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For better or worse, the novel coronavirus is challenging all organizations to embrace remote work. For most, this is completely uncharted territory. Having several remote workers or occasional work-from-home check-ins is one thing. Attempting to move an entire department, or even mid-to-large-sized organization to a remote setup is a whole different level of complexities. Especially, when you are on a really tight deadline.
Infopulse faced the same challenge. However, since March 16, 2020, we successfully transitioned to remote work. We had to prepare the necessary infrastructure and provide our teams with first-grade tools for remote work within the shortest time frame. Thanks to effective teamwork, rapid responses, and unified actions, we managed to complete the entire transition on short notice.
Now we’d like to help other companies to embrace remote work. Below is a quick checklist that should help you get past the initial chaos and frustration and streamline your company’s transition to remote work.
Step 1: Start with a Basic Transition Plan
- Timing. Your main goal is to keep everyone in the loop to avoid calamities and misunderstandings. Thus, set key milestones for the next events:
- Complete transition to remote schedule for each team/department
- Expected length of remote work
- How often updates will be announced.
- Ownership. Hold specific people accountable for executing different remote work preparations. Set up a dedicated “action-team” who will tackle all HR/managerial remote-specific questions. Separately, create a tech support channel or a subdivision within your help desk for addressing an influx of associated tech issues. If you are swamped, get external help!
- Administration. Determine who will work remotely and who will need to come to the office. Ensure maximum safety for the latter group of employees: provide them with personal protective gear (masks, hand sanitizers, etc), ride-hailing allowances to avoid public transport; adapt the office layout to allow bigger distances between desks.
Here’s a quick example to illustrate the points above:
|Department X, Manager Y||Develop a new remote work schedule for team A||By 16/03|
|Department Managers||Agree on the formats and frequency of regular team meetings online||By 18/03|
Step 2: Prepare Your Tech Infrastructure
- Equipment. Ensure that every employee has all the tools necessary to do their best while working remotely:
- Allow people to borrow their corporate laptops and other tools (monitors, headsets, tablets, etc).
- Remove approval requests for taking assigned equipment home.
- Grant remote desktop access to those who prefer to use their personal hardware or do not have an assigned portable device.
- Security of company devices. Urge your team to treat corporate gear with utmost responsibility! Before being taken away from the office, ensure that every device has:
- The latest anti-virus software installed
- Full-disk encryption enabled
- Passwords enforced on boot
- Adequate inactivity timeouts enforced.
- Internet access. Check that all your team members have sufficient Internet connectivity at home. Offer them a credit to upgrade their bandwidth to ensure higher speeds.
- Verify that your corporate ISP allows temporary increases over the configured bandwidth to accommodate traffic spikes.
- IT Infrastructure. Ask your IT department to estimate the anticipated external traffic load and ensure that all the critical infrastructure is configured to support the new usage patterns.
- Adjust resources provisioning for key cloud apps to maintain optimal workloads.
- Cancel subscriptions to software/tools that would no longer be in-use (e.g. field agent software).
- VPNs. To maintain data security and prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, distribute corporate VPNs to every employee, along with detailed setup and usage instructions.
- Access and Identity Management. Test that everyone has remote access to all the accounts they need. Verify with your security team if any changes are needed to ensure secure remote access to critical applications.
- Tech support. Set up a separate helpdesk or support email address where your teams can forward all their issues. Assign several people to help with remote troubleshooting.
Step 3: Upgrade Your Communications
- Set up an initiative group who will rapidly respond to all incoming queries from your teams. Having a reliable, single point of contact can reduce tension among your employees and show them that you are doing your best to ensure they have safe and comfortable remote working conditions.
- Conduct briefings for department managers. Explain what your company is doing to prevent COVID-19 spread, how the operating conditions are changing, what the best algorithms for action are and what messages they should convey to their subordinates.
- Create clear communication policies. To avoid chaos, inform everyone about the key communication channels for each type of update (e.g. emails regarding company-wide happenings). Let individual teams choose or try new communication apps that would best suit their work style. At the very least, every team should have access to the next types of collaboration apps:
- Video conferencing (e.g. Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams)
- Chat apps (e.g. Slack, Hipchat)
- Project management and org tools (e.g. JIRA, Trello, Microsoft Teams)
- Calls. Help your teams set up office call redirects to their remote workplace when it’s critical. Encourage others to use in-app calling or video conferencing to keep in touch with their colleagues.
- New work routines. Properly manage everyone’s expectations regarding the realities of remote work. Help your team become more disciplined and establish an effective work routine by:
- Pre-agreeing on work hours, response times and general availability.
- Taking an individualized approach to daily work scheduled (especially for parents).
- Introducing new reporting routines (e.g. daily progress check-ins).
- Adjusting the meeting schedules. It might be tempting to constantly check in on your team, but such micromanagement can create the opposite effect.
- Staying connected on a personal level. Encourage your teams to have virtual lunch breaks and informal after-hours to avoid the dreadful feeling of isolation.
- Client updates. Inform your key clients and partners about any changes in your operations (and ways these may affect them).
- Communicate changes in reporting, communication and/or services provisioning
- Reassure them of your commitment to business continuance
- Ask if you could provide any special assistance to them.
Keeping the Remote Culture Thriving
Certainly, you can’t build a strong remote work culture in two weeks or even a month. What you can do, though, is turn this forced “ ” into a successful foray into partially remote work — something most employees see as a major perk, and business as a means to ensure lower absenteeism and higher on-the-job engagement.
Highly engaged workplaces can claim 41% lower absenteeism, 40% fewer quality defects, and 21% higher profitability.
When organized right, remote work does not lead to lower employee performance. On the contrary, it boosts productivity. However, to get to that “plateau of productivity” on an individual level, your team members will need some support.
Thus, as a manager, ensure that your newly-minted remote employees also:
- Maintain a good work/life balance. Properly unplugging from work can be tough for some of your team members. And that could lead to burnout. If you are noticing some late check-ins, give a work/life balance pep talk to that “enthusiast”.
- Don’t feel isolated. Loneliness is a common struggle for most remote employees. And with imposed social distancing and lockdowns due to COVID-19, it can be aggravated even further. That’s why you should also plan for some   and encourage people to communicate informally after the office hours.
- Don’t go into panic mode. Maintain an optimistic tone in all your communications. Reach out to people who feel insecure about their future. Urge everyone not to go on news-binges. Make sure everyone relies on updates from trusted sources such as WHO and local healthcare authorities.
- Stay healthy! Incentivize everyone to maintain a wholesome diet, exercise at home or alone outside and…keep those hands clean at all times! Physical health directly reflects on one’s mental well-being, so don’t let it deteriorate!
At Infopulse, we have already taken proactive steps to ensure that most of our employees can work remotely and those, still required to be present, will face minimal health risks. We are also fully committed to delivering the best work to our clients to ensure that together, we can emerge from this crisis stronger!