Given recent events, many businesses and employers have been forced to change the way they work. It’s been a big learning curve for businesses of all sizes, and it seems that most companies are learning as they go.
Bigger businesses are generally fortunate enough to invest in resources that make this transition a little easier. Unfortunately, for smaller businesses, there tends to be more of a DIY approach to remote working, and that can be hard to manage when you’re having to run your business while transitioning to a new way of doing things!
Working remotely is something that we have done here for years at LYF Solutions®, with team members located all over the world. So we would like to share our remote working tips and tricks from our experience with remote working as a small business.
Set up a reliable work infrastructure
One of the first things you need to do when preparing your team to work remotely is to set up a reliable work infrastructure.
Here’s a quick checklist you can use as a guide to make sure you’re prepared:
- Make sure you have an updated contact list with everyone’s email addresses and phone numbers.
- If you don’t already have one, set up your team’s Shared Google Drive. This will make it easier for you and your team to access documents. You can also adjust the privacy settings so only certain team members can access specific documents and folders. If you plan to get this via GSuite for the first time, contact our sales team for a discount code.
- Decide on the tools and resources you will use to communicate with one another, and as a team. There are many tools available, with quite a number of companies offering their video conferencing tool for free. Google Hangouts Meet, Jamm, and Zoom are a few of these free tools you can consider using for your team.
- Have one-on-one communication channels for individual team members, particularly those that report directly to you.
- Set and communicate team expectations clearly. This includes everything from deadlines and meetings times, to reasonable response times for emails and instant messages.
- Document team goals, deliverables, and timelines. A project management tool like Asana, Trello, and Clickup will keep everything organised and accessible, and offer free packages for small teams!
- It’s important to find out each team member’s communication preferences. Whether it’s emails, instant messaging, or phone calls, every individual will likely have a preferred communication tool. For example, now that most children are at home full time, our team members who are parents have asked to be contacted primarily via email or instant messaging.
Take advantage of free resources
Small businesses simply cannot be expected to invest in powerful online tools the way big businesses can, particularly during uncertain times like this. The good news is, you won’t have to anyway!
There are plenty of free resources out there, or free versions of paid resources, that work wonderfully for small businesses. In fact, we’ve already shared a few in the last section! So when you’re looking for an online tool or resource, always make sure you look into free tools before considering paid tools, or at the very least, commit to a free trial of paid tools where possible.
We recently shared a post of our Facebook Page with a list of free resources, so feel free to use it as a starting point!
Keep data secure for remote working
It’s always important to keep your data secure, even when you’re not working remotely, but it’s especially important when your team is spread out across the land.
It’s a good idea to equip your remote workers with a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which encrypts all of the internal data that your remote workers will access. This will help prevent any possible data breaches. If you’re looking for cost-effective options, SurfShark and Cloudflare are currently offering free VPNs for small businesses to support remote workers.
You should also consider using a password manager to keep your passwords organised and secure. There are several free password managers you can use, including Lastpass and 1Password, who are offering their 1Password Business for free for a limited time of six months.
Stay connected with your team
It should go without saying, but we urge you to continue to stay in touch with your team, even though you are no longer sharing a physical work space together. Consistent communication is the key to ensure that your team can still function well and achieve targets on time.
It’s also important to communicate beyond work-related things. If you think about what people communicate about when in an office environment, you’ll realise pretty quickly that it’s never ‘all work, all the time’! So make sure to still ask your team members about their day, and provide that much needed social interaction while we’re all feeling isolated.
If at all possible, it’s a good idea to schedule some time during the week for short, non-work coffee breaks with your team members just to catch up. Stay up-to-date with what’s going on in your staffs’ lives. Between all our team members, there have been a slew of new hobbies picked up and even new pets added to the mix! You want to be able to still know each other when you’re back in your work space eventually.
The crisis we’re facing is completely unprecedented, and most of us were caught completely unprepared. So just accept that you’re going to have to be a lot more flexible with your own schedule and that of your workers’ while you get used to this new normal.
If you have team members with families of their own, keep in mind that they’re likely having to juggle work and family simultaneously, and that will mean their work time may be disjointed at best! It’s difficult – nay, impossible – to work efficiently with set hours while also being responsible for young humans at the same time.
Even team members who don’t have little kids might just want the freedom of working at their own pace and their preferred hours, so allow those night owls and early birds the flexibility to work this way.
When you focus more on goals and deliverable instead of hours worked, you may be surprised by how productive your team will be! So while team members should be expected to still be present for scheduled meetings, and available via emails and instant messaging during regular work hours, make it clear that they can work on deliverables whenever it suits them, as long as they meet their deadlines.
Pivot your business
While we understand how many businesses have been caught off-guard by recent events, it’s important to consider how this is an opportunity to do something new with your business that you may have been putting off or simply not considered before! While having a small business has its own challenges, one of the benefits is how quickly you can make business development decisions on the go, so get creative with it.
We have several clients who are personal trainers, and a number of them have decided to run their personal fitness training business from home. This is a great example of pivoting a small business to take advantage of online resources to continue running a business under different circumstances.
This is also a good time to consider how you can give back to your community. This is especially important if you can provide something unique, or fill some kind of gap. For example, fashion designer Christian Siriano has mobilised his team of sewists – all working remotely in the beginning but now together as an assembly line at his atelier – to sew face masks for hospital workers in New York.
“If (New York Governor Andrew Cuomo) says we need masks my team will help make some.” He tweeted, “I have a full sewing team still on staff working from home that can help.”
So use this as an inspiration for you to pivot your business in a way that adds value not just to your own business, but also the world at large.
Engage with your customers
Now that your time is freed up by not having to commute to work, perhaps you can spend a little more time connecting with your customers. There are many ways to engage with your fans and followers, but pay extra attention to genuine engagement and communication. It’s also important that your marketing efforts remain tactful during this time.
Social media engagement is the quickest way to reach your customers where they are. Look at your Facebook and Instagram – could you be doing more to engage with your audience? Now is the time to really commit to it! There are so many ways to go about this, but here are a few things you can do to engage with people on your social platforms:
- Post polls and host Q&As on Instagram Stories
- Share some knowledge on Facebook Live
- Give a little behind-the-scenes insight to you and your remote working team
- Share Instagram posts that spark engagement
Sharing customer testimonials is another way for you to connect with your customers and also show them a little appreciation. You can share customer reviews, and even related images (like before and after photos, for example) on your website and socials. Or perhaps a customer has done a cool unboxing video on their Instagram TV (IGTV) which you can share?
Outsource work to freelancers
If you don’t have someone in-house to do a support task that is important to a new business goal or product, consider outsourcing that work instead of hiring someone as a permanent member during these uncertain times.
Freelancers are generally adept at remote work, and can work on a project basis, or by individual deliverables. There are plenty of freelancers specialising in areas that could be of help to your business right now, including copywriting, software development, and web design (just to name a few!). There are a few places you can find freelancers online, including Freelancer and Upwork.
Hiring experienced freelancers allows you to bypass the time and effort of hiring full-time staff during this uncertain period in your business. This can help support your growth and get new ventures off the ground quickly and efficiently.
It’s important to remember that we are all in this together. You and your team can still feel connected even while you’re far apart, thanks to technology. And we believe your business will experience a lot of growth through this period and come out even stronger after this crisis is over!
If you have more suggestions on how small businesses can succeed through remote working, make sure to share them with us!