Many small businesses did not have a contingency plan for a
pandemic. In a short period of time you may have been forced to decide to close
your doors or allow your staff to work from home. But you have never had staff
work remotely. What does that mean for you, the small business owner?
First thing you need to do is determine what are the critical positions to keep your business running smoothly during this slowdown. If you are a service industry, how can you continue to serve your customers while keeping everyone safe?
This requires a set of rules and policies that are then translated to your employees through continuous training as well as communicated to your customers. This goes beyond the suggested washing of hands and wearing masks.
Before you send your office staff to work from home, you
will want to ask a few questions:
Do they have a computer, or
do you need to supply one?
If your staff uses a laptop you may be able to allow them to take it home. Otherwise you will need to make the decision to allow them to use their home computer if available.
This depends on the level of security needed for the job. Another option is to purchase computers for your employees that are for work only. For all options, policies should be drawn up as to use and responsibility of both parties.
How do they access your
If you have your business documents on an in-house server, employees need to be trained, or be assisted by your IT staff, on gaining access to the information from home.
To keep the information safe, the policy will include only using the one computer for work. Having a VPN (Virtual Private Network) will provide some safety. Be sure to consult an IT professional for best options and procedures.
How can you measure
You may be wondering how you will know your employees are working at home instead of watching TV or doing yardwork. If you have a large company then you have teams in place that can keep each other accountable.
If you have just a few employees, you may need to create expectations and lines of communication. There may be less distractions at home than in an office, so work can be done in less time. Of course, the opposite may also be true.
How can we reduce burnout?
Working from home can be isolating so you will want to keep up moral with regular group video conferencing sessions and phone communications. Don’t overdo it though. Constant video conferencing is more exhausting than face to face meetings.
Brief daily check-ins and weekly group gatherings might work. It all depends on your needs. And allow staff to get together on your video chat software just to chat and have some fun. Breaks should also be mandatory.
Does every staff member need
to work scheduled hours?
Each staff member will have
different situations at home. They may
have small children at home, or roommates, or other difficult to control
situations. Aside from regularly scheduled video conferences, can your staff
work at times that work best for them?
What programs will we use to
From the onset you will need to determine what programs you will use to communicate. You may already have a project management system in place, but if not, you will need one so you can capture all communications and documents in one place.
Meetings now require a video conference program. Chat programs work great for quick responses. And what about phones? If you staff need to communicate with customers, you will want to provide a VoIP (Skype, Google Voice, etc.) or a second phone. Your office phone system may allow to forward calls during certain times of the day.
This is not a comprehensive list, but it provides a starting point to help you start the process of keeping your small business running during the pandemic. Be sure to record what works and what does not so you are prepared for similar disruptions in the future.
If you need assistance or advice for your employee benefit programs please reach out to us.