The COVID-19 crisis sparked a sudden, worldwide shift to remote work. The shift was necessary for business continuity, so despite the challenges of remote work, many small businesses adapted to the abrupt transition and ultimately settled into a new normal.
As restrictions begin to relax across some states and tighten across others, businesses are forced to navigate complex decisions as they consider reopening. Although many organizations updated policies to provide employees with more sick time, remote time, and workday flexibility, health concerns remain in the forefront of employees’ minds as they weigh the risks of returning to an office.
Reopening offices in light of health and safety guidance has sparked the adoption of a hybrid-remote work model, where part of a workforce works in-office and a portion works remote. This model enables employees to have the flexibility to work from home or in the office while implementing social distancing policies that prioritize safety, convenience, and comfort. The hybrid model also offers teams the benefits of remote work, such as increased worker satisfaction, decreased stress, and shorter commutes.
While beneficial to many businesses seeking to reopen their offices, hybrid-remote work also surfaces a variety of technical and communication obstacles for teams, from network security challenges to communication barriers. From Support.com’s 20+ years of experience managing remote employees and navigating these challenges, here are some best practices to successfully return to the office while allowing flexible remote work.
Protect employees and their technology
As with office technology, a work-from-home setup requires security precautions to ensure data, private information, and connectivity are not compromised. To keep employees and your business safe, set up security protocols via a VPN and multi-factor authentication on all devices used for work—inside and outside of the office—including phones, laptops, and desktops.
It is also important to ensure employees have up-to-date anti-virus and malware software on their systems to maintain integrity across devices. With these precautions in place for both remote and in-office setups, employees will have confidence that their technology and security environment are secure and ready.
Ongoing IT support can help ensure employees are online and connected from anywhere they choose to work. Businesses might experience a surge of technical challenges as employees reconnect their office computers after months of working from home, so IT support is critical to get employees back up and running in the office and to maintain productivity while some employees continue remote work. A remote helpdesk and tech support solution can sufficiently address the volume of technical issues that may arise from a hybrid-remote model.
Optimize accessibility and communication channels
One of the biggest challenges of shifting to a hybrid-remote model is ensuring seamless, easy communication between employees who are in the office versus those who are at home. Online collaboration and messaging tools, such as the videoconferencing platform Zoom, instant messaging platform Slack, and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and Google Drive, will continue to be essential business tools for a hybrid workforce. These tools offer robust options for seamless collaboration and communication across teams, regardless of whether workers are in-office or at home.
In communicating across a hybrid-remote workforce, face-to-face communication is only accessible for some employees. Videoconferencing and instant messaging must remain an integral part of internal communications to keep the full team connected. This ensures that the in-office staff stay connected while eliminating barriers between remote workers and on-site workers.
Define clear remote work and in-office policies
A clear set of remote work and in-office policies are essential for maintaining productivity and ensuring safety for your small business. Remote work policies should clearly communicate expectations and empower employees to feel confident about working from home, including workday hours, mandatory security measures, and best practices for online platforms. Updated rules for sick time should also be communicated to ensure the safety and well-being of employees both in and out of the office.
Return-to-work policies are far from the norm in the age of COVID-19, often including new sanitizing protocols, one-way traffic flows, health screening guidelines, and best practices for social distancing. As employees adjust, it is vital to ensure new guidelines are enforced to keep everyone safe, healthy, and productive. While distributing guidelines via email or messaging platform can spread the message, other ways of effectively communicating new in-office policies include ample signage, team videoconferencing meetings, and an open-door policy to provide feedback to management.
While the current COVID-19 situation introduced many companies to new telecommuting needs, we believe many companies will continue to evolve and offer flexible work arrangements through a hybrid-remote work model. By applying these best practices, companies can be prepared to embrace the model and support employees with confidence.
If your company has recognized heightened IT support needs, click here to learn how Support.com can help with remote help desk support.
Renée Soulliard is the chief marketing officer for Support.com’s go-to-market strategy, product marketing, and communications, as well as the management of the consumer software business.
Remote stock photo by Kate Kultsevych/Shutterstock