As a business owner, you’re likely experiencing a range of emotions during the current coronavirus outbreak. You may be afraid and uncertain about the future of your business, frustrated with the social distancing mandates, or even just relieved to get some much-needed rest.
Thankfully, these digital times allow for many opportunities that pandemics of the past didn’t have, one of which is working remotely. As we navigate through this situation, learning how to work virtually is one thing you can do to keep your business moving forward.
How to Work Virtually – 3 Tips for Making the Shift
Whether you’ve never implemented any work-from-home procedures in your company or you’ve dipped your toe in at some point, this current coronavirus outbreak isn’t waiting, so it’s time to shift to a remote working environment.
These tips and resources for how to work virtually will help you do just that…
Give Your Employees a Work-from-Home Policy
Working from home is foreign to a lot people, so you can’t just ask your employees to work from home and expect it to all go smoothly. To make sure everyone is on the same page and employees understand what is expected of them, companies need to create a work-from-home policy.
Be as detailed as you can and provide all the guidelines you can think of on how to work virtually for your company. Include things such as the following:
- A daily work schedule
- What a dedicated workspace should look like
- How overtime will work
- Instructions for protecting proprietary company info
- Details on how to report personal injuries or damages to company equipment
- What a remote working mind-set should be and what it means to be able to trust employees who are working from home to get their work done
You have to start somewhere, and chances are you don’t have much time to develop these guidelines based on how fast the current coronavirus outbreak is changing things. So, measure the results of the policy over time and adjust it as you see fit.
Set Up Your Employees with the Right Technology
Obviously, the real key to knowing how to work virtually with success comes down to the technology your company will be using. After all, without technology, remote work would be impossible for most companies.
But having said that, it’s important to remember that you can’t assume your employees have reliable internet access or even computers. You may need to upgrade their equipment or give them access to what they need, including the following:
- A computer that is fast enough and new enough to handle what the employee will be doing
- Video-conferencing capabilities (webcam, headset, etc.)
- A secure Wi-Fi connection with a trusted VPN (virtual private network) to secure your company from cyberattacks
- Access to the company’s internal network
- Adequate internet bandwidth
- Messaging, collaboration, and communication tools and software to interact with coworkers (we’ll discuss this in more detail in the next section)
Make Communication Easy with the Right Tools
Messaging, collaboration, and communication tools serve two main purposes when it comes to working remotely:
- They allow us to collaborate and work effectively while separated.
- They help ensure employees don’t feel isolated.
For some companies that haven’t thought much about how to work virtually, it can be daunting to think about the logistics of it all. Questions come up like… How will we share files? How will we manage collaborative projects? How will we interact with each other or hold virtual meetings?
Thankfully, in this digital world there is almost always an app for that! Here are some of our favorites:
- Zoom – for holding meetings, doing screen sharing, and conducting webinars
- Asana – for keeping teams organized despite distance
- Slack – for staying in touch with your team
- Facebook Groups – for interacting with your audience
- ManyChat – for adding live chat to your website easily for free
- Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Be.Live – for live streaming
- Anchor.fm – for creating and distributing podcasts
- CloudFlare – for protecting and speeding up your website (worldwide internet traffic is up 20% as of last week, so this is very important right now)
- G Suite – for collaborating on projects in real time
When implementing new tools to help your employees with working virtually, remember there will be a learning curve. So, make sure you give them adequate time to learn how to use these tools.
Programs & Opportunities to Help Small Businesses during the Current Coronavirus Outbreak
Beyond knowing how to work virtually, the current coronavirus outbreak is causing drastic changes across the globe that will have major implications for a lot of small businesses, including…
- Financial strain
- Workforce capacity
- Inventory and supply chain shortfalls
- Facility remediation/cleanup costs
- Insurance coverage issues
- Changing market demand
The good news is there are plenty of resources in place to assist with these issues:
SBA Disaster Loan Program
The Small Business Association is offering disaster assistance low-interest loans for small businesses and nonprofits that have been severely impacted by the current coronavirus outbreak. It provides working capital of up to $2 million to offset the temporary loss of revenue. You can read the press release about this program here.
Additional Funding Programs
- For those who don’t qualify for the disaster assistance loans, there are capital access resources and funding programs available.
- Lender Match is another free online referral tool that businesses can use to find SBA-approved lenders.
- Additional assistance is provided for businesses involved with government contracting.
SBA Local Assistance Directory
To find the contact information of local Small Business Association departments, consult the SBA Local Assistance Directory.
Business & Employer Guidance
Aside from funding, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) provides up-to-date info on COVID-19 and advice on how businesses and employers can best plan for, prepare for, and respond to the current coronavirus outbreak.
You’ll find a wealth of information, such as…
- How to prevent exposure to the virus
- How to plan for widespread community outbreaks
- How to prevent stigma and discrimination
- How to access federal resources
- How to create your own preparedness plan
In addition, the CDC provides these supplementary resources:
- Reducing Stigma
- Coronavirus Facts to share with your employees
- Coronavirus Guidelines on how to slow the spread
- General Coronavirus Information
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has also provided some Emergency Planning Exercises that you can do with your whole team to prepare in the event that things get worse.
How to Safeguard Your Business through the Current Coronavirus Outbreak
These are certainly challenging times, and it’s natural to fear what the outcomes will be. With the proper preparation and planning, however, you can safeguard your business.
Entrepreneur.com outlined three ways to do that, and we’ll summarize them here:
- Safeguard Your Global Supply Chains – China plays such a large role in manufacturing, and it’s important to keep communicating with your vendors both there and beyond. Call and let them know what your priorities are so that you can find the best solutions together.
- Safeguard Your Ability to Serve Your Customers – The advice is the same here as it is for supply chains. If you’re not able to fulfill orders or quantities, keep your lines of communication open with your customers. Inform them, discuss their needs, and find solutions together.
- Safeguard Your Employees – While you might need to close temporarily or go to part time, use the tips in this article to help you and your employees learn how to work virtually. This usually presents a win-win-win that keeps you, your employees, and your customers happy.
Final Thoughts on How to Work Virtually & Protect Your Business during the Current Coronavirus Outbreak
With these tips and resources for how to work virtually and how to safeguard your business, you can take steps in the right direction for you and your employees.
If you’d like some assistance getting these processes and technologies in place, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to rally behind you!