COVID-19 is — and will continue — to transform the way we work with our coworkers and clients.
As a professional services provider, your relationships matter. Future customers have to learn to trust you, current customers need to have confidence in your ability to deliver on promises, and your employees count on you to lead them in these interactions.
It's time to change your thinking if you want to succeed.
Right now, companies are reacting in response to quarantines or to help keep their employees safe. But, I suspect that we're going to see a new norm rise out of this that will last much longer than the threat.
After the pandemic is over and life starts to return to normal:
- Businesses may find that they enjoy letting employees work remotely.
- Employees may prefer to work for company that offers remote work for the extra job security if another situation like the current pandemic were to occur again.
- Companies may also find a greater customer base if they only worked locally before. Being remote makes it comfortable to expand your service area.
Instead of planning this to be a temporary transition, consider the possibility that the pandemic could impact work for months and remote workers may become a permanent reality for you after that.
Adapt and thrive instead of simply reacting.
If you are trying to transition your team to work remotely, learn from our experience. We made the shift last year, and we steadily ironed out the kinks to allow us to work smoothly.
Tip #1. Build Guidelines & Stick to Them
Working remotely is much more than simply taking a company laptop home, plugging in at the kitchen table, and starting your day.
You probably already have policies in place for attendance, dress codes, communication, data management, client communications, and much more.
Many of those policies don't account for things that are common at home, but don't really happen at the office.
- Dogs barking in the background
- Kids home from school due to school and daycare closings
- Employees being distracted by daily household chores
- Workers operating in different time zones
- People rolling out of bed and going to client meetings in pajamas with bed head
Many companies have had to quickly figure out how to manage employees working remotely without any plans or policies in place. Now is the time to update your policies so future situations requiring remote work for employees will go smoothly and successfully. It's also a great time, while recent challenges are fresh on your mind, to develop a detailed plan and tools to successfully communicate critical information, address employee concerns and manage remote work in crisis situations.
Rhonda Beard - Expert at Bench Builders
Tip #2. Build or Utilize Processes
Most of the clients we've worked with in the professional services industry fall into one of two categories.
If You Operate Like Well-Oiled Machine...
You have processes for client meetings, processes for employee meetings, and a thorough management system fully implemented to keep work on track.
You know who's working on what, when it's due, and what the quality of the finished product should be.
You're ahead of the curve.
To succeed in this new remote work culture, you're simply going to have to adapt what you're already doing to new technology.
- If you hold morning stand-up meetings at 8 am EST, keep doing that but start hosting the meeting over video.
- If you regularly hold management meetings every week, utilize software such as Zoom and keep doing it.
You have processes that work, so stick to them.
If You Operate in a "Get Work Done ASAP" Environment...
You probably find yourself holding spontaneous meetings to try to get a handle on things. You also probably frequently find yourself adapting to the communication whims of clients and the most vocal employees.
You don't have regular processes and you're constantly struggling to get things done on time and at a high level of quality.
Don't worry, we've been there too.
The good news is that transitioning to a remote workforce may just give you the bump you need to start addressing those issues, and like us, you may find that you actually work better with remote workers.
- Talk with your team and start identifying the roadblocks in your delivery and service quality.
- Prioritize your list of roadblocks so that the ones at the top are the ones that are impacting your business the most — either by taking too much time or having poor delivery quality.
- Build a process that is scalable and repeatable for that process. Break down the steps that it takes and create a to-do list for how to execute it.
Use your process. That may seem obvious, but sometimes the people that deliver this service the most often feel like they have internalized the steps. Processes are helpful for a reason, and you need to make sure they're used.
Continue this workflow to build more processes and refine the ones you already have until you're operating smoothly.
Tip #3. Prioritize Effective Communication
When your employees are working from home it's easy for them to feel disconnected and like they don't have support. It's up to you to ensure that you continue the feeling of teamwork and don't allow someone to venture off-script just because they aren't sure how to get help.
- Implement video calls using software like Zoom so that you can see each other and share screens.
- Use quick-capture video solutions like Loom to quickly share information via email or Slack.
- Utilize team chat platforms like Slack to help you talk quickly with individual people or groups. You can even consider bringing your clients into the platform if they are willing.
Make sure that you continue to hold regular meetings to check in on our team and receive status updates.
However, don't assume that someone is always available.
It's important to have boundaries when you work from home. Employees are used to clocking out at the end of the day and going home. Now, it's harder to get that separation.
Slack can help with this because employees can update their status to unavailable or busy if they are not working right now or are "in the zone" and don't want to be interrupted.
Tip #4. Assess Your Definition of Productivity
For most companies, an employee's productivity is simply measured by their ability to clock in and out each day and work a set number of required hours.
With work-from-home flexibility, employees typically have less distractions and are able to do more work in less time. That doesn't mean you should pile work on.
Consider that remote working also gives them the ability to work when they are the most productive. Some people aren't morning people. They may "clock in" at 10 am and get more done before lunch than someone that clocked in at 8.
If we're being honest, being clocked-in and working aren't the same thing.
An employee could easily punch the time clock and turn on some Netflix and not do anything for hours. Yes, you can install monitoring programs on computers that log every keystroke — but why would you want that hassle.
If you can focus instead on the quality of the work they complete and if they are getting done on time or earlier, then wouldn't that be better?
Tip #5. Define Work Requirements
If you don't have one already, Project Managements systems like ClickUp can be a lifesaver for keeping up with workloads and making sure everyone is being productive.
You can organize your work by client or task and assign work to individuals.
The biggest challenge is making sure that you communicate essential work requirements.
- Which tasks should be prioritized?
- When is it due?
- Who do they ask if they have questions?
- Is there any additional that they need to know to do this correctly?
- What items should be included in the deliverables (if any)?
- Is someone supposed to review the work before it goes to a client? If so, who?
Be prepared to have some stumbling blocks as you get going and don't be afraid to reach out to ClickUp Support with questions as you set things up.