While working remotely has been on our collective radar for quite some time, the unprecedented steps we all must take NOW to try to contain the coronavirus pandemic mean that many small businesses are having to figure out a system in a hurry.
I was a remote worker before it was popular. Now, as I manage a remote team of my own, I know there are some great tools and important best practices to keep in mind as you navigate this brave new world.
I break it down into smart tools and soft skills.
The great thing about most office work today is that it can be done anywhere and anytime. But even better is that working by yourself at home does not mean you have to work alone. There is a plethora of tools out there that allow people to work remotely yet collaboratively.
Here are some of the best:
Office 365 and Teams: With the cloud version of Microsoft’s well-known Office suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc.), along with conferencing tools like chat and video calls, you can work anywhere, but together. You can attend meetings online, collaborate on the same document, share files, etc.
OpenForBusiness.org: This is a collaborative efforts of tech companies like WebEx, Google, and GoToMeeting, who are offering free tools right now to help your team work remotely.
Zoho Remote: Zoho.com is offering its suite of remote working tools for free until July 1.
Zoom Chats: Increasingly popular, Zoom chats are affordable and a great way to stay in touch.
Tools: Among other things in my other life, I run a great website for Allstate called Small Business Connection. Aside from a ton of great, free, small business content, we have assembled almost 100 free tools, many centered around the remote workforce. This eGuide might be very useful – “Power your small business with the cloud and mobile.”
The other part of the equation is that, right now, you need to learn how to manage people with whom you are not in constant physical contact. There is an art to it. Here are some of our top tips:
— Engage regularly: Especially now, it is critical that you stay in contact. Have regular check-ins. Chat. Text. Share calendars. (Calendy is excellent for this.)
— Video chat: The face to face of a video call can go a long way to easing the burden and distance of working alone. As mentioned, Zoom chats and the like are the way to go. Group conference calls will be especially critical at this time for keeping the team and dream going.
— Give them the tools they need: Not everyone may be set up for this technology-based business model I am advocating. To the extent people on your team need help getting up to speed, it is your job to give it to them.
— Make everyone accountable: Set clear expectations with regard to projects, due-dates, and deadlines.
— Stay informed: As a leader, it is also incumbent upon you to stay informed about the latest coronavirus developments. The best resource we have found so far is from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
Today’s Tip: Want to help your favorite local small business? Then buy a gift certificate right now, either in person or online. When the pandemic subsides, you can redeem it, knowing you made a difference at a critical moment.
Also, watch our other business columnist, Rhonda Abrams, on Facebook Live daily at 1 p.m EDT for an update on how coronavirus is affecting small businesses. She’ll also post on her blog at https://planningshop.com/blog/
Steve Strauss is an attorney, popular speaker and the best-selling author of 17 books, including “The Small Business Bible.” You can learn more about Steve at MrAllBiz.com, get more tips at his site TheSelfEmployed, and connect with him on Twitter @SteveStrauss and on Facebook at TheSelfEmployed.