• Scott MacIntosh

Supporting Remote Work with Policy and Infrastructure - and FAST

Coronavirus has businesses of all sizes scrambling to figure out how to keep their “doors” open as schools close, business slows, and people are advised to stay home.

Digital transformation, which for some may have been in the “To-Do” pile for a while now, has propelled itself to the top of the priority list and has become a painfully obvious necessity in our current times.

Many large businesses have remote work policies and infrastructure in place for their white-collar employees - or at least have been able to shift some or all of their team into a work-from-home set-up with relative ease due to existing cloud-based systems, online communication software, and familiarity with virtual meetings programs.

However, small and medium businesses haven’t been as prepared, and are now racing to get remote work policies and infrastructure in place just to keep things going. If this is you, you’ve got your hands full, especially because - like everyone else - you’re trying to anticipate and respond to the effects this is going to have on your business immediately and in the future.

It’s not all bad news, though, as history shows us that the businesses that were able to improve their core in times of crisis thrived afterward. That being said, the opportunities, resources, and tools needed to improve your digital capability - and fast - are abundant in this digital age.

The trick? Start by putting policies and infrastructure in place that support remote work. In today’s climate, it’s unreasonable to think that anyone has the time or capacity to do a total digital overhaul. For most, the focus is on doing what’s critical, and right now, that’s remote work.

Coronavirus is requiring us to adjust quickly. Read on to learn the things to consider when creating remote work policies and infrastructure.

Remote Work Policies

Whether you had a remote work policy in place before or not, it’s time to refresh and redefine it.

But first, be sure to map out who is eligible to work remotely and who isn’t. The fact is, some jobs within your organization may require an employee to be in-person, so remember that remote work isn’t an all-or-nothing kind of thing.

If necessary, part of your team may work remotely while the rest continue in person while they can. To create/recreate a remote work policy:

  1. Start with safety and wellbeing. Your policies, and more importantly your actions, need to demonstrate that you are taking all appropriate actions to keep your employees and your customers safe.

  2. Send out a remote work policy and confirm that your management and team have read and understood it. This can be done remotely with an e-signing program like DocuSign or HelloSign.

  3. Be clear on expectations and employee rights in your policy. For example, let your team know if everyone needs to be logged on at specific hours, clock a certain number of hours a day, or if you require a specific response time. Toggl is a great tool if you find yourself in need of an easy-to-use time tracking tool..

  4. If working hours are flexible, provide expected results, outcomes, and productivity milestones. Try project management tools like Trello, Airtable, Asana, or SmartSheets, depending on the complexity of the work.

  5. Consider supporting remote work by subsidizing home high-speed internet, home network and office equipment upgrades so you ensure your employees have what they need to succeed.

  6. Ensure information is secure with proper cybersecurity measures and ongoing tech support. Our friends at Beauceron Security have provided some detailed tips for working at home securely, and have also created valuable free Training for Remote Workers. Check it out. One quick tip - If you’re working with passwords and sensitive billing information, LastPassword or 1Password could be a great solution to keep client information protected and lower your hacking risks.

  7. Offer education and training on new tools you may be using, like Slack (communications) or Zoom (video conferencing), so your team can use them effectively from home.

  8. Create an accountability system where work status notifications can be made to one another, teams can collaborate efficiently, and challenges can be expressed with a manager or lead.

Remote Work Infrastructure

Your remote work policy must be supported by the proper infrastructure. The tools and systems that make up your infrastructure will enable you and your team to collaborate, share files, communicate, and simply get work done from anywhere.

To start, become acquainted with the tools you plan to use (these tools can also be used with partial or non-remote teams after the Coronavirus crisis blows over!).

For example, let’s use Zoom, Slack, GoogleDocs, and Airtable as a sample configuration. Zoom will enable team and one-on-one meetings, Slack will be for ongoing messaging, communications, and quick file-sharing, GoogleDocs will be for secure document storage, and Airtable will be for project management, assignments, and productivity tracking.

  1. Organize your Google Drive with all the necessary documents your team may need. It can be organized by client, project, business pillar, or team member. Invite all team members to your Team Drive so they have access to what they need. Access can be limited to certain folders for certain teammates for security, if necessary. Tip - If you have an existing document repository, you may want to migrate it to the cloud now to relieve some pain for your team working remotely.

  2. Create your Airtable. Check out this article to learn how.

  3. Set up a company Slack and invite your team. You can create separate channels for different pillars of the business. For example, you can have one for sales and one for operations, or one for just the management team. Team members can be a part of multiple channels depending on their role. Tip - Create a “Water Cooler” channel for everyone to be a part of. This channel is where typical office “water cooler” talk can occur - like jokes, wins, weekend highlights, etc - and is a nice place for the team to interact in a lighthearted way, especially in these uncertain times.

  4. Ask every team member to join Zoom. You can buy an account that allows you to have longer calls with more members or you can have a limited free account. This can also vary by team member and what they’ll actually need - some can have a paid account while others have the free one. Tip - Pay attention to Zoom security to avoid some of the unfortunate 'Zoombombing' type issues that have arisen as Zoom has exploded in popularity. It's easy to prevent these issues with a bit of setup - check out this article.

  5. Host a conference call once everyone has access and has created their accounts on the above. Share your screen with the team and walk them through the organization of the Drive and Airtable. Have everyone check in on Slack to confirm they were able to enroll and find their way. Then, encourage everyone to choose a partner and test out Zoom on a call together. This encourages team bonding and gets everyone acquainted with the tools.

Important to note is the inbound connections to your network and the possibility of needing to increase VPN capacity if you access internal systems in this manner. You may also need to look into cybersecurity measures you hadn’t considered before you had remote employees. Also, if anything you rely on is paper-based, you may quickly need to pivot into scanning/uploading necessary docs into something like Google Drive or another storage platform so your team can have access to what they need.

FAST Policy and Infrastructure for Remote Work

As you can see, some policy and infrastructure challenges can be tackled quickly with swift action. Celebrate small wins and pivots - as they can make a big difference in the way your business shifts during these unstable times.

As I mentioned, a full digital makeover in times of crisis is not practical. However, with actions in the right direction in the form of policy and infrastructure change - you and your team will come out on the other side more resilient, strong, and connected than ever before.

By becoming highly capable of remote work as a company, you’ll make the long-term progress needed to be successful in the coming decade. You’ll also get a long-term return on investment despite any short-term pain you may feel right now.

Remember, the current crisis will eventually end. What matters is what we do to support our team and our clients through this time and beyond.

If you’re interested in building a business that supports remote work, we’ve created a FREE tool to help you get there called The Remote Work Checkup. This survey and assessment will guide you through the six core challenge areas and shed light on the action steps needed within each to make your business more profitable, more sustainable, and more adaptable through these tough times.

Stay safe and stay positive. This too shall pass.

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