Regardless of whether it was in your business plan to launch a Remote Work Program in 2020, businesses around the world have found themselves working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For some the transition has been easy, for others, it poses many challenges.

In January of 2019 Diva implemented a company-wide Remote Work Pilot Program that was a great success. The company required executive alignment, employee support and planning for IT and hardware support. We learned a lot since our launch and wanted to share some key tips for businesses navigating this for the first time.    

Establish an Employee Task Force

Draw on individuals from each department in your organization (not only managers) to form a task force who can report on challenges and ways to improve the program. Connect with them early on and again weekly through a group chat or email for updates and regular feedback

Remote work may not be feasible for every job, and understanding the challenges early on can help you get creative and support each worker in your organization.  

Create a Policy and Toolkit of Resources

remote work laptop on a desk

While many companies were thrown into a remote work arrangement due to the current global crisis, creating a policy for employees is important

In your policy, outline the program do’s and don’ts, expectations for success, an at home checklist to ensure employees have the tools they need to work effectively and ergonomically, as well as common Q&As. Have employees sign off that they have read and understand the policy.  

Home Office Setup 

Ensuring the health and safety of your employees with regards to their home office is important to a successful remote work program. We included a checklist for employees when setting up their home office to ensure it was as comfortable as their set up at work.

Be prepared for extra expenses including monitors, laptops and cables. Not all households have these on hand, and it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure their employers are well supported. Provide solutions to employees on how to convert their living space into a home office and tips for proper ergonomic set up 

Use the Right Tech!

Ensuring your employees can stay connected is essential to an effective Remote Work Program. 

Instant message tools like HangoutsSlack or Microsoft Teams provide a great way to connect not only people in your organization, but partner agencies as well. Programs like Slack also provide several app integrations to ensure social interaction for your employees. Additionally, providing your employees with online conferencing tools like Zoom can help meetings run as they do in the office and external partners

Whichever tool you choose, ensure you can share screens and allow for multiple accounts.  

Evaluate and Respond

Send brief surveys to your employees frequently to check in on how Remote Work is working for them. Measure overall satisfaction and allow for open ended comments.

We’ve learned a lot along the way and just recently learned of some of the challenges of working remotely full-time including managing work while supporting kids and dependents and dealing with feelings of isolation. Solutions like flexible hours, Zoom team lunches, virtual water cooler breaks and a hobby board Slack Channel has helped employees connect better and create balance in their lives. 

Ensuring employees have access to counselling support can also help them navigate feelings of anxiety and isolation that can often come from working at home. We also post a work from home tip each day to support staff 

Cybersecurity & IT 

Just because people know how to use computers, doesn’t mean they understand cybersecurity or how to install updates. Having every employee complete an online cybersecurity workshop will keep your team and business information safe. Also be sure to appoint an off-site IT person to support members as they navigate their set up at home. In addition to your company server, ensure you have a back-up option for file saving and that employees are saving their work often.  

Your employees need to understand how to report phishing emails, the importance of a secure internet connection, the dos and don’ts of integrating personal accounts on company computers and phones (rule of thumb: don’t) and how to protect themselves from risk. There are many online courses available, and most can be completed in under an hour.  

Encourage Fitness Breaks 

remote work fitness break doing yoga

While at home, it can be easy to lose track of time and not get up as much as one does while working onsite at the office. Slack offers some great fitness apps to remind employees to stand, take breaks and drink water. 

While in the office, we host 3 PM Fitness Breaks which include yoga, meditation and stretches. With working virtually full-time, we are offering the same wellness activities to staff for them to practice in the comfort of their own home. We also encourage staff to get outside for a walk. Some walk during the time they would have commuted to and from work, while others take a walk early afternoon to break up the day.

Regardless of preference, it’s important to encourage good remote work fitness habits for staff.  

Check In (often) 

We are currently working in unprecedented times. Full-time remote work arrangements can lead to feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety as the workday and modes of communication are very different than while working at the office. We recognize that this is not an easy time for our staff and are doing our part to ensure they can access free counselling support when they need it most.

For the past two years we have offered staff free access to an Employee Assistance Program which provides confidential access to several services including counselling. In addition to offering employees access to mental health support, ensuring managers are checking in daily with their teams is important. Staff can update their team on their to do list, provide insight on project statuses and allow room for small talk. Community is important and creating a space for this to occur needs to be top of the list for your team when it comes to working from home.  

Working from home with kids 

As much as possible, we encourage staff to work remotely in a location that is free of distraction (kids!).

While this can’t always be possibleit is helpful for workers to set specific times they will be online and to try and arrange for childcare during this time. Providing the option for flex time is a great way to support parents in a work from home arrangement. Many two-parent homes split the day, whereas others shift hours to early morning and various check in times throughout the day. 

Where possible, provide tips for success to parents including setting a schedule for kids that include the two Es – Education and Entertainment. For some, screen time may be a good option for important calls and meetings. Common Sense Media has some great recommendations for kid-friendly movies and shows. During this time of uncertainly, Scholastic Learn at HomeAudible and KiwiCo are also offering free online resources and activities.