OP-ED: How to manage your employees working from home in times of Corona

By Agnes Aistleitner

COVID9 shutdowns are happening all over the world and governments are taking precautionary measures by reducing public interaction to a minimum to prevent spread to contain the virus.

The economic repercussions of this epidemic will take years to recover, but by taking drastic measures, governments are mitigating even more severe consequences.

Events and gatherings are cancelled, schools are closed and travel is restricted – for businesses and their employees, this sounds disastrous, raising the inevitable question: how can you make sure your company keeps running when you are in an industry where you can let your workers work from home?

As the CEO of www.eeboworld.com, a Kampala-based startup with a team of 9 people, mostly based in Kampala, we have been running remotely since our inception and therefore, we want to share our best practices in an attempt to help other businesses cope with the situation.

This is the first article laying out the topics that will be covered in the following series. In each article following, I will go into more detail on how we approach these questions and topics, as well as lay out best practices from other remote companies with larger company size. Feel free to send me an email [email protected] with specific questions that you have for your business and I will try to address them in the article series.

What does it mean to let your employees work remotely?

Working remotely means your employees conduct their work mainly from home and communicate with their colleagues by email and telephone. This brings along challenges: How to coordinate communication with colleagues? How to make sure work results are delivered despite constrained access to physical materials at the office? How to ensure access to a computer for each employee at home? How to enable employees to stay productive despite being at home? How to manage them remotely? How to hold meetings? How to avoid compromising operational security? And how to make sure activities are conducted in a way not to expose confidential information to data breaches.

Communication is key

Remote work requires a different approach to communication as you cannot just drop into your colleague’s office and ask for something or seek out a face-to-face meeting to clarify issues. Communication must be planned and writing emails well is key.

There is nothing more time-wasting than a chain of emails with back and forth questions that could have been clarified in one mail. The ability to explain well and trying to understand the other side are essential skills for a successful remote work environment.

Further facilitation of communication is important in a remote work setting schedules and availability tend to shift so your employees ability to plan ahead in order to avoid getting stuck with a task because your colleague is not available, is critical for an effective workflow. But how do you ensure that employees can communicate? What are best practices? And what does remote work research say?

Tools & IT Fitness

Ok, well communication is key, but how do I arrange all of this? What tools do I use to work with my colleagues and how do I get my colleagues to use them? What is the best way to communicate? How frequently should I communicate? How do I ensure my employees understand the basics of using these tools and can work properly with the team? What are the problems that I should try to avoid? How do I digitize our paperwork?

Operational Security

When setting up a remote work environment, it inevitably raises the question how can I make sure operational security is guaranteed, how can I avoid data breaches and other compromise of company information as well as ensuring nothing is accidentally deleted. It’s important to set a basic IT training for your employees to make sure they understand the requirements of data protection and operational security.

Managing Remotely

As a manager of your team, you may be asking yourself; how do I facilitate all of this? How do I coordinate people and how do I make sure work results are delivered? What can I do to ensure the wellbeing of my team and how do I mitigate issues such as electricity, internet, access to physical work materials and so on?

Working remotely might look like a challenge to implement at first but it can be very rewarding for your company in the long run and you might go half remote even after the corona prevention phase. Remote work allows your employees more flexibility, allows them not to waste time in traffic and ensures you get the best hours of your people and them to recover and spend more time with their loved ones instead of the jam.

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