In a time when many businesses are struggling or having to close entirely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, simply being able to endure through pivoting to remote working is a true blessing. It isn’t easy, though, particularly given all the stress and anxiety stemming from this global crisis.
If you’re at the helm of a small business, then, you have a lot to think about. While you certainly need to consider the wellbeing of your employees, you also need to keep your daily operations running smoothly to protect the company — or risk running aground like so many others.
This means keeping your employees apprised of what they need to do and motivated to keep working hard. That’s far easier said than done in these times. Here are my tips for how you can communicate better with your employees and drive everyone to keep performing well. That’s note all, when it comes to remote working during Covid-19 lockdown, here’s what experts from London School of Business think
Be Honest About How Remote Working Will Affect Work…
With the possible exception of some prescient virologists, people didn’t see this pandemic coming, and it’s hit us all pretty hard. As the person in charge, you need to set a precedent through committing to honesty about how the situation is affecting both you and the business.
That means you shouldn’t tell everyone that things are fine and the company is safe if you’re not sure about that. If things aren’t great, make that clear. If you might need to let people go (or furlough them, more realistically), then don’t try to hide it. It won’t make anything better.
Maybe you’re struggling in your managerial role. It doesn’t make you weak if so; if anything, talking about it (and fighting through it) makes it clear that you’re strong. You want honesty from your employees, after all — if they’re feeling rough, you want to know about it so you can do what you can to help them — but they won’t open up to you if you won’t open up to them.
Through my coaching service, Orion’s Method, I often tell clients that they mustn’t hide what makes them unique: both their strengths and their weaknesses. It’s a commitment that has to endure even in the toughest circumstances.
Establish a Clear (but flexible) Structure
The structure is one of the toughest things to maintain when you switch to a remote working model. People may not usually like the basic routine of getting up, washing, dressing, commuting, and getting settled at their desks, but it creates a clear distinction between work and personal time.
When you start working from home, you no longer need to do some of those steps, and others can be handled very casually. This relaxed approach can then extend to the working day in general. Workers can lose focus, stop thinking as keenly, and generally act as though they’re in no hurry to get anything done.
To combat this, you need to establish a structure for the day. Set up online meetings regularly: team meetings and one-on-one meetings (they’ll help you understand how individuals are coping). Ensure that all tasks are logged correctly. Require updates at appropriate times.
You can go too far with this, of course, and be overly demanding of people just trying to get through a frightening situation. That’s why the structure needs to be somewhat flexible. Let people start earlier or later than usual if they prefer. Let them take huge breaks at their leisure if they log the required hours. Put succinctly, trust your employees, but also verify their progress.
Find Ways to Incentivize Performance During Remote Working Days
What normally pushes people to work harder? The possibility of more money, more perks, or being promoted. The difficulties of this time might preclude you from being able to increase salaries or consider promoting anyone, but you can still find ways to provide useful perks.
Don’t offer gym memberships or parking spots that people can’t use. Instead, think about offering time off. If someone gets a lot of work done during the week, give them a few hours off on Friday. Given how long it can take to queue to get into supermarkets at the moment, being able to go early can be a huge help.
Alternatively, you can focus on what will happen after the lockdown ends. Make it clear that good performance now will be rewarded down the line, and put it in writing somehow if people don’t believe you. Being able to look past this mess to a time when the world has returned to normal will really help people to concentrate.
Is Remote Working Really Essential?
This is inarguably a tricky time to run a small business, with major financial and practical challenges getting in the way of standard operation. Remote working is the only way to go forward at the moment.
You don’t need to suffer a significant reduction in morale or productivity. Be honest and transparent with your employees, keep the working day structured, and continue to reward hard work. That should be enough to keep things on track.