Business owners everywhere were put in a tough spot recently. Based on the spread of the coronavirus, workers worldwide were given the opportunity to work from home. While it’s not the most ideal situation for certain households, it’s definitely better than the alternative—a layoff or a complete shutdown.
Times are tough since nobody has a good idea of what might happen next. Americans, especially, are taking things day by day. If you’re a boss who has recently been forced to make your employees work remotely, here are a few things you might want to think about.
1. Remote work is surprisingly common.
People have been working remotely for a long time. And, they’ve been successful at it. This might not be your ideal situation at the moment, but there’s a lot to be happy about when it comes to working remotely. For one, utilities at your office won’t be quite as high. You’ll also be able to work more comfortably, and have a little more control of your schedule. For self-motivators, working remotely is a great way to feel happier and more productive. If you’ve never considered going remote before the pandemic, you might want to reanalyze once things have settled down.
2. Income is important, but don’t forget about the time we’re in.
If you own a business, it’s likely you’re panicking right now. So are your employees. Keeping them safe and healthy is a priority right now. If they’re having trouble keeping motivated for a week or two, don’t hold it against them. If it’s taking a long time to get them used to online meetings, try not to say anything. This pandemic is something that each and every one of your employees have in common with you right now, and it’s important to work together.
3. Morale is important.
Sharing a funny meme or dedicating a Slack channel to pet photos is important. It may seem like a small gesture, but it’ll make your team feel more like a family. In a time like this, every laugh or temporary distraction counts. While you’ll always be their boss, it’s okay to also be their friend every once in a while.
4. They may be less available due to their kids.
Again, this is something that nobody was really prepared for. With daycares closing, parents are trying to juggle two full-time responsibilities at once. By discouraging play dates, it’s also tough for these kids to be able to expel their energy and practice their social skills. That means that your Zoom meeting may be rushed due to a tantrum, or that an employee may have to duck out for fifteen minutes to handle naptime. Don’t hold these things against them — they’re not all that happy about it either.
5. They might be afraid to ask you for support.
It’s really tough for someone to reach out and say they need some help — whether it’s in working on their mental health, or if they’re out of food and can’t find more. Check in on your employees. Make sure they’re doing okay. Even if they say they are (when they obviously aren’t) the fact that you’re showing them you’re open to talking is huge.
6. Not everyone is great with technology.
There are so many incredible tools out there to make remote working a lot easier. Just don’t expect your employees to be well versed in all of them. Once they get the hang of Zoom and Slack they’ll be fine, but it can be intimidating to suddenly learn 5 different programs in a day (or, even a week.) If you, yourself, aren’t all that knowledgeable, ask around in the organization and see if there’s anyone who can step forward and help the rest of the team.
7. Stay as connected as you can.
Employees might feel a little lost if you’re not checking in every once in a while. It’s impossible to answer every email and attend every virtual meeting, but have a clear direction of how you want each day to go, and let your employees know about it first thing. By having the work in front of them early on, they can figure out how to manage the projects and make sure everything is completed by the end of the day.
8. Understand that it’s okay to have a day or two where you’re not that busy.
It’s really easy to “look busy” while at work. All you need to do is have a spreadsheet open on your computer, and nobody will ask any questions. By having everyone work from home, you might feel like they’re spending their work time solely on personal affairs. Trust your employees to use their time the right way. Remember that it’s rare for anyone to use up all eight hours of the workday just on office-related work. Even you’ve probably texted with friends and family members during work time before.
9. Let this experience inspire you to think outside the box.
For some of your employees, this shake-up is a dream come true. Maybe they’ve always wanted to work remotely, but figured you’d never actually let them. Use this time to ask yourself what else you’re willing to test out during these next few weeks. “Good bosses adopt certain methods because they’re the best way of doing things — not because they’ve just fallen into certain habits,” states Business Insider. “The best managers give their employees a little room to experiment and innovate.”
10. It’s okay for you to also take a day off.
If the pressure of moving your business is a lot to take in, it’s okay to step back and take a day to really think things over. Just make sure that your employees know that you’re not available unless it’s an emergency, so they know to give you a little bit of space. Even bosses need a breather, and nobody’s going to hold it against you for using some time to process the news and heal. You’re only human. And you, yourself, aren’t going to solve this crisis overnight. If your team has been with you for quite some time, trust that they won’t need immediate guidance — they’re good at what they do, and know how to move your company forward.
There’s a reason why the phrase “We’re all in this together” keeps floating around. It’s because for the first time, all of us are feeling the same emotions of uncertainty and fear. Let your human side shine, and take comfort in knowing that your employees are sticking together. You may be the boss, but what people need right now is for you to be open and understanding.