Change isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to how you work. With non-essential businesses forced to close their offices due to COVID-19, work-from-home went from a nice-to-have to mandatory overnight. While there are many positives to working from home – increased autonomy, less time commuting, and more time with family – as a business owner, the shift to digital can be overwhelming enough to make you consider hanging up the ‘closed’ sign for good.
Yet, after experiencing the pandemic-induced shift to virtual, companies across Canada are closing their office doors for good, adopting remote-work as an effective and affordable alternative to on-site management.
Whether you plan to transition into an entirely virtual business or adopt a hybrid plan, the shift to digital can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. At Zensurance, we’ve always operated as a virtual brokerage and we’ve managed to pick up a few tips and tricks along the way, helping us to be named one of the 50 Most Innovative Workplaces by the Elevated Awards. We have compiled a list of our top five lessons learned that make for an effective and sustainable transition.
Move Into The Online Space
At Zensurance, we have always conducted business virtually. A secure website and online quote application are the cornerstones of our business. However, if you’re one of the many small businesses throughout the country without an online presence, you may be suddenly wondering how you’re going to promote your business without a physical storefront or word-of-mouth.
Establishing an online presence is the first step to taking your business digital. Setting up a website these days is easy. Affordable website solution tools such as Squarespace and Wix allow you to build and launch a fully customizable site in a couple of hours, plus most of their plans offer e-commerce support, online payment platforms, and digital marketing tools.
For those who aren’t as tech-savvy or need extra support, Google Canada has committed $1M in funding to help small businesses get online. The DMS ShopHERE program provides hands-on assistance, free tools, and training to help small business owners start selling online quickly, for free. Click here to see if you’re eligible: https://digitalmainstreet.ca/shophere/
Communicate Expectations Early On
It’s easy to keep staff on task and course-correct when you’re all in one place, the transition to virtual, managers may have a difficult time holding staff accountable and keeping them on track. For your peace of mind, and theirs, it is important to clearly communicate expectations around task and project completion.
While on-site management promotes time-based deliverables, remote working introduces distractions and interruptions not typically found in the office, thus increasing the need for flexibility. Clearly outlining expectations about what needs to be done via deadlines, instead of how it should be done, helps you avoid uncomfortable misunderstandings later down the line by allowing staff to adjust their schedule around distractions while managing to complete their work on time.
Furthermore, establishing boundaries will help you and your staff better adapt to the new situation. If you prefer ad-hoc meetings to be scheduled in the morning to allow you to tackle bigger projects in the afternoon, let your coworkers and staff know. Additional points if you collaborate with your staff to find processes and solutions that suit independent work styles and avoid micromanagement.
Systems and Software
Technology is the best tool when you work remotely. There are so many solutions that allow for successful communication, project management and team collaboration available to individual freelancers and businesses alike. If you were already using solutions before you make the switch to remote, be sure that they are sufficient enough and accessible for your team to use remotely. Conduct an audit to identify areas where a software system may be able to support product-specific work or task collaboration in place of physical co-work.
You may also consider allocating some of the funds otherwise spent on office overhead to helping your staff set up their home office with additional monitors or other equipment they need to make the transition easy.
Digitally replacing the in-office culture can be tricky, but this is where creativity comes in. There’s no reason your team’s weekly happy hour celebrating the week’s success can’t happen in the virtual space. Apps such as Zoom, Go To Meeting, and Google Hangouts make it easy to stay connected and communicate ‘face-to-face,’ mimicking the in-office atmosphere.
There are many ways to forge connections between employees and alleviate loneliness, such as creating a standing Zoom call where employees can pop-in to catch up or keeping everyone up to date with a weekly staff announcement newsletter. Crowdsource ideas to keep in touch and maintain that office culture in the virtual world.
Cybersecurity Tools & Resources
You may be surprised by the staff’s hesitancy to switch to an entirely remote situation. For those who are less tech-savvy or prefer face-to-face communication, the transition may seem overwhelming and even a bit dangerous. Staff and clients alike may be nervous to conduct services or purchase products online.
Cybersecurity is essential to both in-person and remote teams, and especially for those relying on cloud-based systems to store their data. Introduce team members to password encryption programs to help them feel secure, and invest in cyber liability insurance to protect your professional data from cyber hackers. Even remote work has risks. In 2019, 43% of cyber attacks targeted small businesses. With recovery costs averaging around $200,000, most small companies aren’t financially equipped to deal with the fallout of a cybercrime. At Zensurance the number of applications for cybersecurity insurance has risen sharply. Should you or your employees be the victim of a cyberattack, cyber liability insurance will cover the costs of notifications and data restoration. For more information on policies and to get a quote, visit our cyber liability insurance page.
Change doesn’t have to be scary. By taking the time to set up your business for virtual success, you can create an online environment where your employees and business can thrive.
If you’ve found unique ways to adapt and make the transition, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to have your tips featured in next month’s newsletter.