Teleworking has long been a powerful and effective mobility tool, but its usefulness goes beyond its role in transportation demand management. With concerns around COVID-19, many employers have been considering teleworking to keep their employees and the community safe. Movability sat down with one of our members, Point B, to talk about how employers can keep their business on track while implementing remote work or flex work policies. Point B is an integrated management consulting, venture investment, and real estate development firm. Kai Andrews, a consultant with Point B and the author of this article, is an expert in leading companies through the design and execution of their workplace transformations to enable their Future of Work.
As COVID-19, or coronavirus, continues to wreak havoc, more companies are encouraging - or in some cases requiring – employees to work remotely. Implementing a flexible work policy and infrastructure is the best way to help minimize business disruption resulting from epidemics like we are facing today. However, remote work is not as simple as opening your laptop to get to work. There can be challenges in getting the right equipment, digital tools, processes, and policies in place to respond to this global event. If your company is considering remote work, following are some guiding principles to get you started.
1. Implement effective change management principles. A sudden shift to remote work can be disruptive. Make sure that leadership offers a constant stream of communication, reinforcing why the shift has taken place and where employees can turn for help – both with regards to their work but also for emotional support. Leadership also needs to model effective remote behavior which can sometimes be as simple as turning on video in a meeting. Show trust in remote workers. Keep listening and communicating. Never underestimate the emotional aspects of this change; ignoring them results in real productivity dips.
2. Design clear policies. Clearly define participation rules and guidelines for remote workers. Working from home does not equate to flexible work hours – make it clear that team members are expected to be online and available during regular working hours. Set standards for virtual team meetings. All employees should use video during meetings to build team unity and connectedness.
3. Create an intentional remote culture. Don’t abandon the tenets that make your company culture unique. Hold regular virtual non-work related meetings with your employees to talk about more casual topics. Identify “water-cooler topic” leaders who can form virtual discussion groups around topics such as sports, movies, cooking and much more. Employees can self-select into groups and new connections will form while old connections are maintained.
4. Ensure you have reliable tools. Many types of work can now be done remotely if people have the right digital collaboration tools. For example, virtual whiteboard tools like Mural allow teams to co-create and share ideas more effectively. Secure, cloud-based content management systems like OneDrive for Business, Box and SharePoint Online provide simultaneous editing and sharing capabilities and also allow for efficient content discovery.
5. Provide responsive support. Create a support infrastructure that prioritizes remote worker requests and maintain the tools to handle issues remotely. Help desk personnel and procedures should be updated to include new remote work use cases and tools. Augment your self-service help capabilities by creating learning portals on your intranet that teach your employees how to use new tools. Publish use cases so that there is less guessing time as to which tool to use when.
Organizations are realizing that the future of work demands flexibility and agility. This is especially true in a world in which natural disasters and other emergencies continue to wreak havoc on the global economy. Implementing remote work can minimize downtime that can adversely affect your business by allowing most of your operations to continue during times of crises and unplanned upheaval.