As corporate America does what it can to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), more and more employees are working from home (WFH).
However, that transition from the office to the home office can create challenges for both companies and employees.
Businesses are switching to remote work and restricting travel in an effort to aid social distancing,” American Land Title Association (ALTA) CEO Diane Tomb said in an advisory. “We are doing the same at ALTA.
“Our goal is to provide our members with a seamless experience, but we know that is not always going to be possible, so please bear with us,” she added.
For companies, challenges include making sure employees have the equipment they need, as well as the access to company files and systems needed to complete assignments. There’s also the practical concern that the connections and networks used by home offices often are less securely protected than business networks.
Employees forced to deal with the new normal often face Internet connections which don’t have the same capacity as business connections, as the increasing number of people working from home can overload Internet capacity and slow work to a crawl.
Keeping the team connected
Setting up protocols for WFH employees during a non-crisis period is one thing — doing so during the midst of a pandemic is another. Still, there are practices that can help employees and their team members continue to prosper.
Mike Song, CEO of Get Control! University, a virtual, tech-driven time-management training company, suggests employers use technology such as web chats to keep everyone connected.
When people shift from office to home, the value of meetings often goes off a cliff. In virtual meetings, where most are reluctant to use webcams, employees miss important non-verbal cues like a skeptical glance or a knowing nod,” Song told The Title Report. “Gone are lunch discussions and chats by the water cooler.
“Maybe this is why 92 percent of work-from-home colleagues want to boost their virtual meeting skills,” Song said. “They need to systematically replace the great aspects of their office-based world. For example, using web chat as a survey or poll can instantly draw in distracted team members.”
For employees, one of the biggest challenges is staying productive while dealing with distractions that come with working from home. Experts suggest several mitigating steps. These include:
• Maintain regular hours. Work-from-home employees should maintain regular hours, including setting a schedule and sticking to it as closely as possible.
• Create a morning routine. If you normally start your day at the office consuming your first cup of coffee while perusing emails, do the same at home.
• Set ground rules. Let others who are sharing the space in which you are working know that you are working. This can help reduce distractions.
• Schedule breaks. Take periodic breaks in their entirety, including leaving the home if needed.
• Keep a dedicated office space. Securing and maintaining a space from which to work is as important as it is in the office. Stake out your space and keep others away when possible.
Taking steps to facilitate remote work
Many bosses frown upon remote work. The coronavirus situation likely will change many of those attitudes. Companies that haven’t already, and whose businesses are conducive, most likely will consider this option moving forward. Unfortunately, many small business cannot operate remotely, and face economic uncertainty the longer processes are changed.
“If your company hasn’t started to offer solutions like remote work, virtual tours and digital closings, now may be the time to start,” PropLogix’s Amanda Farrell said in a blog post. “Not only does it make good sense as a measure to fight what the World Health Organization is now calling a pandemic, but offering more virtual and digital solutions will only better serve your customers in the future.”
To address cybersecurity risks, PC Matic is offering enterprise-level cybersecurity and remote-management tools free to Ohio companies who are implementing work-from -home policies in response to COVID-19.
“With remote workstations becoming increasingly prevalent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical Ohio businesses ensure the security of their networks by properly protecting devices being used by remote employees,” PC Matic CEO Rob Cheng said in a release. “PC Matic is dedicated to supporting our community during this crisis, and we are committed to keeping Ohio businesses safe from cybercriminals looking to take advantage of cybersecurity holes exploited by this global health crisis.”
In addition to doing due diligence concerning cybersecurity, companies also need to have business continuity plans (BCP) in place.
“While BCPs are essential across industries, the benefits of a plan are especially pronounced for title and escrow businesses. When systems are down, real estate transactions are suspended and homebuyers and sellers are paralyzed from finalizing their home purchases,” Qualia Content Marketing Manager Kelsey Galles wrote in a blog post. “And for title and escrow businesses in certain regions, business continuity plans are a matter of law and not an option.”