20 Mar How to prepare your company for the home office days?
Home office and flexible working time – my tips on how to do business in the era of coronavirus pandemic
I do not usually publish many articles here. As a CEO of a company of several dozen people, however, I have recently come across something that I could not have foreseen a few months ago. I thought that it might be useful if I would share my ideas on how to improve business operations in the age of coronavirus. I have been making organizational changes myself. Gladly, many solutions were already in place. If you are open to one other point of view, please keep on reading. Regardless of your attitude towards the situation – some changes are inevitable. And not in the coming months or weeks, but days.
Since the coronavirus has been identified, preventive measures are being intensified to control the spread of the pandemic. In Poland, where eVolpe is based, schools and municipal institutions are closed. The same applies to other public and private facilities throughout the country. Major events have been postponed. Strict actions are implemented by numerous enterprises. I get similar signals about switching to remote work from many entrepreneurs from different parts of the country. Including our customers.
So what is there to do? I say we focus on things that can actually be controlled. Here are some tips on how to do business in the era of coronavirus. I hope they help.
Home office and flexible working schedule
In addition to headlines about the new virus outbreaks, one of the most frequently appearing media reports concerns the mass transition to remote work mode. Personally, I think that openness to this solution is the best thing an entrepreneur can do today. Many teams are facing this challenge as we speak. Perhaps you are already considering ways to improve the home office experience at your organization. Here is what can be done.
#1 Communication is key
One of the basic challenges while working from home is the correct flow of information. This applies to both internal and external communication. Solutions such as teleconferencing software, live chat or CRM system provide better experience for your employees and the customers. Let’s take a closer look on how they work.
In the era of intensified remote working mode it is worth taking a closer look at the technical side of meetings. The simple answer to the question about the necessary equipment could be “a telephone”. The situation gets complicated when it comes to coordinating people from various organizations, dispersed throughout the country (or further) and working remotely.
A solution that works well at eVolpe and which I can confidently recommend to any of you is Microsoft Teams teleconferencing software. It supports video and audio conferences with other people with access to the internet.
Simply share the appropriate link and use the generated session. You can also record and share meetings with the absentees. Very good sound and picture quality, which is guaranteed by a well-known producer, is also significant. If you’re using Office 365, you may already have the voice conferencing service included. It is worth double checking on that.
Instant messaging platform
An online chat comes handy while making internal arrangements and exchanging short communicates. At eVolpe, we use a platform called Rocket.Chat. There are many other such solutions on the market, though. I am sure you will be able to find something that fits your organization. The advantage of Rocket.Chat is its open code, which can be modified at any given moment. The solution is constantly growing thanks to countless programmers working on the project globally. eVolpe employees included.
Instant messaging platforms are useful even in the office, let alone while working from home. If you are used to quick feedback, which until now has been guaranteed, e.g. by a small office space – a corporate chat is a must!
By the way, you can put it on the website and open an additional channel of communication for your clients. They might appreciate it, especially now when everyone is online a lot.
CRM is not only a software for customer relationship management, but also a very good communication tool. Archiving e-mails, sharing notes from teleconferences, scheduling reminders to take further action – all these functions are useful when you cannot meet the team and verify the status of sales opportunities in your favorite conference room. A great addition is the Customer Journey module, as well. It supports the process on the customer end. Thanks to it you will stay aware of the upcoming stages of the ongoing transactions, even from afar.
I also think that in times of the coronavirus threat you should look for solutions that are available from the browser and work on mobile devices. The Sugar Mobile application offered by eVolpe, for example, works even without offline internet access.
In addition, I would like to draw your attention to Open Source systems in general. Expecting an economic slowdown, you will most likely need an alternative to expensive, commercial solutions. On the other hand, cheap and traditional tools like personal notebooks or shared Excel spreadsheet, due to their limitations, can only make your job even more difficult. The solution, in my opinion, lies somewhere in the middle.
#2 Following well-thought procedures
Processes and procedures do not sound very encouraging, but please give me a chance to explain. What is associated with unfriendly bureaucracy this time has a chance to save you many problems.
As we have already established, the best and probably unavoidable solution for now is the remote work option. Many modern professions can be done from the comfort of your own apartment. But is your organization ready for so many days of employees being absent from the office? It seems like the very last moment to re-think your procedures and provide the team with clear instructions.
The progress of ongoing projects can be checked in a time tracking tool, i.e. one of the modules of professional HCM software. Such solution will help you manage the time spent on the implementation of individual activities, examine the team’s productivity during the justified absence from the office and observe the shared calendar of (virtual) meetings.
At eVolpe, we also use the Redmine project management tool. Thanks to its integration with the time tracking system, I am confident about the progress of all our endeavors. I am constantly able to verify what has been done and react to possible issues, e.g. in terms of speed of response to customer inquiries.
We give access to Redmine also to our clients. It is how we exchange requirements and define priorities for further functional developments of the software we continue to create.
Are you still relying on paper copies a lot? This paragraph should interest you.
It is self-evident that access to knowledge kept in regular paper files will now be very limited. You should look for a way to efficiently manage corporate documentation without having to print it. I think that emails should be the absolute minimum in our current situation. An optimal plan is to move everything to the cloud. You would be able to recognize who made the last change and to what extent.
I have shared several practices that work at eVolpe. In the field of document circulation, we use the DSM/ECM class system called Alfresco.
It is a versatile and, above all, a very secure system for storing confidential corporate documentation. The system successfully works, e.g. at NASA. In this situation, it is an ideal solution that improves the management of your files from afar. It provides version information and the ability of limiting access to selected areas. Everything from a web browser, supported on any device.
#3 IT infrastructure
I have shared many examples of systems that make it easier to work from home, at least for us at eVolpe. I believe that especially now it is important to ensure the diversity of your IT infrastructure. The most crucial elements include: CRM system, a tool for time management and document circulation. It is also nice to have a company chat, teleconferencing tool and a project management system.
When all this works, it is necessary to ensure proper access and configuration (accordingly to the role played in the organization).
Let’s not forget about the security of corporate data! Remember about setting a VPN (virtual private network) that will help protect the entire infrastructure against unauthorized access.
All these improvements will prepare your company for a period of intensified remote work and help you to optimize operations even after coronavirus disappears from the media, and most importantly from our immediate environment.
What we need to fight the pandemic of the coronavirus is… social distancing! In order to do that and still keep your business running I propose some organizational changes. They should relate to three areas: communication, procedures and IT infrastructure. If you have not yet clarified everyone’s responsibilities and the customer service process, I think this is the very last moment to do so.
Start by recognizing all the approaches that you are used to in your organization and create a plan to transfer them into a software. Do you use paper copies of documents to which you may now have limited access? Are you a fan of whiteboards or flipcharts? It is time for innovation! Perhaps current situation is not a limitation, but a trigger for positive changes in your company. I recommend this philosophy to you and I intend to follow it myself.
What improvements are you making right now?
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