Coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing the way companies are working.  In order to prevent the potential spread of the virus, for which there is no known vaccine, companies are expanding their remote working policies.  This includes not only workers who have traveled to countries with high rates of infection, such as China or Italy, but workers who rely on mass transit in metro areas with documented cases.  Companies implementing such precautions are likely to increase as concerns over  the virus spreading have already led to the cancellation of large events like South by Southwest (SXSW), school closures, and quarantines

While many companies have the technological infrastructure in place to allow a small number of staff to work remotely, many may not be prepared to manage a large-scale company-wide move, particularly during (and because of) a global crisis. Here are seven tips for setting up and rolling-out a remote workforce plan. 

7 Tips to Set Your Employees Up for Remote Work 

1. Technology

Ensure your workers are set up for success.  Computer and internet connectivity is only one piece of the puzzle. If your workers are not set up with a Softphone (a software program that’s installed on a computer or internet-connected device and uses the internet to make calls), you’ll want to provide employees instructions on how to set up their office phone to forward calls to their mobile phone. 

Communications don’t need to be limited to email and phone calls. Utilize platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype for video conferencing, and screenshares for a more personal face-to-face experience.  

Although the move to a remote-work environment may be challenging if you do not already have a plan in place, there are many resources, services and technology platforms that can make remote working relatively easy to set up and implement. 

2. Office Resources

One of the benefits of working in an office is easy access to a variety of office services that can include printing, shipping, and free office supplies. 

Given many employees will not have a fully functional office setup at home (including industrial printers and mailing centers) you’ll need to set them up with resources to continue to operate successfully.  

Fortunately, this does not mean purchasing all your employees an industrial printer. For projects where home office equipment will not suffice, your employees will need other options. For example, say you need 20 copies of a 50-page color printed presentation with binding, tabs and professionally designed covers. FedEx.com can handle complex printing and shipping projects like this with a quick turnaround. Employees can upload documents online, then FedEx will print and deliver them directly to the appropriate party.  

You can either set up employees with access to a corporate account to bill to, or simply allow them to get reimbursed for expenses. 

3. Transparency and Communication 

Transparency is incredibly important in any office. Even more so during a potential crisis scenario. If you have a company intranet, dedicate a page specifically for this unique situation.   

The page should include logistical information on resources (like the aforementioned links to printing and mailing services), FAQs for commonly asked questions, contact information for issues such as tech support, benefits questions, operations, etc.   

Importantly, there should be a section of the page dedicated to frequent updates on what the status is of this ever-changing situation. If there are company changes being made, be transparent and upfront with employees. Be clear about what steps are being taken, why, and what that means for them.  

4. File Accessibility 

In an ideal scenario, you already have all your files saved to a cloud-based system that can be accessed anywhere. However, not all companies are there yet.  

Although companies would be well-advised to begin moving towards a cloud-based file sharing system, migration is a long, complex process with many factors to take into consideration. It should not be entered into quickly or lightly.  

For a quick, short-term solution, Box.com is a great option. You’ll have a secure location for all documents your team needs to access. Box.com is also scalable so you will be able to use it for larger teams as you expand. 

5. Project Management

Identify how your team will communicate on a day-to-day basis.  While many use email for these sorts of communication, this can be an inefficient way to assign and track tasks.  If your office already has in place a project management platform that has gone neglected, now is the time to make use of it.  Platforms like Slack and Asana provide both project management and chat capabilities that are perfect for remote teams.   

6. Adapt Management Style

Depending on your company you may or may not be used to managing a part or full-remote workforce. If this situation is new to you, you’ll want to adjust your management style to adapt. This may include setting up more regular check-ins, video conferencing, and making yourself available via remote instant messaging communications like Slack or Skype. 

7. Develop a Remote Work Telecommuting Policy

In an ideal situation you would develop a remote work policy well in advance of actual roll-out, but in the time sensitive nature of transitioning employees to a remote work environment effective immediately, that may not be an option. Therefore, make every effort to develop an official employee telecommuting policy document as soon as possible. Outline expectations, guidelines and the logistics around your new program.  

Although working remotely can help lessen the risk of spreading coronavirus, adapting to a remote workplace requires more than just the technology to implement it.  Give thought to how your workplace will change when your team works from home and seek help developing strategies to manage your virtual team if needed.