With the way the United States has transitioned the previous six weeks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses are overcoming more unique challenges than ever. With the declaration of non-essential work being transitioned to a digital work environment, managers must be more efficient in their communication and delegation tactics to avoid a disruption in workflow.
Working from home brings about a whole new set of challenges in trying to ensure all of your work tasks and projects are completed. Schedules have to be set to maintain a routine in order to finish all deadline-sensitive tasks. Companies have deliverables and reports that must be submitted on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis, and the expectation isn’t going to change just because the setting of work has changed. Thankfully, however, there are some tasks that can be streamlined to make work easier for everyone.
1. Perform Data Analysis
Before beginning to streamline a process to improve workflow, you must first look at the data. Try to understand what tasks take the most time and which can be easily combined or streamlined due to them taking the least amount of time. Understand your productivity as well by analyzing how much is accomplished in a certain time or the number of goals that are completed.
2. Set Priorities
Once you understand how long it takes to do certain tasks, you need to set priorities and expectations for your employees. Have expectations increased or decreased in the work from home protocol? Have tasks been eliminated as a result of the disrupted workflow? Make a list of the items and tasks that should be completed first to ensure that they are completed by the end of the deadline. Look over any tasks that can be automated to improve time efficiency, productivity and workflow as well.
Using task management software will help you, your co-workers and your employees in staying organized. Task management software allows you and them to review how they are doing in regards to getting things done. It provides supervisors and co-workers real time data as well so that everyone remains accountable throughout the working from home process.
3. Use Email Automation
Communicating via email with co-workers and with customers is an essential part of any business. Answering emails and ensuring the message stays consistent among all parties in an effort to work unilaterally can prove to take up a lot of valuable time when working from home. But there is a solution to that.
Email automation software is a valuable commodity for several industries, such as marketing, sales, or customer service. You may choose to utilize an email automation software to provide large scale updates to your customers or distribution centers about a change in product.
You can also utilize this set up within your own company to provide scheduled updates pertaining to your workflow, or to schedule meetings.
4. Provide a VPN or Hotspot
The largest stress factor for managers is the uncertainty of your employees as they work from home. Do they have the necessary resources to do their job successfully? One of the most critical factors to an efficient home office/virtual office space is undisrupted access to data and company files. Home internet is liable to provide patchy bandwidth and is rarely secured as well as an encrypted office network.
The solution is to provide them with a virtual privacy network or VPN. VPN’s allow employees to utilize your company network without consuming their own bandwidth. It is important to keep working from home as cost friendly as possible to your employees. For this reason, offer them a VPN or hotspot that they can use solely for work-related purposes.
5. Hold Virtual Meetings
When working from home, especially if you are a supervisor or other form of superior, a lot of time can be streamlined by simply holding all work meetings via video conference. The national trend to shelter-in-place in the US has resulted in a colossal boom of downloads for video conference software like Zoom and Google Hangouts.
Participants can either use the VPN to video into the conference, or they can call in on their cell phones. However, be sure to protect your conferences with some type of password or encryption. The FBI released a report indicating that malicious scripts can enter unprotected conferences and cause long-term disruptions and risk to your companies data.
6. Streamline Payroll and Accounts
Another process that can be utilized to streamline when working from home is to streamline essential finance reports. Your accounting department can incorporate software to automate invoices and payroll on a weekly or monthly basis. This automation can help the transition process to ensure there are no key payables or receivables that slip through the cracks and impact short-term cash on hand.
For hourly employees, you can allow employees to report their time information into a spreadsheet or cloud interface that can be sharedimmediately. Once you review the information, simply send it straight through to direct deposit.
Collaboration is key in any work office or business. It is especially essential when working from home as well. Employees should upload any documents or projects to a shared online space. Co-workers and supervisors will be able to review the uploaded documents, make changes or add to the documents and projects to make them as best as they can be.
Google and Dropbox offer online cloud drives that allow employees to store data in a universally accessible interface. Additionally, the use of these industry leaders affords small businesses the online protection from putting key data at risk.
8. Set a Schedule and Adapt
Setting a schedule can be done by each of your employees to improve flexibility or by you to improve accountability and workflow. Make sure that whatever method you choose allows for your employees to work from home at the level at which they are comfortable. Use a schedule in combination with the task management software listed above in order to make sure the work schedule is used to complete tasks.
After you have determined the steps you want to take to improve workflow for yourself or your employees, it is important to test the new software or tips. If there are things that need to be changed, then change them. Make sure you are constantly reviewing the softwares and steps that are taken to make sure no future changes need to be made.
It is very easy to become lost in taking too much time or becoming distracted when working from home. For this reason, it is essential that you and your employees put steps in place to improve workflow so that it becomes more streamlined. Following the tips listed above can provide significant improvement to the work-from-home process.