Being productive outside of your regular work environment is challenging, no matter where that is. At a previous employer, we were never routinely allowed to work from home. However, there were rare, exigent circumstances in which we had to work remotely, such as over seasonal closures or in response to severe weather. No matter how many times this happened, it always felt awkward not having my regular desk, computer, and phone to rely on.
Worse, many of my colleagues didn't always take their laptops home at the end of the day. Configuring our telephone system to work with our backup plan was complicated and required third-party assistance. Of course, when I opened software on my laptop that had gone unused for eight months, it needed me to wait through a slow update process. I was lucky that my VPN still worked, allowing me to connect to the office, considering it hadn't been used in just as long. Further complicating things, many of these tools cannot be tested accurately in the office.
All of these issues make working from home on short notice much harder than it is for employees who work from home every day. Plus, help might be further away than you realize. If an emergency condition forces your entire company to work from home, for the first time in a long time, all at the same time, your technical support might become overwhelmed with requests. They could even be struggling themselves if they're in the same boat.
Working from home on short notice is much harder than it is for employees who work from home every day.
If you're in a situation where your employees might have to work remotely on short notice, here are some tips to help minimize the disruption:
Conduct Quarterly Drills: Arrange one day each quarter for your team to work remotely. Be sure to take note of anything that you're unable to do away from the office.
Develop a Portal: If your tools are web-based, it can be a chore to keep a list of essential bookmarks up to date. Having an online portal with a memorable URL will give displaced employees a one-stop-shop for the resources they need.
Create Knowledge Articles: Write internal articles that explain the steps of working from home, and document any issues that can arise. It's not as easy to lean on colleagues for help when you're all alone, so documentation is vital.
Compile a Checklist: I wear my headset so often that I hardly think about it until it's gone. Missing crucial accessories makes working from home a more significant pain than it needs to be. Compiling a checklist of minimum equipment can help employees ensure they have everything they need to be successful.
Distribute Critical Contact Information: You may take for granted how easy it is to communicate with management and your team while you're in the office, especially if you don't have remote access to the same tools such as instant messenger. Make an old-fashioned telephone list for everyone on your team, management, and other vital resources, and be sure that employees maintain a copy at home.
Andrew will present several sessions on customer surveys, metrics, and the future of support at SupportWorld Live.
Andrew Gilliam is a passionate customer experience innovator and change agent, with a background in IT support and customer service. As one of HDI's in-house subject matter experts, he writes and speaks about service management, technical support, and contact center trends and best practices. Andrew was among ICMI's 2019 Movers & Shakers and Top 50 Thought Leaders for multiple years, and he maintains several HDI and CompTIA certifications, including CASP+. Follow Andrew on Twitter @ndytg, connect with him on LinkedIn, and discover more at andytg.com.