While remote work isn’t a new concept, not all companies are created equal when it comes to their remote work policies. However, what are the rules when there is a global compelling event? The emergence of coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought about the need for businesses to adapt in today’s fast-paced world—ultimately, business continuity is a must. In this guide, we provide best practices for management teams implementing remote work policies for the first time, along with best practices for people working remotely.
Given the nature of our platform, remote work has always been embedded into Fuze’s DNA. Employees have always had the ability to choose their work location with our Work From Anywhere policy. Regarding the recent concern around COVID-19, Fuze’s CEO Brian Day took to LinkedIn to share his thoughts on the matter, as well as Fuze’s stance on remote work during this outbreak.
A defining moment in business history
As COVID-19 becomes an increasing concern, the business world is becoming more and more impacted. The stock market is tumultuous, major conferences around the globe are being cancelled, and companies are restricting non-essential travel for their employees. All of this, of course, is in addition to more rigid remote work policies being put into place. For example, Apple’s relationship with its offices in China is so close that Apple typically shuttles about 50 executives back and forth between California and China every day—something they are no longer able to do given the cancellation of flights to China due to COVID-19.
So as a business leader, how do you address COVID-19 so that it doesn’t cause business disruption? It’s difficult when major events such as Google I/O, Facebook F8, GDC, Collision Toronto, and Mobile World Congress are being cancelled at an almost daily rate. However, there are proactive steps you can take to establish a COVID-19 readiness plan. Harvard Business Review has a very thoughtful article on this subject. Sequoia Capital has shared advice on dealing with business consequences with their portfolio company founders and CEOs.
With the global concern around COVID-19, if your organization is creating a more structured remote work policy for the first time, we have the answers you need in one place. These guidelines and best practices will also hold true for any situation (i.e. public transportation closures or strikes, weather, sickness, etc.) that may prevent or make in-office work difficult.
What is remote work?
Remote work means the flexibility to work from anywhere outside the traditional office setting, whether due to travel or distance to the local office, or by choice. Employees who work remotely might do so 100% of the time or part of the time. Some companies maintain a team of remote or distributed workers, while others call upon a mix of office workers and remote workers.
Why does remote work matter?
Today, more companies are incorporating flexible jobs and remote work into their businesses as a response to the increasing distributed workforce. It’s no wonder the concept of remote––or flexible––work is on the rise.
Fuze’s report, Breaking Barriers 2020: How CIOs are Shaping the Future of Work found that 83% of workers feel they do not need to be in an office to be productive. Moreover, 60% of the App Generation (ages 15-18) and half of Millennials feel their smartphone and laptop are the only essential tools for getting their job done. And companies are listening. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 40% more of U.S. employers offer flexible or remote work options today than they did five years ago. Research from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy has found that employees become 13% more productive after working from home for an extended period of time.
You can learn more about the evolution of remote work here.
It’s not just about the technology, it’s about the culture
Remote-work preferences are creating a new work paradigm where employers must provide flexible work options to attract top talent and also acknowledge how and when employees work best.
That said, optimizing the performance of remote workers takes deliberate effort. At Fuze, we are huge proponents of practicing what we preach and have worked closely with our employees to create a positive and efficient remote work culture. The Fuze platform has played a critical role in creating seamless communications and frictionless, high-quality collaboration experiences across voice, video, and messaging regardless of location.
But the technology alone is not enough. To truly foster a culture of remote work, organizations need to pair technology with other key elements:
Culture/People: Openness, adaptability, and a non-hierarchical culture
that values the
- The right hires: self-starters who are likely to perform well outside of the traditional office environment.
- A focus on performance and productivity versus attendance as the real measure of employee value.
Process/Policies: With the right framework in place, organizations can
empower their remote
workers. This includes:
- Accommodating the communication preferences of different generations.
- Implementing company-wide, virtual-work policies and security measures.
- Developing standards for handling meetings and projects remotely and working with freelancers as part of the gig economy, such as by clarifying workstreams and responsibilities.
What are best practices for working remotely?
When you’re not in the office, there are some guidelines you should follow to ensure that you’re still a present member of your team who continues to add value along with guidelines that companies should follow to foster a successful remote work culture. Currently, Fuze’s customer success team holds morning meetings over video chat and our marketing team communicates through a group chat via our app. These are just two examples of how remote teams are making sure work gets done and staying in communication.
