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It’s January 2020 and your business is humming. You came off your best year ever and are looking forward to another great year. In March however, a virus 1000 times smaller than a grain of sand brought everything to a screeching halt. COVID-19!!! You sent most, if not all, your team members to work remotely from home.  It scared the crap out of you, so you put your heart and soul into your business to limit any negative impacts that could come from a remote workforce.  It’s now May of 2020.  You seem to be weathering the storm ok, your team members are mostly engaged and there’s light at the end of the tunnel.  You have no idea what the upcoming months are going to be like for you or your clients, but it is time to move forward. You decided to talk with some of your team members about returning to the office in coming weeks and now they are asking if they can continue to WFH (working from home). What now?

Temporary arrangements were one thing, but forever?  These are somewhat unchartered waters in the professional services industry.  Your employees do great work when they are held accountable for their results.  Can you do that on Zoom?  You’re not a micromanager, but regular check-ins are nice.  That’s what worries you the most is losing control of so many important aspects of your business. How do you train new employees, how do you maintain culture, how do you build comradery and most importantly how do you make sure your team members remain engaged?

I’m sure you’ve read the dozens of studies about how working from home increases productivity.  Did you see increased productivity in the last 2 months?  It’s hard to tell, but it probably wasn’t as bad as you expected.  Maybe it’s worth exploring the WFH option.  Over the last two years my business partners and I decided to allow several of our team members to pilot a work from home program for our firm.  When COVID hit, we were ready to take it in stride and we’re weathering the storm very well.  We’re also very optimistic for the future.  Below are three things that we learned over the last couple years that helped us manage an entirely remote workforce through the current COVID crisis. 

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
  2. Invest in Technology
  3. Culture is king!

Communication has always been critical.  Why is it more important with a remote work force?  Every week I get a screen time report on my iPhone.  On average I was on my phone about 3 hours a day.  Since COVID, my screen time has doubled to over 6 hours a day.  Zoom is my new way of life. Our team has learned a lot of new tricks in an attempt to overcommunicate.  We now hold several additional short meetings each week to communicate more effectively.  Our team members know more about the business now than they did prior to the crisis.   These efforts have helped us to maintain a sense of optimism among our team members amid worlds of uncertainty. Many of these additional efforts to communicate will continue because we have seen the results of effective communication.

What better way to help your employees do their job anywhere than to invest in the best technology you can afford? 

Can you say that your culture helped your firm fight its way through the COVID crisis?  With intentional effort, you can build your culture to be crisis proof.  We have always had a great culture within our firm.  Several years ago, we realized that we needed to expand our culture to include thinking like owner and being 100% responsible.  An upcoming blog post will explain building a culture of thinking like an owner.  The Plentive software platform was how we incentivized the entrepreneurial spirit and built that culture within our firm.  By getting our team members to think like owners, we were able to trust them to remain engaged while working from home.  At the request of leadership, our team members focused on being billable. Our UTE increased 9% from January to May as a result.

Are you excited about the opportunities that open up when your team is good a working from home?  Are you worried that it just won’t work?  Either way, the business landscape has changed.  Your employees now know the good and bad of working from home.  Many still want that option.  Imagine the benefits of building a team that you can trust to be engaged regardless of where they work.

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