Looking to set up a remote workforce? Get the right hardware and software in place so your team can hit the ground running.
CDC issues reopening guidelines to individuals and businesses
As the country begins to reopen, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released reopening guidelines on May 14, 2020 to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 both in and outside your home.
The agency advises both individuals and businesses to continue routine cleaning of workspaces with soap and water and disinfecting surfaces and objects often touched by multiple people with EPA-approved chemicals.
You can learn more about what you can do to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 both at home and as you go back to work on the CDC website.
Effective communication is vital when managing a remote team. Without the opportunity for face-to-face interaction, you’ll need to rely on communication software to facilitate meetings, one-on-ones and less formal communication, like water cooler catch-ups and break-time banter:
Select your channels. How do you plan to communicate? Will you rely on email, an app or a sophisticated communications software? Decide on your primary channels of communication and let your team know how to register and set up their accounts.
Clarify expectations. How often do you want your team to check in? You may want an end-of-day report, or may prefer they touch base at the top of the morning. Let your staff know how and when you expect them to check in.
Schedule regular meetings. Structure and routine can help a remote workforce feel less removed and more cohesive. Balance regularly scheduled one-on-ones with company-wide meetings to help connect at-home staff.
Set boundaries. Accessibility can be a double-edged blade — while online communication is quick and convenient, it can also gnaw at the lines that separate work life from home. Established desk hours can help both you and your staff set reasonable boundaries.
Enable informal communication. You don’t need a water cooler to facilitate workplace chit-chat. Have ways dedicated to casual conversation topics, like recipe swapping, reading suggestions or four-legged officemates.
But don’t micromanage
Communication is important but over-communicating can hinder productivity. Scheduled check-ins keep everyone on the same page, but make sure you give your employees the time and space to buckle down and get to work. If you need some level of employee monitoring, make sure that expectations and communication are clear.
Invest in the right software
Choosing the right software is the name of the game for remote workforces. With the right platforms at your disposal, you can manage projects, communications, payroll, accounting, file sharing and so much more.
Finder’s choice: Slack + Zoom + Jira
Here at Finder, we use a combination of Slack, Zoom and Jira to stay connected and get work done.
Slack is where company-wide communications unfold. Channels are organized by team and topic with the option to reach out to individual staff members through Slack’s private direct messaging feature. We use Zoom for virtual meetings, from weekly company-wide sessions to one-on-one’s with direct managers.
And Jira functions as our online project-management solution. Jira lets us ticket up tasks, assign them to team members and organize individual and team workflows by priority level.
Together, these three core pieces of software are used by our in-office and remote workforce daily to stay in touch and on task.
While software is an integral piece of the at-home workforce puzzle, you also need to ensure your staff has the right hardware, too.
If possible, allow your staff to take home portable in-office tech, like laptops, mobile Internet hubs and USB sticks. If taking home tech is too cumbersome, find out what personal hardware your team has access to and verify if it will work for the software you intend to use.
Once the team is set up, consider implementing scheduled software updates, cloud-based storage and setting up virtual private networks (VPNs) to secure company networks.
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How to handle tech if you didn’t have time to plan
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses across the US to shift in-person operations online. If your business is scrambling to switch to a work-from-home model amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, here’s how to handle tech setup on short notice:
Make sure everyone has a computer. Don’t assume all of your employees have a working laptop at home — and one with a camera for meetings. If you can’t buy a new computer and camera for everyone in the company right now, start by getting tech for anyone who doesn’t already have the basics.
Order keyboards on Amazon. Laptops are a convenient way to work from home, but can be uncomfortable to work from for eight hours a day. External monitors, keyboards, mice and laptop stands can be purchased online and directly delivered to staff members to help them create a more comfortable and ergonomic at-home workspace.
Take advantage of free software. A number of business software providers offer free service tiers, including Slack, Asana, Dropbox and Zoom. If funds are tight, it’s possible to set up software for your remote workforce entirely for free.
Ramp up security protocols. If you haven’t already done so, ask your staff to set up two-factor authentication on their company accounts and secure access to company servers through a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) VPN. You can also use a password manager to encrypt and coordinate password usage across multiple accounts.
Remember to nurture company culture
Fostering an empowered and supportive company culture — especially in light of COVID-19 — is essential. And there are plenty of ways to bolster morale, even on distributed teams:
Hold a virtual photo contest
Schedule video conference coffee breaks
Hold a virtual dance or yoga party
Host a weekly team wellness seminar
Send out monthly snack boxes
Coordinate fitness goals with an exercise app
Dedicate a communications channel to company pets
Jon Brodsky, CEO of Finder US says, “At Finder US, over 65% of our crew works from home on a regular basis, and so we try hard to make them feel like they’re part of the office culture. For example, we match perks — we provide lunch in the office, and we send snack boxes and gift cards to people who work from home. We also have a bunch of Slack channels that are dedicated to having fun, like our pets channel, Strava groups so that we can all work out together even though we’re far apart, and even daily yoga video sessions!”
Make sure everything is in order
To ensure your remote workforce has all they need to start working from home, make a to-do list of any odds and ends that still need be to tackled:
Set up direct deposit. Eliminate paper paychecks and set up direct deposit through your business bank account provider or a payroll software like Gusto or OnPay.
Clean out the office kitchen. Planning to be out of the office for a while? Let staff members claim what’s left in the kitchen or donate the excess to a local shelter.
Hold onto business receipts. Remind your team to hold onto business receipts for home office supplies come tax season.
Schedule preliminary one-on-ones. Set up your first set of one-on-ones, even if it’s simply to touch base with team leaders to ensure everyone has what they need to get to work.
The way we conduct our work is changing — and COVID-19 has initiated a massive migration toward working online. Empower your team to work remotely by selecting the hardware and software that best serves your business’s needs.
The following business software providers offer a free service tier:
Not necessarily. While many freelancers work remotely, not going into an office isn’t enough to declare workers as self-employed. Whether or not someone who works for you is an employee is based on several factors, including how much control you have over their work. For more information check out the IRS guide.
Shannon Terrell is a writer for Finder who studied communications and English literature at the University of Toronto. On any given day, you can find her researching everything from equine financing and business loans to student debt refinancing and how to start a trust. She loves hot coffee, the smell of fresh books and discovering new ways to save her pennies.
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