How to Support Your Remote Team During Disasters

According to OWL Labs’ survey, the number of full-time employees working from home has risen from 18% to 30% between 2018-2020. With a majority of companies working remotely due to COVID-19, it's more relevant than ever for companies to learn how to build successful remote teams amidst disasters.

Past Disasters & the Corporate Response

Disasters can come in different forms and force conventional operational models to shift to work from home. Crisis situations can range from wars and pandemics to weather changes, recession, and natural disasters.

World War II and the Gender Shift

Women were not an active part of the U.S. economy for a long time. However, when men departed for the battlefield during WWII, a staggering 36% rise was witnessed in the number of women who worked paying jobs. A number of these jobs were executed by women, working in their homes.

Great Recession of 2008

During the great recession of 2008, there was a major setback in employee management practices. A number of companies resorted to mass layoffs to cut overhead costs, compelling the working class to resort to freelance work from home through websites like Upwork, Guru, and others.

COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in lockdowns across the globe. Thus, it has pushed a lot of companies to incorporate a work-from-home approach. Although WFH has been implemented across the board, the IT sector has been one of the leading adopters of this practice. Estimates state that 90% of IT employees and companies in the sector are working from home. In fact, certain major players in this sector have declared that they might never go back to business as usual, thereby making WFH one of the lasting takeaways from the pandemic.

It's important to look at key characteristics of these long-term crises that differentiate them from any standard business setbacks.

  1. In most cases, these are sudden and untimely.
  2. Their duration and impact are ambiguous.
  3. They demand a policy shift to unconventional modes of operation.
  4. They affect all companies differently.

Though a majority of companies have started exploring remote operations as a result of COVID-19, IT leaders like Crowdbotics have utilized this practice since inception. Through the years, this has meant making systems more resilient, getting good backups, and reducing recovery time.

Long Term Crisis Strategies

Does shifting to work from home guarantee profits? No.

The best practices tied together with active cooperation is the key to make this a success, especially during a crisis like COVID-19. Let's talk about some of the key strategies that a company can adopt to ensure smooth operations with remote teams.

Clear Policy Briefs

Some organizations consider WFH as employee privilege. They provide this option only to a small percentage of their staff or put a cap on the number of days that are permitted under WFH. Whether you are implementing WFH for the first time or have made it a generally accepted practice, you need to clearly mention the intent of your policy.

It is important that the company conveys what they are aiming to achieve by providing remote job opportunities; this will facilitate a smoother employee transition.

Most of the major tech players, such as Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon, have defined remote working policies to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Google's parent company Alphabet has recommended that all of their employees in Europe, North America, Middle East and Africa work remotely amidst the pandemic.

Crowdbotics follows a process of defining their policies regarding communication and deliverables upfront, thus making expectations clear for their remote staff.

Scope, Eligibility, and Standards

It’s imperative that you specify the positions which are available for remote work, considering software limitations, client-facing responsibilities, and cybersecurity risks.

Some criteria that you should consider before determining who can work remotely:

· Does the nature of the job allow an employee to work remotely?

· Do privacy concerns exist? How can I combat these?

· Can I maintain strong communication with remote employees?

· Do remote employees have the required software or equipment installed on their home terminals?

Crowdbotics allows all employees to work remotely, as long as they meet the above criteria.

Effective Communication and Operational Tools

A company must standardize a set of tools to be used across all employees. Some popular tools which remote-first companies use include:

Slack: Slack provides a dedicated space for team collaboration and communication, with features to mark important conversations. Information can also be easily searched and deadlines met via integration with remote work tools.

Upwork: Upwork is another application which helps in connecting with professionals who can complete tasks remotely. It's trustworthy, quick, and easy to use, with the ability to track time, schedule automated payments, and monitor a remote work force effectively.

Atlassian: This tool helps in effective project collaboration and software development with the ability to generate reports and monitor progress seamlessly.

GitHub: GitHub is a development platform where you can host and review code, manage projects, and build software alongside other developers. By converting code repositories into “private” repos, any breach of privacy can be prevented and developers can effectively build products.

To cope with COVID-19, companies like Microsoft and Google have started offering free premium plans for their Teams chat app and enterprise Meet app, respectively. This further helps ensure effective communication among remote workers.

Repository for Important Communications

Often conversations in email get missed or are difficult to find for future reference. This leads to a gross miscalculation of what has been done and what needs to be done.

HubSpot works as a one-stop platform to help streamline project communications. It provides a variety of tools like email logging, adding notes, linking external documents, and more. Thus, it creates a centralized repository for all communications, making information easily available for review.

Crowdbotics leverages HubSpot to ensure all client conversations are tracked effectively.

Attendance and Availability Standards

The availability expectations of your remote workers must be outlined clearly, or else it can be a challenge to enforce work times and have team meetings. To avoid this problem, companies like Crowdbotics request that all employees fill out a roster depicting their availability so everyone can collaborate at a mutually convenient time.

Telecommuting Infrastructure

Sometimes, crises such as war, floods, and tsunamis can impact internet connection in several places. Since the employees are remotely connected, it becomes difficult for an enterprise to ensure proper internet connection for all. Several telecom operators provide special data plans that the company can purchase for their employees as a makeshift arrangement to continue business as usual, during crisis.

Ensuring a secure connection via VPN is highly recommended for organizations that need confidential and privileged information to be shared among employees. VPN creates an encryption tunnel to ensure safe and secure communication between stakeholders, and can be configured and used by both technical and non-technical staff members.

Additionally, it is imperative to ensure that none of your documents are lost due to negligence. Cloud-based storage comes to the rescue in this case by saving all of the documents that are of value to the organization in decentralized servers.

Cloud-based storage leverages one data storage source to which the user connects and is distributed to multiple channels. Companies like Atlassian and Dropbox provide cutting-edge cloud products for remote teams to keep their data backed up.

On-Time Support

Promote the culture of seeking help whenever a new challenge poses an issue.

Some suggestions include:

●     Create a 24/7 support cell where issues can be mentioned by employees.

●     Monitor daily progress through data analytics tools.

Tools like Slack provide the ability to create custom channels for open discussions and thought exchange to ensure timely support and resolution of queries. Crowdbotics has dedicated channels on Slack to provide round-the-clock support to its team members, ensuring the well-being of all global employees.

Periodic Company Updates

Effective communication at all times is a must for businesses to run smoothly in times of crisis. Reach out to your team regularly to discuss various projects to keep the employees abreast of the company's progress.

Crowdbotics' monthly all-hands meeting is a great way to keep the remote work force updated with company progress.

Conclusion

Flexible work arrangements are necessary amidst crises, but can be beneficial for both the employee and employer. Practicing remote work can truly enhance productivity while reducing employee attrition and operating costs.

While the COVID-19 situation is far from ideal, these remote-working tips can aid your corporate transition to work from home.

Crowdbotics can help your team transition to remote work with custom video chat integrations, productivity tools, and more. Contact our sales team for a quote today.

Originally published:

July 22, 2020