What problems are entrepreneurs who are learning to work remotely likely to encounter?
With a work from home model in place, the commute to the office for business professionals is just a short walk to another room (hopefully not in the same room where they sleep). Creating balance is important. Try going for a nice run, playing with the kids, eating lunch outside or even binge-watching your favorite TV show – anything to give yourself a break from the desk.
Managing team productivity and internal communication
The biggest fear for a traditional office to move to a remote workforce is managing productivity and lines of internal communication. It can be a huge culture shock, and the tendency would be to increase micromanagement to ensure productivity is met. Thankfully for us, we already utilized timesheets within our management system, which remained a good way to keep tabs on our team without becoming too overbearing. Our office phone system was able to be moved to our remote offices. Being able to see phone lines in use and when people are on Zoom meetings has been helpful. We strategically created new team meetings for specific areas of our company to check in with our team and get feedback on how things are going. On Friday afternoons, we host a company happy hour to unwind before the weekend and play Pictionary using the whiteboard feature on Zoom ~ highly recommend! 😆
Adjusting to outbound communication
Many businesses rely mainly on inbound communication from their customers/clients for their service and/or product delivery. It was important for us to adopt an outbound communication process that could be utilized during downtime. One of the most important things a company can do right now is maintain their level of perceived value. Outreach, even if it is just a simple check in to see how things are going and if there’s anything that can be done to help, will go a long way. We don’t yet know what the impact of this pandemic is going to have. It could be 12-18 months from now when businesses have a grasp on this. When business owners start to brace for a negative financial impact, the little things that were done during the crisis will stand out when making tough decisions.
With being stuck at home working all day, we have become too available. There are days I would wake up thinking that my day was looking great from a productivity standpoint. Next thing I knew, it was 10am, and my calendar had filled up with Zoom meetings. By setting calendar boundaries, we can remain productive by having blocks of time to do work instead of being in back to back video calls and meetings.
Can technology tools solve those problems?
Yes, but I would caution against tool overload. It is becoming too easy to adopt new tools. The conceptual idea of what you are trying to accomplish should be well thought out before deciding which tools to implement. Many organizations also need to determine how easy or difficult it would be to integrate into their existing technology.
The businesses that fared well during the work from home transitions were the ones that had well thought out technology plans in place coupled with best practices in technology. This type of plan usually includes policies and processes for secure remote access to a company’s network and data, communications, and business continuity. When we made the decision to transition to a remote workforce, the task was accomplished in just a few hours. Half of our team moved home, taking the equipment needed to function. Once in place, the other half of our team made the transition, and our clients never knew this transition happened. Our cloud based file access and VoIP phone system made this transition seamless. We were then in place to assist our clients in the same transition. Most of them had taken our advice on best practice technologies to have in place, making their transition just as easy as ours.
For small businesses operating on a tight budget, are there tech solutions that are free or inexpensive?
Before deciding on any solutions to implement, I would caution against free or inexpensive at the risk of loosening IT security. Take the time to read over EULAs and terms of service agreements. You would be surprised what is sometimes hiding in those legal documents. Work on things from a conceptual perspective and use what you have already in place when possible. Our team is offering free technology strategy meetings during this time click here
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Below are some digital tools that we recommend. Many are offering free and heavily discounted versions during the pandemic.
For managing a team and their productivity
For remote access into systems