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How to Make Telecommuting Work for Your Small Business

Entrepreneurs across the country are getting a crash course in small business telecommuting.

The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has disrupted everyday life for millions of Americans. And one of those disruptions has come at the workplace, as businesses — either of their own volition or by government mandate — are having their employees work from home.

A few companies already have robust “WFH” policies, but it’s not many. Only about 16% of America’s workforce remoted in before all this, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means for most, the past few weeks have been spent cobbling together equipment, software and coherent policies that ensure everyone is focused, productive and able to communicate with one another.

Have you not yet made the transition? Are you in the middle of adopting WFH policies? Do you already have a telecommuting strategy but want to update a few aspects? No matter your position, here are a few tips on how to make telecommuting work for your small business.

Everyone Needs the Proper Equipment for Small Business Telecommuting

At a bare minimum, every employee will almost certainly need a personal computer or laptop. Many people already own their own computers, which is helpful, but if they don’t, new PCs and laptops are much cheaper than they used to be, at just a couple hundred dollars for basic but perfectly adequate computers.

That said, needs are going to vary depending on the employee. Some workers will need computers with higher horsepower; workplaces should consider allowing employees to take their towers and monitors home with them.

And don’t forget about other hardware requirements. For instance, companies that do a great deal of in-person communications might need to invest in cameras and headphones for employees without laptops.

Don’t Forget About Internet Access

This shouldn’t be a huge issue, either, given that nearly three-quarters of American adults have broadband service and 90% of Americans have some sort of internet service.

But again, depending on how internet-intensive your work functions are, some employees’ internet plans might be too slow. Determine what an appropriate minimum internet speed is and try to subsidize any upgrades to their home plans if necessary.

Software Matters, Too

Every bit as important as the physical gear you have are the programs you need to keep things running.

For one, you’ll need communications software. Even the major communications programs, including Slack and Microsoft Teams, can get small businesses started for free with no commitment, with feature-heavier plans starting at $5 per user per month (Teams) and $6.67/user/month (Slack).

Individuals can use Google’s productivity software, such as Docs (Word) and Sheets (Excel), for free, though businesses can sync up business email, calendar, Hangouts Chat and more starting at $6/user/month.

Speaking of Hangouts Chat, set up video meetings for your team. Hangouts Meet is one option, but providers such as GoToMeeting and Zoom Video offer solutions, too.

Don’t Forget Security

Make sure your employees are keeping themselves protected while working from home. A few tips that can go a long way:

  • Create strong passwords for any of the new productivity software you’re using.
  • Consider using multi-factor authentication (MFA) — where a person’s login requires, say, both their password and a random PIN number sent to their cell phone.
  • Consider antivirus software. providers such as Avast and Malwarebytes offer basic free downloads to any computer. They and numerous other companies have more full-featured paid services, too.

Be Smart About Your Telecommuting Policy

Strike a balance between maintaining structure and being flexible. For instance, to make a heavily remote team feel connected, schedule a short focus meeting of about 10 to 15 minutes each day where everyone logs into the video conferencing service and goes over the day’s responsibilities.

At the same time, the flexibility of working from home also goes hand in hand with flexibility in tackling responsibilities outside of traditional work hours. And remember:  Amid the coronavirus outbreak, many employees also have to take care of kids that have been pulled out of school. So be flexible with hours where you can — both during the weekdays and over the weekends — to accommodate people’s needs.

Here’s How the Pros Can Help

If you’re trying to cobble together a telecommuting plan, you don’t have to go it alone. McManamon & Co. is a firm serving small- and midsized businesses that offers services such as tax preparation and business consulting. But we also specialize in taking offices paperless. That includes helping small businesses figure out the digital solutions to make a telecommuting office work just as it should.

With the right tools, you and your employees can get the job done — and done well — from the comfort of home. Give us a call at 440.892.9088 or contact us online today and discover how.

Tags:  , , , | Posted in McManamon & Co., paperless office, small business