Weathering the Pandemic: Remote Work and the Small Business

Although some states are beginning to officially open back up in stages, many communities across the U.S. are remaining under fairly strict lockdown regulations in order to continue to halt the spread of COVID-19. And as a small business owner, you have the option to continue running your company however you see fit. This might very well mean continuing operations on a remote basis, allowing your employees to telecommute, and generally being a bit more flexible than usual.

Remote working during pandemic

However, with most of us reaching the two-month mark when it comes to working from home, we’re moving out of emergency-measure mode and trying to figure out if this way of commuting is sustainable. This is a good time, therefore, to take stock and reach out to your team members to make sure they are not just surviving Pandemic 2020, but thriving as well.

Check in with Your Employees

If you have a very small business, and you know each of your employees personally — or are at least in direct communication with them from time-to-time — send them each an email or give them a call to check in. How often you do this depends on your schedule, theirs, and your general sense of how well the remote work arrangement is going. But do it at least once every few months.

Rather than a generic “Hey, how’s it going?” email, ask specific questions, and offer specific help. A few ideas of topics to cover include:

  • Scheduling; are they having trouble meeting deadlines or making it to virtual meetings?
  • Client and coworker communication; can they get in touch with everyone they need to?
  • Technical difficulties; do they have the resources they need to do their jobs from home?
  • Work-life balance; do they require any assistance keeping all their plates spinning?

It might be a good idea to put together a list of helpful resources to include in the email.

If your team is a bit larger, and you depend on managers or supervisors to report back to you, ask them to follow-up with their direct reports so you can all have a sense of where things stand from a human resources perspective.

Offer Some Perks

We know that during this time, the cost of doing business might be a concern. However, an investment in your employees and their well-being is going to pay you back several-fold as the coronavirus crisis continues. It can be difficult and expensive to onboard new employees in normal times; it’s going to be even more so these days.

What kind of perks? Well, you could ease up on remote work hours and allow people to work as their schedule — of homeschooling, housework, and caring for family members — permits. This could be a lifesaver for workers who are sharing bandwidth, hardware, or small living spaces with their spouses and children.

To help them maintain their emotional equilibrium, what about a subscription to a meditation and mindfulness app like Calm or Headspace? Similarly, you could help them kick back and relax once their work is done by offering to foot their Netflix, Hulu, or Disney+ bill for the next few months. Another thoughtful idea for helping employees cope is to surprise them with Postmates, GrubHub, or Seamless gift cards.

WFH

Make Work as Enjoyable as Possible

People are having a hard time maintaining the same amount of enthusiasm for their work, it appears — and no wonder. They are deprived of the usual benefits of being in the same physical space as coworkers. Those who are alone are craving social contact and those who are with their families are desperate for some alone time. And they may be juggling a lot more responsibility now — supervising their kids’ education, for example, or overseeing safe shopping habits.

If you can’t lighten up on productivity goals, encourage your employees to lean on one another. Implement some remote team building activities. Offer small incentives to keep their motivation high. Even something as simple as a Slack channel devoted to bad dad jokes or discussions of trending TV shows can help workers blow off necessary steam.

As A Small Business Owner

The way you handle these tricky times will help determine not only the health and well-being of your employees but the overall reputation of your business for years to come. It may also have a ripple effect that reaches your customers. So it’s imperative that you do your best to support everyone in the organization — and that includes yourself!

Is your team working remotely? How well is that working? Let us know the foibles or successes you have had during the pandemic by leaving ac comment below!

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