As an employer, how can you best organize working from home? Yesterday I addressed my tips to employees, today I would like to turn to the companies that need to create the necessary conditions. To put it very simply: Give your employees good instructions and clever tools.
Mujibor de Graaf, CEO of Viadesk, has been letting his employees work from home on a regular basis for more than 20 years. “We often work together digitally, in the Netherlands, but also across borders. In my opinion, the sense of togetherness is the most important thing. For example, someone who works from home several days a week – or in general – must still have the feeling of being part of the team. This sense of cohesiveness encourages colleagues to work together even when they are not in the office,” says Mujibor de Graaf. Tip: Read the interview with Mujibor de Graaf about New Work in “Strong teamwork across national borders”.
So working remotely is normal for Viadesk employees, but inexperienced companies may find themselves in a difficult situation due to the coronavirus. In my opinion, two aspects are crucial:
> Make sure you give good instructions. – Help the employee at home with creating a plan. Make recommendations so that your employees are productive but also remain part of the team. Maintain regular consultation – online. Stay in touch, be available for questions and feedback.
> Provide your employees with the right digital tools. – I am not thinking of email, which is known to be ineffective. Use smart technologies that make it easy for people to connect, communicate, and collaborate online. Most importantly, make sure everyone uses the same tools, otherwise communications will be on different frequencies.
Start with an inventory of the tools already available and check if they are still up to date. Then explain how to use the tools to all employees who work from home. If you don’t have anything sorted out yet or you are lacking good tools, list what you need. Time is a critical factor, so don’t go through a lengthy purchasing process. Rather opt for ready-to-use solutions. These are usually cloud solutions that have proven themselves in the meantime and can be used immediately.
1. Connect – Connect your employees with each other. That sounds logical, but it is not always easy to implement. All remote working employees must be visible to each other. They must be able to find each other immediately to do their daily work. A profile with photo, name, department, function, and experience is practical. Especially the last aspect is important, for example when you need support for a project.
2. Team collaboration – Efficiency is the magic word here. You and your colleagues can withdraw online in specific groups, where you can work undisturbed and neatly in one place and where you can find all information and communication. Here you will find information about when a group member publishes something or uploads a document. From this group you will receive an email every morning with messages especially for you. Very convenient!
3. Talk to each other – Stay in touch, also online. Everyone knows that good communication is the key to a healthy business. This communication can take place internally between individual employees, or at team, project group, management, and executive levels. And of course – if desired – with everyone outside of these groups. Give your employees a tool that they are already used to in their private lives, a tool they can use to link, share, and react. Preferably with a chat function. This way, the software is used intuitively.
4. Personal and relevant – No matter where you are, you must have 24/7 (protected) access to the information, documents, groups, and colleagues relevant to you. Filtered. If possible, use as little general company news as possible, these are only distracting.
5. Easy to find – The platform must not become a chaotic collecting tank for all kinds of data and information. Avoid this at all costs! Organize information and documents, arrange them logically, and make everything easy to find for remote working employees. A search function is essential, if possible equipped with a tool that can search deep into the documents. If you don’t find what you are looking for quickly, you will give up (easily)!
A Social Intranet or a Digital Workplace is an ideal platform for working from any location. In addition, it is suitable both for the company and for the employee at home. Adding your favorite Office 365 or sharepoint functionality is especially convenient. If you want to organize online meetings, use tools like Skype, Zoom, Go-to-Meeting, Adobe Connect or Bluejeans.
Not only working, but also learning from home is now topical. According to a decision of the Dutch government, all secondary schools are closed until April 6th. The situation is similar in Germany, other European countries, and the UK. There will be no lessons in the schools, but the schools will offer their students the material they need to learn at home, if possible digitally. Logically, many schools have not yet regulated this well. Because how do you do that? In many cases, this is done through programs such as Magister/Classroom, where the material to be worked through is placed, along with the assignments to be completed each week. The student then receives digital feedback on these assignments. Of course, this is not ideal because there is no direct interaction.
Companies have to cope with similar challenges. How do you ensure that employees continue to learn remotely? The market offers numerous e-learning systems with very different functions and at different prices. With an e-learning platform you can offer and manage training activities online. With an administration module you can add and invite course participants, the platform includes a review system, and offers many content possibilities, as well as direct social interaction between trainers/experts and learners/employees. I would like to refer you to the blog on e-learning for companies.
If you are not isolating yourself, working from home should not mean that you do not leave the house or that you do not see anyone for two weeks. Make sure that you continue to maintain your social contacts.This could be a little chat with your neighbour or at the bakery – definitely do that! – On a business level, it is important that you continue to talk to your manager, colleagues, and customers. Be part of the outside world even from your home. The right tools can help you do this.
While writing this blog, the latest news has caught up with me. At Viadesk we have also decided to close the offices for the time being and work from home. A reasonable decision, I think. This morning we had a digital conference together, in which the colleagues from our office in Cologne also took part. Together, we will be able to come up with good agreements so that we don’t lose sight of each other and do everything we can to be there for our customers. I wish everyone – whether working from home or still in the office – much strength and health!