man working in his home office and on the phone

As a result of the pandemic, many businesses have had to adjust their way of thinking when it comes to working remotely. Larger companies have the technology, flexibility and overall resources to have their employees transition quickly to a work-from-home, remote setup. For small businesses that don't have a history of managers and employees working from home, the “new normal” may pose more of a challenge.

Working in the age of COVID-19

This new way of working presents many challenges, such as distractions from children at home, lack of cohesion with team members and an increased chance of miscommunication. But there are things you can do as a small-business owner:

  • Equip teams with the right technology
  • Manage remote employees by communicating often and with transparency
  • Maintain engagement and help with productivity by creating opportunities for social interactions

Equip your team with the right tools

One of the most important ways to stay productive and connected while teams are working remotely is to have the right technology. This includes project management tracking, messaging apps and videoconferencing apps. These tools allow managers and employees to stay on the same page no matter where they are.1 Here are a few resources you can access:

Communicate often and transparently

Communication is especially important because interactions are happening virtually, leaving more room for miscommunications. Ensure that you’re consistently communicating with your teams while working from home and getting feedback from them about what is working well and what is not.2 Here are a few tips to help:

  • Sending out daily or weekly emails with updates or instant messages about projects can help employees to feel in the loop and know what is happening
  • Set expectations for how often you will check in, and let employees know how much they should update you as well
  • It’s important to communicate when you will be available and when you expect employees to be online
  • Use other forms of communication —such as phone calls or video calls — instead of defaulting to only text-based communications
  • If you would have talked to someone face-to-face about something while in the office, give them a call

Tips for managers to help maintain social interactions

Managers should provide more opportunities for spontaneous workplace conversations. Utilizing technology can help facilitate these conversations:

  • Make time to connect with teams or even schedule online social time to have conversations with no agenda
  • Encourage workers to connect virtually as they would in person
  • Try an icebreaker during a team chat, such as:
    • "What's one good thing that someone ready today?"3
    • "What's one way everyone is de-stressing right now?"4
    • Implement a weekly virtual happy hour or team-building exercise to keep people connected4

Working remotely can work

Nothing takes the place of interacting face-to-face with a co-worker. Hopefully these ideas will help small-business owners feel better informed and prepared about how to manage their teams remotely during the pandemic. Plus, if a small-business owner decides to focus more on this “working remotely model” after the pandemic subsides, they’ll be well prepared.

1 https://www.uschamber.com/co/run/human-resources/encouraging-productivity-for-remote-workers
2 https://www.themuse.com/advice/coronavirus-work-from-home-tips
3 https://www.npr.org/2020/03/15/815549926/8-tips-to-make-working-from-home-work-for-you
4 https://www.uschamber.com/co/run/human-resources/encouraging-productivity-for-remote-workers