There is no understating just how much the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the work environment. For the last several months, entrepreneurs have been forced to adapt to remote work or shut down their operations entirely.
While remote work isn’t without its challenges, the current circumstances have led many to recognize its potential benefits. Twitter’s recent announcement that it will allow employees to work from home on a permanent basis is likely just the tip of the iceberg.
Remote work offers several key advantages to startups and small businesses, such as reducing overhead expenses and allowing work to proceed as usual during disruptive periods.
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While transitioning to a 100 percent, fully-remote workforce isn’t always easy, a few smart practices will help you succeed.
Here’s where to start:
Improve your website (and register it with the BBB, while you’re at it)
A shift to remote work won’t just affect your employees — it also impacts your customers. As such, you must make a concerted effort to make your website as user-friendly as possible. Take steps to improve SEO, streamline your checkout process (if applicable) and make sure that your site offers secure browsing.
As part of your update, take the time to register with the Better Business Bureau. Customers visiting your website will want to see signs that you are a credible business, and BBB accreditation is a straightforward way to prove that you are a legitimate company — even if you no longer have a brick-and-mortar office.
Take to the cloud to centralize your business’ most integral systems
Many businesses use a wide variety of software to help manage their operations. Customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning tools allow for the collection of real-time data to help everyone make efficient decisions.
When shifting to a remote work environment, however, you’ll want to eliminate the IT headaches that can come with installing and maintaining software on each employee’s device.
Instead, look for cloud alternatives to the system software you already use. Companies like Salesforce and HubSpot CRM provide cloud-based solutions that can be adapted based on the size and needs of your business. A cloud-based system for managing marketing, sales and other crucial data will allow your team to get to work no matter where they are located.
Establish a clear-cut, easy-to-understand communication strategy
A lack of in-person communication shouldn’t limit your remote team’s capabilities. Without a well-established communication plan, it can become all too easy to slow down your workflow, which could be detrimental to your business. At the start of your transition, you must establish a clear communication plan that everyone can follow.
While email communications are a helpful start, many remote businesses find it beneficial to work with tools like Slack or Basecamp, which facilitate project management through chat rooms and file sharing. Choose a platform that is easy for your entire team to adopt, and be sure to set access limitations based on each person’s role.
It will also be helpful to schedule regular check-in times with your team. Such meetings could occur each morning or on a weekly basis to help everyone stay connected and on the same page.
Kick all in-person meetings to the curb (while still meeting face-to-face)
Zoom has become one of the “heroes” of the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the ability to facilitate video calls between large groups. This has helped businesses maintain a sense of continuity through face-to-face meetings when important business needs to be discussed.
As part of your transition to a 100 percent remote workforce, you will need to ensure that these digital video calls enhance your team’s productivity and connectivity without becoming a distraction. Use tools like vcita, which integrate with Zoom, to manage call schedules. This allows you to set appointments with employees and clients alike to keep things running on schedule.
Move the entirety of your business’ paper trail to the digital realm
Many startups with brick-and-mortar offices produce a lot of paperwork. However, these reports, contracts and other paperwork can be handled digitally. Cloud storage makes it easy to organize and access digital files. You save space and money by switching from printed documents to digital.
Platforms such as HelloSign or DocuSign allow you to collect signatures on contracts and other important documents digitally, eliminating the need for a face-to-face meeting. Reports to your team can be distributed as a PDF file or as a series of slides. With digital storage, data will be easier to organize and track down.
Of course, you’ll need to start by digitizing your current paper documents. Important documents should be scanned and saved for record-keeping purposes. You could also use this time to replace or update older contract templates, using invoice generator tools to produce more streamlined forms.
Planning for a work-from-home future
There is no denying that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the way that many startups go about their work, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. By using these tactics to ease the transition to remote work, your company will become more streamlined and productive, reduce expenses and be better prepared for whatever challenges the future might bring.