The COVID-19 virus, or SARS-CoV-2, has quickly spread around the world. Now, companies everywhere have begun to react to keep their employees, workplaces, and local communities safe.

Remote work may not have been part of your business strategy. But, it’s going to have a major effect on the corporate landscape as companies are encouraged or forced to ask their teams to work from home.

Allowing employees to work from home is an ideal step to increasing social distancing, and reducing community spread, and it’s going to be a crucial part of slowing the spread of the virus.

If you’re ready to let your team know that it’s time to go fully remote, this article is for you.

I’m going to show you why going remote doesn’t have to cause productivity issues, how you can maintain your company culture, and tools you can use to facilitate great work, even remotely.

Let’s jump in.


COVID-19’s Impact on the Workplace (So Far)


As you know, COVID-19 has already impacted people all over the world. Now, companies are reacting to keep their employees safe and stop the spread of this new virus.

There will be a significant impact on companies and people all over the world. Make no mistake about that.

However, damage mitigation is possible, and companies have a role to play. By providing remote work options, community spread can be reduced, as workplaces are a hotbed for this.

Companies are canceling all non-essential travel all over the world, and rightly so.


Companies Are Already Going Remote?


If you’re ready to pull the trigger and go remote, you’re in good company. Asana is going fully remote to keep employees and their communities safe.

Remote Work

Airbnb has told Bay Area employees to work remotely for the next two weeks.

Twitter has advised all employees to work from home where possible.

Stripe has begun to mandate staff in certain offices to work from home.


There Are Benefits of Remote Work


If you’re worried about productivity, results, and your employee’s well being, I have some good news for you. Remote work has been shown to improve all of those things.

It’s no secret that open offices aren’t ideal for productivity, and 75% of people who work remotely do so because there are fewer distractions, and 86% of workers say they achieve maximum productivity when they’re working alone.

That means your team will be able to get their best work done, even if they’re not in the office with you.

In the next section, I’ll walk you through some key considerations when setting up your company to run as efficiently as possible, even if it’s remote.


How to Run a Remote-First Workplace


If you’re going remote, you need to adapt quickly.

A significant mistake that managers make is that they think of remote work as secondary to office work. If you’re going to be successful in a remote environment, it’s time to change your thinking.

You need to consider your office remote-first. Even if you have employees still in your office, you need to work hard to ensure your remote workers aren’t being left out, or your communication and company culture will fall off a cliff.

With that said, there are clear cut ways to make a remote team work effectively.

Let’s take a long at them:


1. Create a Clear Remote Culture with Your Expectations


You can’t pretend that everything is going to be the same.

Your team may be doing the same work and have the same goals, but the nature of how work gets done will change.

Take notes from companies that are already fully remote, like Gitlab and Basecamp.

In Gitlab’s company culture documentation, they highlight key considerations.

For example,

Merely transferring planned office meetings to virtual meetings misses an opportunity to answer a fundamental question: is there a better way to work than to have a meeting in the first place?”

Basecamp has a heavy focus on how their remote employees communicate with each other.

For example, they encourage long-form communication over short-form bullet points in Slack and asynchronous communication over instant messaging.

“Writing solidifies, chat dissolves. Substantial decisions start and end with an exchange of complete thoughts, not one-line-at-a-time jousts. If it’s important, critical, or fundamental, write it up, don’t chat it down.”

If you’re going remote, you need to do it right. Otherwise, work won’t get done as well as it could, your team will feel stressed, and you’ll feel stressed.

Studying successful remote-first companies will pay dividends, and may change your approach to your work from home initiatives.


2. Review Your Existing Workflows and Procedures


If you have existing standard operating procedures in place, then they might need to change.

Not all of your processes will work remotely, as they do in an office.

For example, if your whole team is on-site, it’s easy to schedule meetings.

If you’re entirely remote, things change.

People will be working on different tasks and projects at different times. Scheduling unnecessary meetings throughout the day could have a larger-than-expected impact on your team’s productivity and focus.


3. Use Tools to Facilitate Work


A significant consideration is how your team is going to do their work.

There are some essentials that your team will need:

  • Laptop
  • Fast internet connection
  • Workstation
  • VPN network if your work involves sensitive information

Luckily, remote work has been growing in popularity for a while, so there are some powerful tools already available.


Workplace Communication


You probably already use Slack. or Microsoft Teams for communication and those will come in handy for instant messaging and communication when you’re fully remote.

However, I’d recommend letting your team know that they should use this asynchronously. If your team feels the pressure to respond every time a new message comes in, they’ll have no time for real work. Just as you wouldn’t disturb someone buried in their screen with noise-canceling headphones on, you can’t assume people’s availability because of their Slack status.

Zoom for team meetings

There is a range of other workplace collaboration tools ideal for remote work, like Zoom, which is perfect for video calls with your team or clients.

Project Management


If you have a wall covered in Post-It Notes, then you can use software like Trello or Asana to replicate that experience digitally.

You can also easily collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and slideshows with Google Docs.


Client Communication


Your email clients should work as usual.

To keep your team motivated to hit their client-related goals, you can use timetoreply to boost your email productivity.

measure email reply times

You’ll be able to view key analytics into how well you and your team are responding to clients, sales leads, and each other.

This will ensure your lead generation efforts don’t go to waste just because you’re working from home.


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4. Don’t Try to Replicate On-Site Work


It’s tempting to try and mirror everything that you do at work and make it work remotely.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

If you’re big on meetings, things might need to change.

Brainstorming and developing new ideas may be difficult, as you’re restricted to video calling.


5. Create a “Water Cooler”


If you’re remote working for even a short time, you’ll quickly realize that there’s no good alternative to having a casual chat with your coworkers while you’re having lunch, getting a coffee, or heading home.

Your team needs a place to chat about their day-to-day life like they would in the office.

An easy way to do this would be to create a Slack channel intended only for off-topic chat. Your team can discuss what they’ve been up to, plans for the weekend, news, and whatever else they want to.

You could also take more inspiration from Basecamp. Every month, the company picks a few people to have a call to discuss anything non-work related.

There’s no real substitute for a water cooler.

The key is that you remind your employees that they have space to discuss personal things with each other if they want to. Company culture is just as influential when you’re working from home, even if you might feel slightly more disconnected from the office.


Nothing Will Be 100% On Day 1


It’s important to note that you’re not going to be a fully functional remote company on Day 1.

There will nearly also be something that you didn’t consider (sorry!).

But, by committing to providing a great work environment for your team, having open communication channels with employees, and using software like Zoom to communicate, and tools like timetoreply to manage your team goals and productivity, you’ll see great results, even if your whole team is working from home for an extended period.


Wrapping Up


Companies are being pushed into remote work acceptance faster than ever due to COVID-19.

However, it’s an opportunity to prove that you and your company will do your part to slow the spread of this disease and prioritize the health of your employees.

Remote work also comes with other benefits.

Your team may be more productive, your business practices will become more robust and be flexible to changing environments, and you’ll be able to collaborate even more effectively with the remote work tools that are available now.

Remember, going remote is a journey.

Your team won’t magically hit peak productivity on Day 1. Your systems and processes may take time to adapt, but as long as you continuously learn from and listen to your team, you’ll be able to craft a remote-first company culture that rivals your on-site one.


Want to keep your team on track and your customers happy? Try timetoreply’s email reply time tracking tool for free. No software installation, no change in workflow for your team. Just the clarity you need.


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