations that have no barriers to remote working. This list demonstrates the extent of work that can be undertaken independent of location:
- Content management
- Customer service (non f2f)
- Film production
- Hardware development
- Software development and coding
These are broad categories that within them have many sub-categories of roles and tasks that are all able to be done remotely. Does your business fit one of these? Given the rapid increase of infections from COVID-19 and the known benefits of social isolation, now is the time for you to think about how you transition your workforce to remote working. Let’s have a look at some of the key tools you can use.
Remote working – getting started.
Communication is essential for getting remote work right and giving your team a sense of virtual togetherness and accountability. Before you even begin this process, gather your staff together and discuss with them your ideas, and canvass their own thoughts on how it can work. Everyone being part of the process will make it more cohesive. Even though this is only going to be for a limited time, quarantine and self-isolating may last for a while, so it is important to ensure that your people have appropriate home set ups for working, especially if they aren’t used to it.
Here are a few things to consider when remote working to make your transition from office to home office workable:
- Space: make sure you have an appropriate space to work from, with a desk and chair that are comfortable to sit in for regular workday hours. If you don’t, you may need to arrange this so you don’t end up with back aches and pains. If possible, designate a space in the house where you can work quietly, and let your family/flatmates know that this is happening and not to disturb you when you are working. Make sure there is adequate light and air, and that you have an environment conductive for you to work in.
- Hardware + Software: you will need a laptop/computer that can access your business systems, and also potentially a keyboard, mouse, cables, stands etc, to replicate what you have at work or something similar. For staff who work from a fixed computer, you will need to work out how to transition to a remote set up. Ensure that all your programs are able to be used on your remote set up, and any software you need on your desktop or laptop is correctly installed.
- Connectivity: having a strong internet connection is a must for remote working, especially if you are video conferencing regularly. Check that your plan is suitable for a higher volume of traffic and arrange to have it updated or upgraded if necessary.
- Security: moving to a remote office means that you need to check that your security is at the same level as it is in your office or workplace. Use the same protocols as you normally would for logging in and protecting your work, and whether you need to set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for added security. Let your clients know what is happening so there is no disruption to their service and if you need to, use Multi-factor Identification for stronger security. This is also a good time to check up on your Web Conferencing Security.
- Routine: Working from home can be a major disruption to your normal work practice. There are plenty of distractions at home that you wouldn’t encounter in the workplace, and the best way to transition to your new way of work is to set up a routine much the same as you would if you were going into an office. Start and finish at your regular times, take breaks for snacks and exercise, and resist the temptation to get caught up in home activities. Of course it is great to be able to take the dog for a walk or put on a load of washing (which is one of the joys of working to your own rhythms), but schedule these so you keep a focus on your tasks. Schedule regular catch up meetings with your team, and check in with everyone to make sure their transition to home working is going smoothly.
For a comprehensive guide to getting your business ready to work remotely, check out the Digital Ready Program COVID-19 Remote Working Factsheet