Below are more best practices for companies establishing a remote work policy:
Communication is key
Any remote work policy should have specific guidelines around communication so there are clear expectations between management and the workforce. Our policy at Fuze states that all employees should be available by phone, email, or IM during business hours (as established for that employee, unless a different arrangement has been approved in advance by the manager). Your leadership team should collaborate to determine the best course of action for your business.
Create a schedule
A schedule for remote work hours should be agreed upon between an employee and their manager. If such a schedule has not been agreed upon, the employee’s work hours are assumed to be the same as if the employee were working in the office.
Although there are certain roles that require specific timeframes for accessibility and collaboration, these should be limited to core hours and communicated upon offer and throughout employment. Managers should allow flexibility to the greatest extent possible to enable employees to take care of family and personal needs, while balancing the demands of the business. This requires managers to focus on employees’ results versus the location where they are working.
Depending on your industry and the nature of your business, it may be a seamless transition to remote work. However for some companies, there may need to be some thought put into the eligibility of remote work based on job roles and responsibilities critical for business operations.
Compensation and allowance
Different states and countries may have different laws and regulations when it comes to remote work. Employers should speak with their legal and human resources departments to understand the costs associated with remote working arrangements.
Owl Labs is offering free remote work policy templates for those looking for more guidance.
Below are best practices for employees who are starting to work remotely:
Establish a workspace that feels comfortable
It goes without saying that even if you have the necessary equipment for a remote work setup, you need somewhere to put it. Find a place in your living space where you can comfortably settle for a few hours. Break up your time by taking a walk around the block, getting up to make lunch, or taking a meeting. Even in the tiniest apartment, you can re-organize your space (or even add a makeshift desk) to make yourself comfortable for the work week.
In video meetings, maintain eye contact with your camera, not your screen
When we video chat with people, it’s typical that we look at the images on our screen and speak directly back to the picture shown there. However, for a more personal approach during meetings, speak right into the camera built into the top of your laptop, desktop, or conference room setup so that it appears you’re making direct eye contact with meeting participants (or whoever is speaking). This really helps intensify a connection and shows you are both concentrating and fully immersed in the meeting itself.
Keep yourself on mute when not speaking
As a courtesy, it’s best to keep yourself on mute while you’re not speaking during a call or meeting. Especially if you’re remote, there might be anything from a dog barking in the background to people laughing next to you in the coffee shop. There is usually some feedback during video conference meetings anyways, as well as potential background noise that can be disruptive. For example, if you sit in an office with an open floor plan, the background noise of your office might be too disruptive for the call. By muting yourself, you allow the call to progress more smoothly and show respect to the host and other meeting participants.
For a virtual meeting, set a clear agenda
As the meeting host coordinating participation across different locations — even time zones— you want to make sure things run smoothly once your meeting begins. In advance of the call, set an agenda that you can share with other participants to set expectations. When the call starts, it always helps to introduce yourself as the meeting host, identify the participants on the call and their roles, and review the objective for the call. This can help participants get a visual sense of who is involved in the project, what will be discussed, and prepare their talking points or questions for the meeting as well. During the call itself, be sure to follow meeting etiquette (when not speaking, mute yourself) and ensure other attendees are engaged. As a follow up, share a summary of what was discussed and the resulting action items each team member should be working on.
Are you already a Fuze customer and starting to work remotely full or part-time? Below are some tips for you:
Monitor your team’s activity
Do your management groups need to monitor activity of their teams? Get them set up on the Fuze reporting tools. Fuze View and Fuze Discover can help your management team dive deeper into analytics & reporting on employee productivity throughout the work day.
Leverage the mobility of our contact center
If the ability to barge or monitor customer calls for training purposes could alleviate the lack of face-to-face training sessions, use Fuze Contact Center so that workers can answer calls when they’re not at their desk.
Increase productivity with our unified communications application
You don’t need to look any further than Fuze to solve all of your communications needs. From calling to meeting, instant messaging to collaboration functionality, you’ll feel like you're in the office as you communicate with your colleagues without missing a beat.
Test your home network
Home connectivity can have a major impact in your remote work experience and when you use Fuze. To help ensure you have the right set up, we’ve made it easy to run a Fuze Checkup. Users can click the question mark icon in the upper right corner of the Desktop app. From there, follow the prompts.
Consider additional training and enablement
Depending on which Fuze products your team has access to, it may be advantageous to share training documents with your workforce. Check out these pages on the Fuze Help Center for training resources that you may find helpful.
