“In times of chaos you can retreat into distraction or you choose to skill up, to learn, to deepen relationships, and to continue to progress rather than pause.” – Brendon Burchard
COVID-19 has taken the world by surprise. For businesses caught unprepared and ill-equipped, there’s a great deal of fear and uncertainty about what the future holds. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has forced businesses to adopt work from policies for most of their staff. As a small business owner, this could pose big challenges and a disruption to the way you do business, particularly if work from home isn’t something you’ve done before. However, it is possible to shift your approach and keep your team productive throughout this period. With a thoughtful approach that centers around your business needs and your people, you may even find some new ways of doing things that you hadn’t considered before.
With that in mind, let me share with you five things you can do to optimize and leverage the forced work from home measures.
1. Get a Video Conferencing Tool
Technology is a true blessing amidst this crisis. Embrace it. Today, we have a wide range of video conferencing tools you could deploy to ensure that your business is running as usual. Try Skype, Zoom, RingCentral, Microsoft Teams or even FaceTime to stay connected with your team. Scheduling regular video conferences will help you maintain that feel of ‘business as usual’ and allow you to continue getting the work done.
These tools can be more than just a temporary solution. Measure the usage and effectiveness to see how you can continue leveraging them moving forward. You could easily save time and money on travel and make your organization more agile. Subsequent to these challenging times, we see more and more companies adopting this technology as a way of doing business.
2. Be Positive and Stay Focused
In crisis, panic comes easily and naturally. Now is the time to remain positive and focused. How you behave during these critical moments will influence the mindset of your team and leave a lasting mark on your corporate culture. Your people are looking up to you for direction and confidence. Don’t get too engrossed in the moment; look ahead to the future as well. If there is disruption, there will also be recovery. Tough times don't last, but tough people do. And remember this too will pass – what you do during this time will shape the future of the organization.
When in doubt, align yourself with your corporate vision and core values. They can provide guidance on how best to communicate with your team, your customers and other partners. Being proactive and consistent in your messaging is paramount as the situation evolves.
3. Communicate Early and Communicate Often
In turbulent times, putting your face out there to be seen makes all the difference. Instead of sending an email, record a video message to share with your team. Increase your communication frequency – at least once a week, if not twice. Speak with energy and passion and share your commitment to supporting your staff. You will be amazed at how this can lift the morale of your team. Remember it's not all gloom out there – a few positive words can go a long way in reviving and igniting your team to give their best. Give it a try.
Depending upon the size of your organization, I strongly recommend that you speak to your employees one-on-one if possible. Many of your employees could be feeling the stress of the situation, whether it’s fear of the impact on their families, their jobs, or just the uncertainty of it all. Use video calls to check in on your employees and their families. Let them know you are available for any assistance. Even though you aren’t in the same office, this is a great time to build strong bonds with your team.
4. Be Flexible with the Working Hours
Working from home, has its own advantages. It provides your team with much-needed flexibility to care for family or provide at-home childcare. Set policies to help them accommodate these new requirements, while still ensuring the business is operational. You may be surprised that most of your employees will log more hours than required. Help your teams understand where their focus needs to be. Prioritize the most important revenue driven tasks and empower your people to be creative and come up with out-of-the-box solutions to deliver non-essential work remotely.
5. Set Online Meetings as Often as Possible
With everyone working remotely, it’s important not to lose the human touch. Use your video conferencing tools to stay engaged with your team, customers and vendors. Even if it’s just a quick check-in to see how things are going, this is the perfect time to build those lasting relationships.
Encourage your team to schedule regular “water cooler” meetings to socialize and take a break from work. Think of the conversations your employees have in the break room or passing in the hallway – these can still happen remotely and keep those team bonds in place.
Additional Food for Thought – Review Your Systems and Processes
This is an ideal time to have a good look at your business systems and processes. Are they supporting your team in their roles? Or are there bottlenecks that could be addressed? Do your systems allow you to work remotely? Is your team tied down with manual paper-based processes? The current situation may highlight issues that weren't readily apparent before. If you find that your systems and processes are obstacles to your staff working from home, it’s time to start evaluating new options to ensure you’re prepared in the future.
A final tip – take time to evaluate your progress, challenges and results each week. You may be pleasantly surprised to discover something new, something positive. For the challenges, discuss with your team and work together to develop solutions. It could something as simple as a shift in mindset or quick training on new tools. Without a doubt, this is a challenging time, but there is opportunity to be had if you get creative
I wish you and your company all the best in your endurance to get out of this downturn faster and wiser. Stay safe and healthy.
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