Remote Work Best Practices: Ways to Prepare Your Team to Work Anywhere
When non-essential businesses were temporarily shuttered in early 2020, many companies had to quickly adopt a work from home program. The shutdown also raised several questions about remote work best practices, such as: What’s the best way to manage staff away from the office? How should you accommodate those workers whose jobs require them to be on site? Do you have the ability to make sure remote employees are working safely – both from a physical and technological standpoint?
The success of any work from home program demands a coordinated effort to refine your company’s remote work best practices. The benefits of remote work are well documented, but there’s still a learning curve that demands collaboration between multiple departments. Without personal interaction, it can be easy for teams and individuals to become isolated from other aspects of the business. It falls on management to ensure that employees can work safely and efficiently from the comfort of their homes.
When Bush Business Furniture sent employees home in March in compliance with COVID-19 guidelines, a Resiliency Task Force was formed to ease the transition. Department leaders from Manufacturing, Safety and Human Resources met to establish the company’s remote work best practices and plan ways to keep operations running as smoothly as possible within the facility. The major challenges were returning workers to the factory safely once guidelines allowed and getting remote employees an efficient home office setup.
“We needed to have our safety procedures in place,” said Angie Turner, Human Resources Director. “We all have friends and colleagues at other businesses, so we were able to learn a lot from other manufacturers. It was so much better to be on a team with other people than trying to figure things out on our own.”
With cooperation from multiple departments, the Resiliency Task Force was able to identify and overcome a multitude of challenges that arose from sending office employees to work from home. Let’s look at some of the challenges faced by Bush Business Furniture’s team and the remote work best practices that were developed:
HR’s Remote Work Best Practices
According to Turner, Bush Business Furniture Human Resources attended several informational seminars to learn about new laws dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Hours were spent on issues like employee safety, worker’s compensation, and attendance protocols. Based on those sessions, the company’s remote work best practices also included an overhaul of the attendance policy.
Early in the process of identifying remote work best practices, the Resiliency Team realized maintaining production would be top priority. That meant limiting the number of bodies on site as much as possible so factory operations could safely resume. Plexiglass dividers were installed to further protect those who couldn’t perform their job duties away from the office.
Bush Business Furniture was also faced with the somewhat unique issue of trying to fill multiple positions during the pandemic. New hires were able to be trained on site, then sent to work from home after a couple of weeks. The process demanded clear lines of communication between HR, IT, department managers and prospective employees.
Beyond the logistical challenges, Bush Business Furniture’s Human Resources team also dealt with plenty of social concerns with their remote employees. It was more difficult for managers to address issues remotely, and some of the staff noted that their work-life balance was thrown off by the change.
“The personal interaction was missing,” Turner said. “Losing that camaraderie of the team was a challenge and some people really miss it. A few people have said that when you’re working from home it feels like you’re always plugged in. You do laundry, have dinner, then gravitate back to your computer at 8 or 9 o’clock and find yourself working. Working from home is stressful too – it’s a different kind of stress.”
IT’s Remote Work Best Practices
After manufacturing, technology was the most pressing issue in developing Bush Business Furniture’s remote work best practices. Certain programs could only be accessed through the company’s internal network. The IT department utilized TeamViewer software that allowed nearly 100 employees to connect to their work computers from their homes. Because they no longer had control over equipment, the department had to increase security monitoring through an external company.
“It’s important to make sure security parameters are in place with access to a VPN, service files, etc.,” said Terri Franczak, Director of Information Technology. “Everything except manufacturing can be external; it all comes down to being prepared ahead of time. You have to make sure from a tech perspective that you deploy hardware and software that supports different job functions.”
With as many as 41% of employees expected to work from home after the pandemic, at least occasionally, IT departments should have a plan to maintain production. Fortunately, the team at Bush Business Furniture had the framework of its remote work best practices ready to go.
“One of the benefits we had was that we had just hired new staff that had those formalities in place,” Franczak continued. “When we had to, we were able to rapidly execute those plans. Without them the whole organization could have been offline for an unknown period of time.”
As a large portion of the staff was working from home for the first time, IT spent plenty of time answering questions and helping employees understand the new software and procedures. Along with TeamViewer, this involved a move to Office 365 that had been in the works prior to the pandemic.
“The importance of training and communication is really critical,” Franczak said. “With the Office 365 deployment we tried to do even more communication ahead of time to let people know what was coming.”
Prepared as they might have been, it became clear that IT would need access to the facility for some issues. At first, team members would enter the building at random times when a problem arose. As restrictions eased on the number of people allowed inside the building, the decision was made to have someone from tech, computer operations and network administration in the office five days a week on overlapping schedules.
Find the Right Home Office Setup
One aspect of Bush Business Furniture’s remote work best practices was to provide employees with a quality home office setup. Those who were required to work from home were given the option to choose a brand-new desk and chair set at no cost.
“People were really excited that the company would do that,” Turner said. “It was a nice gesture from management.”
“Finding the right furniture and finding the right space is important too,” Franczak added.
A commercial quality desk and chair should be the foundation of any workspace. Additional items like bookcases and file cabinets keep important materials organized and accessible. For your company’s remote work best practices, the right home office setup helps ensure that employees are working safely and productively.
Like Turner says, “the home office has become the office.”