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4 Tips for Adapting to Working Remotely for Small Businesses

A lot has changed over the years with respect to working remotely, but the current COVID-19 pandemic is really pushing the needle on how many people are now working from home. With that in mind, we thought we’d outline some of the things we think are important when you and your employees are working remotely in a small business context.

Before we begin, don’t think that remote working means getting less done (although there may of course be other things these days affecting the ability to continue with business as usual). Various research has shown that while people working from home may take longer breaks, for instance, that this is more than made up for by the fact that they also tend to work a longer day. All in all, it can often be the case that remote workers are actually more productive than office workers, due to distractions and other differences. So you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) treat working from home as essentially a vacation.

You can even look at working from home as a way to cut costs (though that effect will vary greatly based on your business), but you still need to make an effort to help people be productive.

First and foremost, it’s important to clarify any particular expectations of staff working from home. Let them know how often you’d like them to check in (so you’re both on the same page), anything specific you’d like them to get done (so you’re moving the ball forward), and rough hours you’d like to be able to get a hold of them (so you’re still respecting their personal boundaries). And while you’re at it, let your clients know what their expectations should be over the next few weeks (or longer) as well.

Next, consider what tools you can use to make this experience easy and effective. So much business is being conducted online these days, that you probably already have some great apps in your toolset for communications and other work-related tasks. This could be the Google suite, Microsoft Teams, Slack, or any number of platforms.

One tool of particular importance to stay connected with staff (and clients, in some cases) these days is video conferencing software. We already mentioned Microsoft Teams and Slack above, as well as Google Hangouts, but Zoom and Skype are two other popular options.

You may also be able to make better use of things like Google Docs, Dropbox, Atlassian Confluence, or other file sharing tools so that you don’t drown in a flood of emailed Word documents. Additionally, you might want invest in more (tasteful and sensitive, given the situation) online marketing efforts given that people have more limited ways to be exposed to your products or services.

Thirdly, it’s important that you continue to support your team – now more than ever. Let them know that you’re there for them and understand that these can be challenging times that may require some extra flexibility. Share (but try not to overwhelm them with) information that can help make working from home safer and easier (e.g. if you were working out of an office at a time like this, you’d definitely be putting up some hand-washing flyers for guidance and letting people know about social/physical distancing, so it’s totally appropriate to share that kind of info).

Finally, we can’t be sure of how long coronavirus will be affecting our lives, but there’s no doubt that there will be enough of an interruption that you’ll want to start planning a little longer-term as well. In addition to your staff and clients, reach out to suppliers and other stakeholders, too, so that you have an idea of how they’ll fit into the picture over the upcoming months.

Above all, stay calm and know that this will end eventually. The team here at Burrison Law is continuing work from home and wishes you and yours the best through these challenging times. We’re all in this together, so stay safe!