The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down. Millions of people are trying to help flatten the curve by practicing social distancing, among other things.
While this is a great way to help slow the spread of the virus, it’s taking a huge toll on the economy. Companies have seen a sharp decline in business and some have even had to close their doors. Others have been asking employees to work from home (WFH).
But this can create a new set of challenges for managers to support and stay connected with their remote workforce. If this describes you, don’t worry. We’ve got some simple tips to successfully transition your business from in-house to remote workers.
How to set up a temporary remote workforce
LinkedIn recently spoke with representatives at GitLab, a company with the largest all-remote workforce in the world, to get advice on successfully transitioning to a remote workforce.
Here are some ways to help make the process go smoothly.
Establish a remote leadership team
Having an entire company’s workforce work remotely can trigger an office shock wave. To ease the transition, begin by evaluating your managers and build a team of experts who have experience working from home. This team will serve as a resource to help those with questions.
A core part of this team’s role is to document challenges in real-time, transparently prioritize those challenges and assign directly responsible individuals (DRI) to find solutions.
Executive assistants may also take on a more significant role in the transition. They can function as documentarians in meetings and help with internal communications.
Create a ‘source of truth’ handbook to keep everyone in the loop
This guide can be rudimentary to start but will serve as a single source for pressing questions. Share it company-wide and update it continually for common questions about tools and access.
It can begin as a single company web page or repository and will serve you well, even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
Set up communication plans
Depending on the size of your team, consider creating an always-on video conference room per team, where members can linger or come and go as needed. This will help team members embrace the shift to working remotely and make the transition less jarring.
GitLab’s Darren Murph explained:
“It’s vital to maintain perspective through this shift. Everyone reacts to remote work differently, and not all homes are ideal work spaces. This can (and likely will) feel jarring, and team members will expect frequent updates as leaders iterate on their communication plan in real-time.”
Minimize your tool stack
While functioning remotely, your company should strip the use of tools down to the minimum. Google Duo, a company-wide chat tool, and Zoom or other video conferencing platforms are all you need to start.
If your team needs access to internal systems through a VPN, ensure everyone is able to connect and that usage instructions are clear.
“Working remotely requires writing things down. For companies who do not have an existing culture of documentation, this will prove to be the most difficult shift. So aim to funnel communication into as few places as possible to reduce silos and fragmentation.”
You should proactively provide answers for times of mass confusion when it comes to finding things like policies, protocols, outreach mechanisms, messaging, etc. — like your guide of truth resource mentioned earlier.
Drive cultural change
Since humans are naturally resistant to change, leaders will need to meet this reality head-on. An all-hands approach to recognizing the new procedures is vital, particularly for companies with strong in-office cultures.
It’s critical for leaders to recognize that remote transition is a process, not a binary switch to be flipped. Like all companies, managing successfully comes down to trust, communication and support of shared goals. How can you do this? Here are a few tips.
Transitioning to a long-term remote company
Becoming a long-term remote company reduces overhead costs and you can also expand your talent pool. That’s because you’re no longer limited to employees located in town.
Plus, it’s great for your staff. They save on commute times and have more flexibility for work-life balancing. But how else can you ease the transition?
Rely on strong leadership and ensure they lead by example
If your company is considering going remote, chances are you won’t go from zero to a hundred overnight. But if you’re planning to test the water and gradually phase out your physical locations, it’s essential to get employees on board early. One of the best ways to do this is to encourage your leaders to kick-start your remote work program.
GitLab’s CEO Sid Sijbrandij said, “If the leadership doesn’t come to the office, people will mimic that. If you have the senior leadership in the same location every day, people are going to mimic that too.”
Make sure your leaders and managers understand the role they play in promoting top-down change. Simply telling employees they’re allowed to work remotely may not be enough to break old habits and overcome anxieties about not being physically present.
When employees see their leaders working remotely, this can strongly signal permission in a way that makes them feel comfortable following suit.
Boost transparency and focus on communication
Communication and collaboration are two of the biggest challenges of working from home. Issues that would have been solved at the drop of a hat when your coworker was 10 feet away can become drawn out if someone isn’t looking at their email or has muted notifications.
To combat this, GitLab has fostered a culture of communication in which employees are encouraged to have frequent conversations and share information transparently.
“Because there are fewer informal communication channels,” Sid says, “you have to be more transparent as a company. You cannot assume that information will disseminate, so you communicate more than you’d normally do.”
This is where video chats come in. Give your employees all the tools they need to stay in constant communication and schedule plenty of virtual meetings with the whole team to share key information that might otherwise get buried in an email chain. And don’t be afraid to give people a little nudge if they’ve gone silent.
Allow people to provide input while designating an empowered decision-maker
One benefit of a fully remote workforce is the ability to hire the best and the brightest employees to work on the same team. Have them help solve problems for your company and designate one person as the DRI.
That person is encouraged to gather input from others, but ultimately the final decision is theirs to make. They don’t have to convince anyone or explain their decision, they just have to act in the best interests of the company.
Flexible and remote work arrangements are becoming increasingly important tools for attracting and retaining talent. Plus, it’s a good way for companies to control costs. If you’re not offering remote work options now, it’s a good time to start.