COVID-19 has forced small- and medium-sized business employers to face an issue many have avoided for years: the telecommute policy. As office workers worldwide hunker down at home for the greater good, new conversations and innovations will evolve about how to best help employees and our businesses thrive while staying safe during this pandemic.
Over the decades, employers have understood, but have not been quick to onboard, telecommute policies for many reasons. While business leaders understand the option can help retain talent and build loyalty among its best employees, the Midwest has been slower to embrace it.
Even Yahoo! was against it before technologies improved to track employee work. Telecommuting is attractive to employees for obvious reasons: more time at home, less time in traffic, an overall balance between work and personal life, and financial savings on daycare, transportation, and more.
Large and small businesses have varied over the years on work-at-home policies and have avoided it for many reasons — from fears of less productivity to worries that business will not grow and innovation will not occur if talent isn’t all working in the same space.
All that apprehension doesn’t matter now. COVID-19 forces us to deal with work at home as the World Health Organization urges solidarity. We are all at war against this virus, and being a great leader also means being a steward for humanity at this moment. That aside, mandates are happening fast that are out of our control.
Leaders right now need to simultaneously focus on a new way to conduct day-to-day business operations while also keeping concern at top of mind for employee health as well as employee production. We must foster positivity and confidence among workers, vendors, and clients.
We can do it. Some of humanity’s best ideas emerge from challenging times. For example, 9/11 inspired a new use of robotics that are used as life-saving devices worldwide in fires, war, auto crashes, and in hospitals. Paper money itself spawned from a shortage of coins in the ninth century. It saved the U.S. government and economy during the Civil War and eventually led to electronic banking. The French invented canned food to feed their soldiers, and today it’s in all of our pantries during this pandemic. Driverless car concepts emerged from the crisis of traffic congestion.
Conversations and solutions about new technologies to improve efficiencies, track work, prevent employees from feeling isolated, and finding new ways to encourage team innovation will emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. We can be our best during the worst times, and small business can come out stronger through it.
Some of the telecommute apprehension is as basic as not trusting employees to put in real hours and fear that clients won’t receive the service they deserve. Time will tell that this is false. The most innovative will succeed, as always. In adverse situations we are forced to find new solutions. Here are some things leaders can do while employees are working at home:
- Be positive and offer reassurance. You can’t predict the future of COVID-19. However, your business has faced adversity before. Remind staff with daily group emails and/or videoconferencing that you will get through this.
- Start and end the day with a group message to not only let employees know they are still expected to report in, but to also check in on how they are doing emotionally, what big picture accomplishments need to happen to keep your company growing, and achievements from the day.
- Have employees report their work tasks at the beginning and end of each day. There is software for this. From Time Doctor to Bigtime to Results to Googleforms and Spreadsheets, tracking hours and projects is easy.
- Make sure teams are working with customers through digital channels as much as possible, which will ensure your communication with clients remains the same or if not is enhanced.
- Create virtual events.
We must focus on the health and safety of our employees, families, and communities while also protecting businesses and continuing our entrepreneurial drive to innovate. It’s not a small task.
The business world in the U.S. was built to endure historic moments such as this. It is our relentlessness for success and growth that will lead to new innovations.
Tel Ganesan is the managing director at Kyyba Innovations, chairman of Kyyba Inc., and a board member of the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce. All three organizations are based in Farmington Hills.