Whilst projections and future-proofing can safeguard a business against against most normal situations and outcomes, the current climate is an almost unprecedented landscape.
Very few businesses, of any size, will have a lockdown and pandemic strategy in place. So, small business owners will have had to adapt quickly and efficiently to protect the organisation, their finances and the wider team.
Whilst every business has their unique challenges they have had to overcome, there are a number of strategies that business owners can implement to help themselves and their team operate from home more effectively.
Here, we have outlined a short guide to help small business owners better manage their team and organisation from home.
Whether you have a dedicated IT manager, outsource your IT responsibilities or your role doubles up as a de-facto IT expert; there are a number of systems available which can be implemented to help your business operate as close to normal as possible.
Effective and efficient file-sharing systems are essential for the majority of businesses working remotely, ensuring teams can share files, documents and more with minimal fuss. DropBox, OneDrive and WeTransfer are all solid, affordable options for small businesses – helping to distribute and organise files between locations.
Communication tools should be next on the list – ensuring that the business can stay in contact with all team members, customers, partners and stakeholders during these unprecedented times. Slack is a great communication platform to keep in touch with teams, share ideas, and have a little light-hearted chatter on the side.
Slack also has a video conferencing option, but a dedicated platform such as Zoom would be preferable for most business’ needs. Meetings, webinars and conference rooms can all be accommodated on this great app.
Without the same scope to build ideas face-to-face, it’s a good idea to implement a few project management and collaboration tools. The likes of Asana, Jira and Basecamp can all be used to help your team keep on top of their tasks and reduce the risk of errors.
For many businesses, VPN technology could also be a great bonus – helping the team anonymously use the web. This means that geo-locked websites can still be accessed from home, and can help protect your analytics suite from picking up fake hits to your site.
We briefly covered the technology needed to keep in contact when the whole team are working separately, but it’s also important that efforts are made to ensure the same levels of communication are upheld. Many of us take the daily contact we have with colleagues for granted, and may neglect to actively replicate this when working remotely.
There are a number of steps a business can take to help improve the lines of communication. Firstly, a member of the team should be tasked with ensuring that everyone stays connected – an office manager is a perfect candidate for this role.
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Your newly appointed team comms manager can help improve team morale in many ways – regular quizzes, collaborations and fun facts keep everyone connected in a light-hearted manner. It’s also vital that the senior managers in the team keep the wider team updated on events during this difficult period.
Keeping customers updated with the business’ activity during this period is also vitally important, and for many businesses, the best platform for this is social media. Small, regular updates can help to reassure customers that the business is operating as effectively as possible.
Direct emails to stakeholders can perform the same function in a more formal manner – answering more difficult questions and offering increased transparency.
As a business leader, it is not just your responsibility to keep yourself fit and healthy, but also be a source of inspiration for the whole team. Therefore, you must take the lead in suggesting and rewarding positive activities. From setting reminders to drink plenty of water, eat healthy snacks and exercise as much as permitted, to sharing your own exercise routines and healthy recipes.
Not only can these good health practices help the mental and physical wellbeing of the team, but they also serve to keep everyone connected and sharing in their day-to-day lives. This is just one more step to reduce feelings of isolation and anxiety within the team.
Reach out regularly to all members of the team, and encourage team leaders to do the same. Again, this reduces the sense of isolation within the team, and can quickly highlight any issues which may be starting to rear their head before they become major problems. Also, many people simply want to know that their managers and directors value them as people and genuinely care.
There will come a time when workforces around the world will be able to return to their offices and places of work, and the job of resuming normal service will commence. Many small business owners will be aiming to speed up the process of getting things ‘back to normal’.
However, there is an opportunity here for small business owners to identify any efficiencies that working from home afforded their business and determine whether it could be worth implementing these emergency processes in the long-term. This could be as simple as allowing certain members of the team to work from home (either part-time or full-time) or could be as comprehensive as overhauling the collaboration tools used by the whole business.
The COVID-19 pandemic should serve as an opportunity for business owners to identify what has previously worked and what could work better. So, rather than returning to normal, they can return to better.
When the lockdown is lifted and your team congregate in the office once again, ask them which elements of working from home they valued, and which could be long-term options for the business.
Also, when the dust has settled, and your working practices are no longer affected by the external factors – score your own performance in helping your business adapt. From here, you can work to make your business flexible enough to tackle huge global issues like these in the future.
Whilst something like COVID-19 might not happen again in our lifetimes, none of us anticipated this. So, it pays to be prepared.
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