The current pandemic didn't start this trend, but it has definitely accelerated it. Even before COVID-19 came on the horizon, Gallup research showed that 43% of U.S. employees work remotely some or all of the time. And some predictions have the traditional 9-to-5 job being pretty much history by 2030.
Now, thousands of businesses all over the world — beginning with the financial centers in Shanghai and Hong Kong — have practically shuttered their physical offices and converted to the new virtual reality of remote workers.
Here's how to join what Time Magazine calls the "World's Largest Work-from-Home Experiment" with minimal friction and maximum productivity. What you learn now by necessity will likely benefit your company even when the need is past.
Establish Expectations from the Start
Workers should know exactly what they need to produce and on what timetable. Make instructions as detailed as possible.
Communication is Key
Teams should hold regular phone or video conference calls to make sure projects are staying on track. Managers must provide coaching, direction and support to keep workers motivated and on task.
Determine Equipment Needs
Analyze what people will need in order to work from home. This may include:
Remote access to shared databases or servers
Compatible software on their home computers
IT support for remote workers installing and using the software
Ways to secure take-home devices and the information on those devices
Increased teleconference and video conference capacity
Printer, scanner, shredder
Software Tools Can Help
Project management: Choose a cloud-based platform that allows you to assign tasks and due dates, and workers to submit their work as they complete it. Some, such as HiveDesk, require employees to clock in and out whenever they work on a project, so you can track time spent on a task for billing and job costing purposes.
Time and attendance: The cloud comes to the rescue again with systems that let remote workers clock in and out from their smartphone or computer.
Payroll: Your system may need updating or replacing to handle remote workers' hours. It should be able to integrate hour tracking and payroll functions for maximum accuracy and efficiency, as well as alert you when there are significant discrepancies from expected work hours.
Scheduling: Look for cloud platforms that assign employees their work hours and projects. Options such as Planday can be used for both on-site and remote access.
The Silver Lining
Many, many studies have shown that giving employees the flexibility to work at home increases morale, overall work hours and productivity. What's more, if most employees telecommute, it reduces the need for expensive corporate office space and other overhead items.
Even when COVID-19 is in the rear-view mirror, you may never go back to business as usual. And your business may be all the better for it.