A month ago, few people had heard of the coronavirus. Fewer still predicted this great exodus from traditional work environments to virtual ones. The COVID-19 situation seems like something from a science fiction movie: An sudden and unpredictable foe, a need for more technology, and a whole lot of anxiety.
And like many science fiction thrillers, the success of the good guys relies greatly on soft skills supported by technology. The good guys could have all the nifty gadgets imaginable. But if they don’t have the soft skills necessary to use those widgets strategically, then the likelihood of success plummets. It’s the soft skills that help the good guys win.
In this particular scenario, your organization is the good guy. In order to be successful, follow the ten tips below. These tips address the challenges of adapting a brick and mortar workplace to a remote environment.
Workers used to chatting across cubicles now feel isolated. They are out of the loop. This causes a lot of anxiety, and anxiety muddies the gears of productivity. Even if there is not a new development, communicate that to workers. A daily update, even without new news, helps workers feel connected to the company and each other.
2. Reorder priorities
After management has reviewed priorities and reordered as necessary, communicate these to workers. What does the company want workers to focus on right now? Making the priorities obvious also relieves workers’ anxiety since it paints a clear picture of the current goals.
3. Emphasize attitude
Your administrators and managers must demonstrate a positive can-do attitude in their communications with each other and workers. A positive attitude also allays anxiety and encourages creative problem-solving. It also deters nay-sayers.
4. Be patient and flexible
Many workers will struggle to juggle their own job tasks with children, who are also now learning from home. Expect a learning curve as everyone adjusts.
5. Set clear expectations
Though being patient and flexible is vital, specifying expectations will guide everyone’s new routines. How soon are workers expected to respond to emails within the organization? To customers, students, or clients? Will the traditional work hours be respected? Or does the organization feel workers should be available at all hours?
6. Avoid new bells and whistles
Right now, management and workers are worried and stressed. Adding a new application to their mental loads while adjusting to this new situation will be overwhelming. However, if a new application must be added…(see tip #7)
7. Tutorials and training
Create a hub of tutorials and training. Simplify training by putting all resources in one location, and make this location easy to access. You can also provide checklists for each work position. This directs workers’ learning and may prevent some workers from wasting time taking training they don’t need. To reinforce expectations, consider adding “to be completed by” dates for each required tutorial and training.
8. Live Q&A
Offer live Q&A sessions. Workers want to be heard and feel like they are still part of the organization. Live Q&A sessions, via apps like GoToMeeting or Zoom, let workers feel they are people, not just cogs in the virtual machine.
9. Prepare for the unpleasant
“Unpleasant” sounds better than “worst,” but the idea is the same. What is the game plan if significant organizational players or a significant portion of your organization (or their loved ones) become ill with COVID-19?
Repeat as necessary. As the COVID-19 situation unfolds, you may need to reprioritize, retrain, and reassure workers that their needs are paramount.
One last word of encouragement: Many companies work remotely and do it well. A Pass Education is 100% remote and has been for over 10 years. Though it may seem daunting to move a traditional organization to remote status, it is very doable. After all, you’re one of the good guys!