What equipment do employees need to work remotely?
Remote workers need reliable equipment that gets the job done well. Fortunately, there are a number of options available to ensure high-quality calls and meetings without forcing employees into headsets that make them feel like mission control agents. To start, it’s simply table stakes that all employees should have a reliable and secure laptop and mobile device — both for getting work done at home or taking calls and meetings on the go. Also, you’ll need a strong network connection to ensure there is no disruption during the work day — we’ll discuss more on this later.
We have researched and selected some of the best products designed to use at work that allow your IT department to ensure you have the best possible experience. And don’t worry, your music will still sound great as well. We’ve compiled several guides on the best equipment to use if you’re a remote employee. Check out our recommendations:
LapGear, Home Office Lap Desk: Lap desks are the perfect gift for a new remote worker. When working from home part-time or in a small apartment, lap desks are the perfect way to feel comfortable, while working without having a dedicated office space or on-the-go.
TIJN, Blue Light Blocking Glasses: Working remotely often means outside of the traditional 9-5. Blue light cancelling glasses are a great way to help relieve eye-stress from using devices early in the morning or late at night. The best part about them? You can find quality blue light glasses for as low as $30, or invest in a longer-lasting pair for upwards of $100.
Outfitting Your Home Office
Samsung, 28" UE570 UHD Monitor: For the full-time or high-tech remote worker, investing in a monitor can ensure office-quality hardware in your home. If you’re looking to spoil your favorite remote worker, a dual monitor set-up is an extra step to upgrading a home office. From content sharing on a video call to an expanded screen view, quality monitors will help remote workers conquer the workday and increase productivity.
Jabra Evolve 75 is ideal for people with high call volumes in noisy work environments. Featuring a uni-directional boom microphone and active noise cancellation, makes an ideal product for escaping the hustle and bustle of the workplace. The Evolve 75 transitions between calls and music seamlessly and can be used wirelessly or USB wired with 30 hours battery life and 15 hours of talk time.
Plantronics Voyager 8200 is designed for a person who wants a consumer look and feel, requiring great voice quality and noise control, whilst having full control over their music experience. Featuring on-ear calls and music controls makes it easy to control your experience without touching your laptop or mobile device. Voyager 8200 can be used wirelessly or wired (3.5 mm Jack) with a battery life of 24 hours for music and 20 hours for communications.
Sennheiser MB 660 UC is perfect for the person who wants to optimize every aspect of their experience across communications, music, and entertainment. Sennheiser's noise guard technology creates a unique experience that allows you to truly immerse yourself in the call or music experience in any environment without distraction. MB 660 UC can be used wirelessly or wired (3.5mm Jack) with 30 hours battery life and has touch-sensitive controls for calls and music on the headset.
Jabra Evolve 75e is designed for active users, with busy surroundings, as the three ambient noise cancelling microphones prevent office or open space distraction and, at the same time, ensure audio quality is maintained for those on the call. The earbuds are magnetic to ensure placement of the earbuds is consistent and also puts the headset on standby to maintain battery life. They feature a busy light indicator for active calls and allow for full control of music and calls from the neck bar, with vibrate notifications for incoming calls. Battery life is 14 hours listening, 13 hours talking on a 2-hour charge.
Plantronics Voyager 6200 UC has four omnidirectional microphones to optimize the passive and active noise cancellation and triangulate the precise location of the person speaking for great audio quality. Both calls and music controls on the neck bar allow for quick transitions between music and calls. Plus the audio alerts and neck bar vibrations make it impossible to forget you’re muted or miss an incoming call. Battery life of 16 hours listening, 9 hours talk time, and 14 days standby, make it possible to make it through your workday easily without needing to charge.
What are the recommendations for home network requirements?
One last consideration when setting up your remote work space is ensuring that you have both a strong and reliable network connection. We suggest using a wired connection when possible. This way, your work day won’t be interrupted by spotty internet connectivity or poor audio quality, and your video conferencing meetings won’t cut out. If you are using wifi, consider reviewing recommendations from PCMag or Lifehacker to learn how to boost your signal.
One way to guarantee strong connectivity is by using a VPN (virtual private network) connection. VPNs allow remote users to still gain access to their company network and, in turn, access files and resources that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise open. In addition, VPNs add another layer of security ensuring your company files, documents, and IP stays secure.