The coronavirus outbreak is consuming headlines. Many employers are preparing for possible disruptions that could affect business in the long-term, including labour shortages, transportation issues, reduced working hours and low consumer traffic.
Fortunately, many businesses are already taking precautions to reduce exposure and transmission among employees, including global giants like Amazon and Twitter. These precautions include work travel bans, cancelling in-person meetings and conferences, and encouraging employees to work from home or self-quarantine until the danger has passed. Unfortunately, some of these precautions may disrupt work processes for the employees involved.
With millions working from home for many weeks now, there has been a spike in second-hand laptop and tablet sales, while Alibaba’s collaboration app DingTalk surged to the top of the Chinese App Store charts.
Other companies and products that facilitate remote working, such as the video-conferencing service Zoom and the chat app Slack, have also enjoyed significant spikes since the virus began to spread. Zoom’s share price rose by about 11% over the last week. And shares in RingCentral, which sets up meetings over the internet, have soared by more than 40% so far this year.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, every organisation should encourage employees to work remotely. Here are four tips to prepare your team for telecommuting:
- Implement a work routine. Working from home presents a different set of challenges than working in an office. Distractions seem to be everywhere, and the lack of socialising with coworkers can make some people restless. It helps to establish a routine — and importantly, stick to it. Set aside specific hours to answer emails, make conference calls, have lunch and write reports. The next thing you know, your at-home workday will be over.
It also helps to designate a workspace in your home. When you’re in it, you’re in work mode — and not tempted to grab a snack or walk the dog when you feel fidgety.
- Maintain a work connection. Distance from the workplace often translates into distance from workplace values and community. It’s too easy to become isolated and feel like you’re alone in your work when you’re out of an office environment. Maintain a connection to the office by choosing to make calls rather than sending emails, and keep in contact with your department members via video conferencing.
- Establish work-life boundaries. Once you’re at home, if you don’t have clear boundaries it’s easy to become overwhelmed from both sides. Saying yes to every chore because you’re at home and agreeing to every work assignment because you aren’t sure when your workday ends is a sure recipe for stress and frustration. Allow yourself to reflect on what’s on your plate at home and at work, and negotiate with your partner, family and co-workers when you feel overstretched.
- Inclusive management. As a leader, managing a remote team might be an entirely new experience, but it doesn’t have to be a painful one. Keep track of all your staff and check that they have the necessary tools to carry out their tasks. Schedule face time with individual employees to ensure that they don’t feel disconnected, and encourage collaborations that drive team performance.
Delivering regular feedback to employees, and encouraging them to do the same, helps everyone align with team objectives. It also encourages discussion on what is being done right and what can improve.
Working from home can initially be a bit of the challenge. But when there’s a contagious illness going around, staying away from crowded offices greatly reduces the likelihood of transmission. Until the coronavirus is under control, the benefits of remote work outweigh the inconvenience. As long as it’s handled the right way, your organisation can be as productive as ever.