The global spread of COVID-19 has moved tens of millions of workers from office buildings to home offices. Knowledge workers who commuted daily to their jobs are now being asked to stay home to slow the spread of the virus while continuing to do their jobs remotely.

It’s worth remembering that this massive shift to a remote work life would have been practically impossible little more than two decades ago. Before the advent of high-speed internet connectivity, mobile and cloud computing, and wireless data, along with the many hundreds of applications and services they have enabled, the idea of keeping businesses running with a remote workforce would have been ludicrous.

During the current crisis, some technology companies have made valuable cloud applications and services available at no charge to support organizations that suddenly have become remote. From customer care to PDF editing and AI solutions, organizations should investigate the cloud applications that are available to them gratis to stay productive.

The challenge companies face in practicing a work-from-home policy is historic in its proportions and potentially profound in its importance to the future of work. We are testing the strength of our organizational structures, the power of technology to connect us virtually, and the capacity of large workforces to collaborate and work productively in physical isolation from one another.

The science and art of remote workforces will undoubtedly be advanced in the coming weeks and months during the pandemic. However, it’s worthwhile to consider some sound best practices for empowering remote teams and maintaining personal productivity in our current predicament.

Stick To Your Daily Routines

Maintaining regular routines can help you stay focused and productive. If it helps you get into the mood, take a morning shower and get dressed for work. Maybe you start your day with a cup of coffee and a regular morning meeting to go over assignments and deliverables. Decide on a regular dedicated workspace and get into your new office on time. If you take a regular break during the workday, make sure you give yourself that same recuperation time at home.

Set Up IT Infrastructure So Everyone Has Access To Resources

Make sure your company provides the proper IT infrastructure to enable secure and reliable access to the applications, communications, information and documents employees need to do their jobs. This includes VPNs, remote terminal access, remote access to storage, etc. VPNs provide valuable protection and privacy by creating an encrypted tunnel over public networks to connect you and other workers to your company’s private internal network. 

Establish Frequent Reccurring Meetings

“Out of sight, out of mind” is not a formula for success. It’s important that teams meet frequently via conferencing technologies so they stay focused and on track. Video conferencing solutions like Zoom, GoToMeeting and BlueJeans are highly recommended over just voice. It’s important that regular team meetings stick to a schedule and include an agenda. Changing times for regular meetings can create conflict and chaos, particularly when your team members are in different time zones. Of course, impromptu meetings with smaller groups to solve problems and discuss solutions can also keep projects moving ahead more productively.

Standardize Collaboration Tools So Teammates Can Communicate In Real Time

Make sure your employees can access and have been trained on a common set of tools to enable productive, real-time collaboration. Standardizing a common messaging/chat platform like Slack, Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams can make communications and collaboration faster and more productive. Since you can no longer walk into a co-worker’s office and look over their shoulder to discuss a project, the capacity to share your computer screen with other team members now becomes essential. Applications that enable screen sharing like Join.me, Screenleap and GoToMeeting should also be in place.

Define Clear Expectations And Deadlines To Keep Everyone On Track

Setting and meeting deadlines and milestones is essential. Work with team members to establish clear assignments, deliverables and expectations. Be sure these milestones are understood in the context of the overall project and company goals. Empower team members to manage their workloads and to seek advice and help from other team members when they run into challenges.

Track And Measure

Trust your team, but also implement tracking to measure the productivity of both the team and individual members against goals and deadlines. During regular meetings or via other channels of communication, be sure that team members give an accounting of their achievements since the last communication. Troubleshoot and remediate if you determine that productivity is falling below desired levels.

Set Up Periodic Meetings For The Whole Organization

In addition to both regular and ad hoc team meetings to maintain progress and coordination on projects and work, it’s a good idea to hold larger organizational meetings periodically so everyone feels involved, stays informed and is invested in the big picture. Keeping employees connected to the company’s thinking, goals and progress ensures that a common culture remains in place and thrives.

Conduct Periodic Reviews To See How Team Members Are Coping

Separation anxiety can be a significant problem for some employees. Meeting with teams and individuals to check in on projects and assignments and collaborate on work is essential, but it’s also important to take the time to see how employees are handling the emotional aspects of working in physical isolation and whether they feel they have the necessary technical and team support to be successful. Asking team members how they’re feeling and what they need is important to organizational, team and individual success.

Undoubtedly, the current stay-at-home work ethic is testing the resolve of thousands of businesses and millions of workers. It’s critical that we all collaborate to make this work well for the good of our organizations, the global economy and society. Managers and team members need to be rigorous in following best practices to ensure we are as effective and engaged as ever. Stay safe, and stay productive.

Eugene Xiong