The Coronavirus pandemic has ensured that not many businesses can operate normally. Business owners, especially those with small and medium sized businesses, are allowing many employees to work remotely. Remote working was once taboo but now more and more small business owners are considering allowing employees to work from home even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
The idea of remote working can be quite daunting at first as there are many factors to take into consideration. However, with the right tools and resources, you could easily run a successful small business from anywhere at any time.
Set up a reliable work infrastructure
To ensure a successful shift from office to remote working, it’s important to set up a reliable work infrastructure.
There are several things to do first before you can kick off.
- Make sure you have an updated contact list with all employee email addresses and phone numbers.
- Create a Shared Google Drive to ensure you and your team have easy access to necessary documents and information. This nifty drive will also allow you to adjust privacy setting so only certain members can access specific documents and folders.
- Make a list of the tools and resources you will use for all communication as a team.
- Start with clear expectations you have for work deadlines, meeting times, and response times on emails and instant messages.
- Create a document with team goals, deliverables and timelines and make sure each person on the team is aware of this and has a copy.
Encourage a schedule
One of the biggest stressors for many small business owners and employees is the flexibility that comes with remote working. In an office space, you are confined to a certain space and have set office hours. With remote working things can be more flexible and there is less structure available. The routine immediately goes out of the window.
With the right tools in place this doesn’t need to be the case, and while it can be a bit more flexible there can still be a set schedule. Some ways to ensure this can be to set dedicated meeting times each week.
Implementing work deadlines on all projects and asking employees to set hours for when they’re going to work each day. Make use of tools such as Trello to create built-in tasks, set reminders and accountability.
You’ve established your priorities and expectations, now you need to keep your team connected to ensure they stick to the goals and stay on track. With the low cost and free tools available today you can still enjoy daily virtual communication with your team.
The tools you use will be determined by the technology available in each person’s remote working environment. You have access to a range of chat apps, video conferencing options and conference call tools. Before using any of these it’s important to ensure all employees have the tools needed for the form of communication you prefer. For instance, video conferencing requires a working microphone and camera. To keep communication lines open and running smoothly choose a method of communication accessible to all or provide the tools required.
For quick answers throughout the business day, you can make use of apps like WhatsApp, Slack or Signal. For face to face sessions, you can make use of video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts. If video calls are putting too much of a strain on your internet connection, you can shift over to conference calls using services such as UberConference or Free Conference Call.
Chat apps, conference calls and video conferences allow you to keep communication flowing throughout the day. That being said, it’s important to rethink urgency and keep communication lines open for truly important matters. The team should be encouraged to use communication lines only when necessary and spend time being productive.
Secure your data
As a small business, it is vital to your survival to keep all data secure even when you’re not working remotely. If team members are scattered across the land, it becomes even more important to keep data secure.
One of the easiest ways to ensure privacy and secure your data is by providing remote working with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This tool encrypts all internal data accessed by your team and prevents any possible data breaches. Big companies such as Cloudfare and SurfShark are currently offering free VPNs for small businesses in support of remote work environments.
You can also take a look at this helpful checklist created by Cyber Management Alliance for more tips on how to secure your small business when working remotely.
Engage with customers
The great thing about remote working is the time you save not having to commute to and from work. With more freed up time, you could boost your small business marketing and customer engagement. Nowadays, there are so many ways to engage with customers and followers. That being said, it’s important to engage in genuine communication and pursue tactful marketing strategies during this stressful time.
Make use of social media to engage with your customer base as the quickest way to reach them will be via Facebook or Instagram. Also, take this time to re-evaluate your social media marketing strategy and whether or not you could be doing more with your profiles.
There are so many benefits of digital marketing including not having to spend thousands to reach your ideal customer. The most important thing to do is to engage with your client base. This can be done easily by posting polls, hosting Q&As on Instagram Stories, sharing knowledge on Facebook Live, giving a behind the scenes peek into the lives of your team and business, and sharing posts that spark engagement.
Use this time to create relationships and build trust with your customers.
Remote working after the pandemic
In the current global crisis, many small business owners are trying remote working policies. And according to a recent survey by Intermedia about 57% of these business owners have stated they are likely continue adding remote working options for employees after lockdown. The fact of the matter is that there are many advantages to remote working – especially for small business owners.
If you’re a small business owner still worrying about the survival of your business UBU has plenty of helpful resources available. Take a look at our COVID-19 Survival Guide for more tips to keep your business afloat during these trying times.