August 07, 2020
There has been a momentous shift in the way today's workforce operates. In response to the lack of certainty presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have embraced the option of working remotely.
Today, remote working or "work from home" has expanded to impressive proportions. India having such a huge workforce, means it is going to be one of the largest work-from-home experiments.
Working from home differs from person to person and can also differ based on their job profile. Working from home entails a healthy and comfortable work environment for being productive. Our work from home guide aims to discuss a few focus areas that can help small businesses manage their remote teams efficiently.
When employees can skip the long commute, the extra coffee breaks and other distractions, it increases their productivity. The other advantage that businesses have with remote working is the reduced cost of operations. With fewer people working in the office, businesses can minimize their real estate footprint and utilize workspace more efficiently.
Apart from that, working from home results in a reduced carbon footprint. A major chunk of Indian IT firms' carbon emissions is "indirect emission," i.e., commuting and business travel. If both of these go down, so do carbon emissions.
Start-ups and SMEs that lack the infrastructure, technology and adaptability to remote working procedures may find several challenges in the large scale implementation of work from home. Businesses with little or no exposure to remote working tools and technology and no proper protocols to deal with the change, can find it very hard to adapt to this current situation.
Both remote working and working from home can affect collaboration leading to miscommunication, conflicts and confusion within a team. While employees can participate in face-to-face discussions and informal brainstorming sessions in the office premises, achieving a similar engagement level is not easy in a remote setting. Though online platforms can help bridge the communication gap, the workflow is bound to get affected when the team is working remotely.
Apart from the above, there are broader problems for small businesses and employees outside metros and Tier-II cities, such as limited broadband coverage, network outages and lack of robust technology infrastructure. This can disrupt employee productivity and performance and affect the overall business workflow.
Common questions that businesses are now asking is - How do we motivate our remote employees in a sustainable manner? How can we get remote office supplies to the right personnel?
Small businesses must design each process around its workforce for optimum use of the available technology. Be it programmers, support staff, technicians, delivery personnel or others; all want to have the best working experience. Using the appropriate tools in the right way can help employers include all types of workers in almost every operation of the business.
Technology plays a vital role in streamlining communication between the remote workforce and the employers, but the key is how the workers use this technology.. Effective collaboration is essential for a smooth workflow system. Today, technology allows teams to collaborate closely irrespective of each team member's location. Some essential tools that aid in collaboration and productivity include team messaging apps, project management tracking tools, video conferencing solutions. Consulting the IT department to ensure that security levels are not compromised when using these tools is of utmost importance.
Equip your staff to have a richer work experience by facilitating essentials for an efficient work set up like computers and accessories which include Mice, keyboards, speakers, headsets routers etc. Help them create a professional workstation by buying office grade furniture, ergonomic chairs etc..
Your employees can buy these products from Amazon Business where they can select from wide range of options that come with GST invoice for input tax credit, discounts on bulk purchases and other business specific offers that help you save costs. Amazon Business offers the Multi User Account feature to allow adding multiple employees to the same account so that purchasing flexibility alongwith trasparency and control is maintained.
Use technology to foster compliance. One such important area is spending compliance because remote teams need to be empowered to make the right purchase decisions as they need to buy tools for their work from home requirements, while at the same time meeting the budget and compliance constraints. Amazon Business allows setting up of compliance guardrails at an account level, so that all employees buyiing from the company's account will be subjected to these compliance norms
Companies must empower employees to buy quickly and get back to serving their customers. The convenience and low prices offered on Amazon Business helps users and procurement professionals to save time and effort which they can invest in other areas of importance to the business.
Motivate your remote workforce by providing them with a clear sense of direction about their daily tasks and clarifying what is expected from them in terms of performance. Team members should have clarity on their agenda for the week ahead. Businesses need to develop and use automation systems to make time for more strategic projects. Providing a fixed and structured work schedule will help employees to balance their work responsibilities with their domestic needs.
A series of one-on-one or team calls regularly will aid in creating interaction opportunities with each other. These calls allow remote workers to raise their queries and clarify their doubts. This also helps in addressing the isolation issue that employees face when working from home. Allow the team to catch up with things on the personal front and have some fun time. Once in a fortnight, you can even arrange for virtual games or casual interactions to help make the mood lighter. However, care must be taken to not overdo such meetings, as it can lead to employee fatigue.
Work-life balance is very essential to improve employee productivity, reduce stress levels and risk of burnout, address poor performance and high attrition rates.
Although most businesses are reporting increased productivity during the lockdown, instances of anxiety, depression and stress have also surfaced. Isolation from society, looming economic recession, and the pandemic-related information are impacting employees' mental well-being and causing other health concerns. A study conducted by the Indian Psychiatric Society revealed a 20 percent rise in mental health concerns during the lockdown.
Businesses must create awareness about mental health by organizing online seminars, workshops and programs for their employees and help them cope with it. These virtual help sessions will give remote employees a sense of personal relationship with the company and encourage them to stay productive.
Companies must also encourage their employees to exercise regularly, eat well-balanced meals, stay in touch with friends and relatives and indulge in some "me" time to relax and de-stress..
Remote working, if implemented strategically, results in a very efficient workforce. It offers better work-life balance, flexibility and a sense of being independent to the workers and results in productivity gains and cost savings for the businesses. Tweak your leadership style and company culture and enact strategies to motivate your workforce to harness this advantage.