3 Central Steps for Fortune 500 Managers Who Are Going Remote

by Sandra Petrova

8 min read · Mar 27, 2020

What do you do when your Fortune 500 company all of a sudden orders all employees to work from home? During times of dramatic change, the best thing you can do is start simple. Here are three tips for going remote!

Faced with a pandemic, many Fortune 500 managers are now forced to transition their teams to working 100% remotely. Companies like Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft have been encouraging employees to work from home as a precaution against the coronavirus.

Fortune 500 companies have had a "work from home" policy for a long time. However, often this "work from home" arrangement had to be requested individually. They also offered other types of flexible work, such as reduced hours and telecommuting. But many of the companies have never tried working 100% remotely. 

What can go wrong?

Well, despite the myriad of fairy tales circling the internet about working remotely, there are many remote work challenges with staying productive and keeping your team engaged. 

What's more, some of your employees would be working from home for the first time. This means you'll need to teach them how to stay on task in a new environment. 

Overall, there are many things a leader like yourself must consider.

But don't get discouraged. There are ways to set up successful remote work processes and keep yourself and the team productive. Here are the three most crucial steps for going remote:

Have a Dedicated Home Office Space

Working from home, you might find yourself asking daily existential questions such as: "If I’m not leaving the house, can I stay in my bed?" Or, "As I'm not leaving my home, can I work in my pajamas?"

Although working from home allows you to stay in your pajamas, that doesn't mean that you should. 

To remain productive and to be able to motivate your employees, you have to create a dedicated space in your home that will serve exclusively for work. That is if you don't have a home office. It would be an area that will mentally put you into work mode, regardless if it's a kitchen table or a small desk in your living room area. 

Instead of lying on the couch with the laptop in your lap, put your computer on a desk in your home, get a comfortable chair, sit upright, and start working. Consider removing any distractions that might decrease your productivity. 

Most importantly, strive to begin working around the same time every day. If possible, schedule breaks for lunch and coffee around the same time.  

If you share your home with someone, set boundaries. Close the door and inform them you'll be working. 

Don't dress too homey or too professionally. Choose the middle option, and that is to dress in clothes that are comfortable, like T-shirts, jumpers, tracksuit bottoms, etc.

Remote work presents the dual challenge of minimizing distraction during planned work time and avoiding the temptation to constantly “be on” even during non-work hours. The following suggestions may be helpful when going remote:

- Create a physical location in the home that is dedicated for work.

- When setting up the work environment, ensure you have supplies, materials, and equipment readily available and organized for use.

- To keep yourself sharp, take regular breaks – but avoid tackling personal tasks that create distractions or make it difficult to transition back to work.

- Set and maintain regular working hours just as you would if working in a traditional office environment. Try to honor your planned start and finish time.

Cydney Koukol, Chief of Communities, Talent Plus, Inc.

Make the Communication "Richer" With Video Calls

"Out of sight, out of mind." 

As a manager, you have to remember this saying. When employees are isolated in the comforts of their homes, productivity can suffer. They're no longer sitting in close proximity to you, where you can address and discuss any issues in person. 

And that's why you have to strive to make the communication "richer" by using video calls. 

There are many tools you can use for video calls, such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype. 

According to Vox, thousands of people downloaded the Zoom app on March 11, making it the most downloadable business app in the US on iOS that week. 

Video calls can also make remote work less lonely. The 2020 State of Remote Work by Buffer discovered that the second biggest challenge of remote work is loneliness, experienced by 20% of the respondents. Loneliness can be a threat to the company as it can make employees less productive and motivated. 

It's a great idea to meet with the team daily for a 10-minute video call to kick off the day and wrap up the day. This will satisfy, to some degree, their craving for social interaction. But try not to overwhelm your team with too many meetings. You want to give them room and time to complete their tasks. 

Keep the communication human but also make it professional. Get dressed as you would when going into the office. Minimize distractions as it can be disrespectful to your team if you're constantly multitasking. Although it can be a little awkward at the beginning to look at other people's homes, you'll get used to it. It will only make your relationship more personal. 

Arrange a daily call-in meeting with your team using a tool like Zoom. You want to ease into the fully-remote-work life, and daily voice communication can help everyone make the transition. Your meetings don't need to last long, but you should show leadership and provide motivation and encouragement to your team. These are uncertain times, and people are rightfully scared of having their jobs cut, so provide guidance, leadership, reassurance, and motivation for your team.

Jayson DeMers, CEO, EmailAnalytics

Lift Your Team's Spirits Up

With the coronavirus spreading rapidly, it's uncertain for how long people will be working from home. It can be for weeks, or maybe months. This prolonged isolation can have a negative effect on your and your team's mental health state.

For some employees in your company, the situation will be even more challenging as schools are closed, and they'll be home with their children. If this is the case with some of your employees, it's essential to be understanding of their situation. 

Isolation can transform optimistic and enthusiastic employees into tired, irritable, and unmotivated individuals. Your employees might start missing the social aspect of chatting and sharing a joke at the office. The disconnectivity from the rest of the world might lead to the development of mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, as well as stress. 

The same study by Buffer found that apart from loneliness (20%), 18% of employees are unable to unplug, and 7% have trouble staying motivated. 

With these statistics and information in mind, you, as a great leader, should try to lift your team's spirits up. 

While you can't grab a coffee and chat in person, you can sustain some degree of camaraderie in an unconventional way. For example, you can organize virtual coffees via Zoom. Or, you can try playing team-building games for remote teams. You can even create random channels on Slack where you can share jokes and talk about everyday stuff. 

Make your employees feel like "we're all in this together." It will add more positivism in their otherwise challenging environment. As Corona got us all working from home, we started grabbing a virtual coffee with our community once a month. Each time, we share different fun facts about our culture, everyday lives, and ideas for things to do at home. When we're not communicating face-to-face, we love chatting on Slack and discussing everything from daily news to tech trends. 

Katerina Trajchevska, founder of Adeva

Final Word

It's uncertain how long this unfortunate pandemic will last. In the meantime, it's your obligation as a leader to remain productive and ensure your employees remain motivated. 

Start with the basics of going remote that include ongoing video calls, setting up a home workspace, and lifting your team's spirits up. If it's done properly, it can bring a wide range of benefits to your company, including reduced costs, increased productivity, and happier employees. Once you perfect the basics outlined above, you can move to adopt the more advanced concepts of working remotely, such as building a positive culture and ensuring trust. 

You and your team will successfully stay out of harm's way while the business is still up-and-running. 

Good luck! 

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