For many firms, remote working will be alien to them and cause some logistical challenges. But the good news is that with a few simple changes, the majority of businesses can ensure that they are better placed to operate as well as possible during this unprecedented period of change.
As a full-service law firm that’s been operating remotely for six years, we know a thing or two about how to run a business virtually.
Here are our tips for shifting your company operations to a home-working model.
1. Form your team
Officials may not agree on the best way to combat Covid-19, but they do agree up to 80% of the UK population could be infected. Our advice is to create a coronavirus action team if you haven’t already. Choose a representative from each key department to join the team – managers from IT, HR, communications and any other important functions – plus a senior manager or director. Decide who needs to do what to cascade the knowledge employees need to operate effectively as remote workers. Communicate regularly to share updates, as the national situation is rapidly changing.
2. Make a plan
Your crisis team should map out the needs of the entire workforce. Who can easily work from home and who can’t? For those who can’t, what can you put in place to allow them to work from the office in the safest possible environment? For home workers, you’ll need to give them the right tools and kit they need to allow them to work effectively. Some employees may have different needs – for instance, a client-facing role will need access to conference call technology compared to say, a creative or technical role.
3. Equip yourself and your workforce
An effective home-working plan will be useless if you don’t have the technology and tools to make the switch. Employees will need to be online, access their email and company systems remotely. Do you have enough laptops? Can you send desktop computers home? What about data security – is there anything extra you need to do if employees will be accessing systems from home wifi networks?
4. Collaborate online
Nowadays there’s an app for everything. Ask employees to recommend collaborative tools or platforms that you could use while these new remote rules apply. Tools like Trello, Asana and Slack offer teams smart ways to work together and keep track of projects. Often they are free or low-cost, so provide a way to try before you buy.
5. Get your client comms in order
What’s the best way to communicate with clients during these extraordinary times? Fortunately the marketplace is full of video conferencing platforms that can be used to host client meetings. Our client Hopin is destined for great things with its large-scale conferencing platform, Zoom is a popular option and long-standing tools like FaceTime or Skype make smaller meetings easy to host remotely.
You’ll just need to decide on the best tool for your organisation to use and top up any training requirements. While clients are likely to be understanding of interim arrangements, you want to minimise technical hitches and make sure you’re operating as professionally as possible.
6. Foster community
One of the biggest challenges of remote working is how to keep the whole business in contact with one another. Decide on how best to keep in contact and choose your preferred communication channels. Keep instructions simple and remind staff of new processes until they get used to them. Daily email updates are a quick and easy way to stay updated. WhatsApp and Instant Messenger may work well for non-office based or internationally distributed teams, where regular conversation exchange is important. Because Harper James solicitors work remotely, we find that sending an internal newsletter is a positive way to build community and keep a geographically diverse team in touch and on side.
7. Move towards more flexible working
The current crisis is both unsettling and deeply concerning for many businesses. With the right lifelines from the government and financial institutions, it’s our hope that the vast majority will come through it. And once they have, companies should review the success of the remote working period to help inform a broader change. As well as helping you to be better prepared for any similar situations that could arise in the future, you may find yourself asking ‘why don’t we work like this all the time?’ Depending on the outcome of your review, you may decide to carry on some aspects of the remote working period for good.