It’s a surreal moment in time right now with the entire planet uncertain about what tomorrow will bring. The rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic is causing fear and concern around the world.
The effects of the situation are not only health related, but economic as well. Businesses of all sizes are being severely impacted by market fears as well as by the logistical challenges of providing their services under these difficult circumstances.
One of the major challenges is the need to shift from in-office to a remote workforce to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Many, if not most businesses are not prepared for this shift. As a remote company ourselves, I wanted to offer some thoughts on the situation.
With the specter of a lasting economic downturn, and the need to implement “social distancing” strategies, you’ll want to consider ways of doing more with less and maximizing efficiency across the board. The good news is that even increasing the ABILITY to operate remotely has a trickle down effect on efficiency.
To operate a company with a remote workforce, consider these points.
Improve lines of communication.
In a remote organization, communication needs to be bulletproof. It needs to be clear, persistent, streamlined and effective. Teams needs to be able to communicate quickly, maintain conversations and brainstorm. Communication must now be highly organized in a way that it doesn’t require in an office based setting. Not only are new tools likely required, but methodologies as well. Increasing the rhythms of communication is worth exploring, for example daily video calls between team members.
Some helpful tools to consider for streamlining remote communication are:
- https://whereby.com/ – I LOVE this tool for video chat. Requires NO software to install to share a screen which is a huge help in overcoming tech challenges. It has a free plan as well that’s great for up to 4 people in a chat.
- https://www.getcloudapp.com/ – This is a great tool for capturing and annotating and sharing screenshots and screen-videos. This the the most reliable, economical and easy to use solution I’ve found.
- https://slack.com/ – You know what Slack is. Of course if you’re a Microsoft type you have Teams.
Leverage all the power of the cloud including productivity, automation and collaboration tools.
You have a nearly infinite number of software options to select from to shift operations to the cloud. Implementing a cloud-based tool and automating operations means projects continue to progress without restriction on time and location. It also reduces operational bottlenecks and frees employees up to do the creative work that only people can do (for now). The cost savings through automation can be massive. Some of the tools to consider:
- Productivity suites like G Suite and Office365 for real-time collaboration on documents, email and files.
- CRMs like Salesforce and Pipedrive (or any of the million others) to synchronize and organize contacts, sales activities, etc
- Automation and integration tools like Zapier and Jitterbit to make nearly any software interoperable.
- Docusign and Hellosign for back-office and e-signature solution.
- DropBox and Box for cloud-based file management
- Structured project management tools like TeamWork or less structured like AirTable
Have clearer systems and processes in place to maximize operational efficiency.
When isn’t it a good idea to have well defined systems and processes in place? A great time, however, is when your team is operating from different locations and potentially different timezones. Systems and processes can be thought of as a means of checks and balances. Well designed systems are efficient, standardized, repeatable, transparent (who is doing what by when) and documented. Without them, you’ve got people duplicating effort, finding different (not necessarily better) ways of doing the same things and having difficulty tracking outcomes.
Read: Work the System for some great thinking on creating effective business systems.
Reduce the need for paper.
Pretty simple in theory, but for many businesses this represents a major shift in business practices. Keeping this one short because it’s a topic all to itself, I’ll leave you with this idea – that making an effort to reduce paper in a business will save money, save time, increase productivity, and (if implemented properly) increase security. You simply can’t operate a remote organization, or a maximally efficient business today with a heavy reliance on paper.
Remember that some of the greatest companies have been built in economic downturns and challenging times. Stay lean, stay innovative and stay focused on the bright future.
I hope these thoughts have helped you consider some options for doing more with less and wishing you and your families all well in these uncertain times.