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How to Transition Your Startup Team from In-House to Remote Working Amid Coronavirus Spread

The effects of the recent coronavirus outbreak across multiple countries and cities are more than apparent. Tech events – two of the most notable being Google I/O and Mobile World Congress – are getting cancelled, and many companies, including Lyft, Google, Box, and Microsoft, are encouraging remote working to avoid the disease. 

Other than asking employees to stay home, some companies are turning to hire remote workers, especially since popular roles like web developers are becoming the most in-demand remote positions. Many companies employ a combination of hiring remote or independent workers and in-house staff altogether.

And if you’re thinking of following suit to help curb worry and fear among your in-house employees, you need to be prepared. So here are ways you can transition your in-house employees to remote working, especially amid the coronavirus spread.

How to Transition Your Startup Team from In-House to Remote

Set clear objectives for going remote

It’s important to align everybody on why you want to do remote working, especially to avoid the global pandemic. Be clear about your objectives for doing so, so you can start setting expectations. For some startups, perhaps this can be a golden opportunity to experiment on remote working. Can you incentivize employees with more remote working days in the future if you all prove successful? 

Here are some guide questions to help you flesh out your remote working objectives:

  • What do you hope to accomplish by letting employees work remotely? You can cascade this answer to employees to show them you value their wellbeing while not having to resort to halting company operations altogether, as some companies in China have had to do.
  • What company goals are your team working on in the short-term? You may include making a successful transition from in-house to a remote part of this.
  • What specific skills and outcomes are you working towards by going remote? As mentioned before, do you hope to improve your company working style to be able to introduce more remote working days in the future?

Create updated company policies

Speak with your HR department and managers to update company policies accordingly. Specify whether your employees ought to observe the same working hours as before or whether or not you’re also accommodating flexible work hours. Also consider policies on filing for sick days, processing benefits and reimbursements, and other activities that you commonly take care of in-house.

Communicate always, especially at the beginning

For an in-house team that’s starting to work remotely for the first time, communication is crucial. Keep everybody updated on recent progressions within the company and emphasize the need for constant communication especially while remote. Needless to say, you also ought to communicate any changes in policies or team setup that comes as a response to the transition. As the head of your startup, you ought to model the transparency and open communication you expect from your employees in these troubling times.

Prepare remote hiring contingencies

Despite everyone’s best efforts to implement changes from the minute to the drastic to contain coronavirus spread, we can’t say for certain when the outbreak will come to a complete halt. Given this, it is best to be prepared for long-term remote work setups until the virus is contained. This includes streamlining your hiring and onboarding process while your HR team works remotely as well.

Here are some additional tips for remote hiring and onboarding:

  • Consolidate all onboarding documents and files and put them in shared workspaces for anyone to access from their personal computers.
  • Conduct video interviews using software like Zoom or Skype.
  • Have your managers set up team meetings to introduce new team members with one another without meeting in person?

Support employees’ transition and needs

For many employees, this might be their first time working remotely. To manage your personal expectations, and expect things to be bumpy at first. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t provide support in whatever way you can. Here are a few ways you can help individual employees make the switch:

  • Ensure they have their work computer or laptop set up in a convenient workspace.
  • Equip them with best productivity practices when their managers are absent.
  • Send links to tutorials for any new software or tools that you plan to use to support your remote working.
  • Consider making hours more flexible. This is especially for working parents whose young children might be stuck at home due to schools being closed as preventive measures. 

Equip your team with the right tools

Last but not least, the right tools can often help you make remote working as painless as possible. Here are a few tools you can use depending on the need:

For virtual meetings and communication

Software like Zoom and Skype have made it possible to conduct video conferencing within teams and companies. Messaging apps like Slack are also helpful for streamlining communication lines, file sharing, and keeping conversation threads organized. Also, consider having a company-wide shared Google Calendar to share availabilities for meetings, or use appointment scheduling apps like Calendly or Acuity to easily set appointments with specific people.

For project management

Track your projects’ progress using popular tools like Asana or Trello. They come equipped with multiple integrations that also make it easy to share files, monitor deadlines, and see any project bottlenecks at a glance. 

For productivity and time tracking

Tools like Zapier can help you automate certain tasks to keep your team productive while working remotely. And if you want to monitor individual members’ performance, at least if only in the beginning, time tracking tools like RescueTime and Timely can help you see where employees are spending most of their time. You can then provide additional assistance to anyone who might be struggling during the transition.

For security 

You’ll want to put up best data privacy practices when your entire team has to work remotely. When so many people are being forced to work from home with the new virus scare, this can make companies susceptible to malicious attacks by hackers who take advantage of insecure networks and vulnerabilities. 

One option for startups is to invest in virtual networks, but that can be costly. A good alternative is resorting to consumer-grade virtual private networks (VPNs), which use the same security protocols but are a fraction of the cost.

Protect your employees and your company amid growing public health concerns

This isn’t the first – nor last – time we can expect a global pandemic to hit our shores and affect our lifestyle. Fortunately, technology is making it easier for startups and companies to continue work operations while keeping employees safe from home. 

Consider this a long-term investment in your company: when you invest in your employees’ health and safety, they’ll reward you with loyalty and better engagement at their jobs. Use the tips above to help you successfully make the transition from in-house to remote, so you make sure your company stays afloat during these trying times.

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