In the last several months, many organizations have shut down, at a minimum, significantly slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic placed a strain on many industries, even the sectors that are essential. The company I work for is in the construction industry. We are lucky enough to be able to continue our work during a pandemic, as electricity is crucial to our nation to continue operating.
However, I am by no means an electrician. I hardly trust myself replacing a light switch or outlet in my own home. How could I continue working when I do not perform the essential work? Additionally, I have complex health conditions that make the COVID-19 pandemic significantly more dangerous for me.
Well, I am lucky to have worked in technology my entire professional career, with a fair amount of travel for work. I am very comfortable working outside of a typical office setting. Comfort in your work environment is critical for productivity. If there are too many distractions, uncomfortable seating, poor lighting, all of these can drastically affect your productiveness. These are all things as an employer you cannot control; however, you can educate your employees on how to establish an ideal work environment at home.
The critical items an employer needs to focus on is connectivity, education, and culture. As an organization, we have concentrated cloud-first for over five years. Cloud-first gave us the ability to scale and ease-of-access for our employee base from the beginning. Let’s dive into this topic a bit further.
I decided to be a bit broader in this section than just talking cloud; not all industries capable of being cloud-first due to regulations. As a technologist, I strongly encourage you as an organization to do everything in your power to make headway in your regulatory bodies to change this. However, I am also a realist and know that it doesn’t happen overnight. Focus on what you can; make sure the remote connectivity to your data center is scalable within reason. I do not say spend the money for 100% of your workforce simultaneously connected; that licensing would break the bank!
Try to plan at least 50% capacity planning, but look at the data outside of pandemic. What is your usual usage? Double it. Encourage occasional ‘work from home’ days with your employees outside of an international crisis. Having employees outside of the office can help you test and verify you appropriately prepared for a mass office exodus.
My stance has always been education is essential; I also feel very few organizations do training beyond mediocre. It is simple to walk over to Jonny’s office – I can walk him through the process, or, more commonly, ‘do it’ for him. Yes, doing everything yourself is the easiest way to know it is ‘done right.’ Although, as a business owner or a manager, I would hope that you know this isn’t feasible to scale your business. If you found a way to have infinite time in a single day, please tell me as I could do so much more!
However, I am going to assume you are not a time-traveling super ninja that can do everything. Trying to scale a business is why SOP’s and instructions exist, isn’t it? Verify that your SOP and instruction documents are easy to access, easy to understand, and honestly. The most important thing is to make sure people are following the SOP’s correctly.
As a business owner or manager, this is by far the most challenging thing to facilitate in your organization. You might have people dedicated to focusing on culture. Maybe you are outsourcing to a consulting firm, but let us be honest, it is much more likely this is just left up to the employees to create a culture in the office. The biggest hurdle with leaving it up to the employees to create an office culture and not an organizational culture – what about the people not in the office?
Over my professional career, I’ve observed this first-hand. ‘Butt’s in seats’ is by far the most destructive mentality to have. It all comes about naturally because if you are not in the office, you do not exist. This mentality discourages good behaviors and encourages bad ones. However, how can you fault the culture? After all, as a business owner or manager, you might not care that employees are there, as long as the job gets done, right?
How are you encouraging remote work? Are you touching base with employees when they are isolated, are you telling employees it’s OK to work remotely when necessary? Keep in mind the tone you use when you define ‘necessary’ – it shouldn’t sound like a chore for them to justify. If an employee sets up an office birthday party, did they set up a conference call?
These concepts all sounds easy, but let’s be honest. It is hard to remember everything unless it is right in front of you. You need to make concentrated efforts to stay connected with all employees, not just physically present ones. After all, I know I get higher-quality work done when I am at my home office – heck, I don’t have to deal with rush hour traffic after all!