The workplace is changing to adapt to the new global situation, thrusting millions of employees into working remotely. Business owners and leaders must navigate the “new normal” with a willingness to adapt. You may find employees are happier during the initial months of working from their homes. Studies show employees working from home report feeling less stressed overall. But what does this mean for the long-term if you decide to continue with remote work for your business?

Assessing and reassessing your workforce is essential in making viable plans for your organization and leadership. Although, not a new concept, the magnitude of COVID-19 forced leadership to suddenly transition from the traditional work environment to a remote working environment.  While most organizations have a continuity of operations plan (COOP), some leaders may have been caught off-guard by this sudden transition. For those who are unsure about how leadership functions in this new normal, SummitET compiled six-steps to address the challenges you will likely face.

1. Conduct Companywide Assessments

Before acting upon possible issues, assess yourself, your business, and your employees. Address your leadership management styles and your ability to lead affectively in a remote environment. How does the remote environment change your ability to manage product or service deliverables?

According to a Gallup poll, “leaders/managers motivate employees, build trust-based relationships, and have the ability to overcome adversity.” The good news is that these things can be accomplished remotely. Although separated by distance and having to communicate virtually, leadership characteristics are still recognizable and important for the continued success of the organization.  Recognizable leadership characteristics include being viewed as trustworthy, proactive, and organized. Each of these characteristics can instill a sense of calm throughout the organization.

Seek answers to these questions:

  • Are employees’ basic needs being met while working from home?

  • Do they have the equipment they need to perform daily tasks?

  • What affect will result from a decrease in direct peer connections?

  • How important are face-to-face, in-person interactions to your business model?

It is also imperative to assess your business capabilities and securities.

  • Do you have staff who can address your information security?

  • Should you hire a third party?

  • How does the change in workforce affect your bottom line and deliverables?

What have you learned up to this point? The assessment phase will guide you through COOP implementation and effectively and efficiently continue remote business productivity. 

2. What you can do for your team

The flexibility of your leadership before, during, and after a major change in your organization is crucial. It is easy for employees to lose trust in management without proper communication. A loss of trust can result in decline in work productivity and higher staff turnover. Both of which can impact your bottom line.

Strong leadership, “the skill of influencing people to take action, with character that inspires confidence and excellence, and maximizes their efforts towards the achievement of a goal” is critical in adapting to this new global transition.  Leadership styles vary based on organizational culture, the leader’s skill sets, and the leader’s willingness to adapt leadership traits for the common good.  Leadership is teamwork. Assess your teamwork quotient by asking employees the following:

  • What can I do to make your job easier?

  • What do you need to be more efficient?

  • How can I help you grow?

  • How can we help build a better organization, especially with this new era of working remotely? 

The remote environment proposes new challenges to the practice of effective leadership. Be creative in developing strategies to connect over the phone, by email, or via video calls. Incorporate a fun element in your team calls or find a way to learn something new about someone on a personal level.

Remember to connect often but be efficient on your calls by preplanning. For example, develop an outline of deliverables, timelines, and next steps for each team member. As a reference, consider the graphic below when developing and executing your plan.  Where do you fall in this leadership self-assessment? Are you effective, ineffective, too expansive, too focused, and/or somewhere in the middle? Information contained below may serve as a resource as you develop your leadership style.  

3. Communicate with your Stakeholders

As you would with a crisis communication plan, communicate with your stakeholders regularly. Silence may lead them to question your organization’s ability to continue operating effectively. Use existing digital channels like newsletters, webinars, virtual panel discussions, and social/digital media to enhance your communication strategies.

In direct client communications, be open and straightforward when discussing how your new environment will affect contracts and performance going forward.

4. Recognize Business Compliance is necessary, even remotely

It may be important to demonstrate to stakeholders (i.e., employees, corporate executives, clients, consumers, regulators, etc.) that compliance continues, even in a remote environment. Know what compliance issues are currently in place and determine how to maintain them in the remote working environment. Auditors and regulators will need to continually assess your business practices regardless of your situation. Review laws and tax requirements that may affect you. Nexus tax, state tax, and employment laws such as the CARES Act, etc., vary from state to state.  Ensure you can track hours and address any changes in reimbursable expenses. From the leadership perspective, recognize and adapt to those business-related issues which can improve your business position.

5. Assess and Address Cybersecurity

Working remotely has created a new cybersecurity reality. IT departments are challenged to ensure each remote employee has the necessary software, hardware, and security protocols necessary to do their job. Safeguard your employees and equipment with virtual private network securities. Enable a multifactor authentication process for employees’ emails and other web-based software programs.  Train employees to be vigilant against phishing email scams, creating strong passwords, and managing account access.

6. Overcome & Reassess

Working remotely also requires leaders and employees to overcome challenges and assess their developmental and business products. SummitET ‘s six-step APSTER Process™ assists leadership by ensuring and maintaining a consistent product development methodology. Continuous reflection and assessment will help keep your business on its forward trajectory. The APSTER Process provides a simple guideline for this process:

  1. Assessment

  2. Planning

  3. Solution Development

  4. Training

  5. Exercises

  6. Reassess

If you would like additional information on business continuity, cybersecurity, strategic communication, or the APSTER Process, connect with SummitET’s experts for a consult. Remember, preparedness is not an accident℠. Strategic planning and preparation are crucial for meeting your long-term goals and objectives.

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