Keeping your jobs running smooth while your employees work safely from home during COVID-19

Are you nervous that your jobs are not going to run as well with your employees working from home? Don’t be nervous, there just needs to be some adjustments made with your operations during this time. In an effort to support the social requirements and your obligations as the business owner, I am sharing these 5 operational components that should be part of your businesses’ operational strategy. These components will ensure that your jobs continue to run smooth while keeping the safety of your employees and customers top of mind without sacrificing production, communication, or revenue.


I personally am the type of individual that if there’s snow on the ground, but others are out driving, my mindset is that so can I. I have never skipped a day of school, never called out of work if I wasn’t legitimately under the weather, and have pushed myself even when I was sick, as long as I couldn’t put others at risk. Point being… I’m willing to tough it out, as are most of you. I don’t get easily scared or concerned with situations like the one we are in right now, but it’s gravity can’t be ignored. Even just two weeks ago, I was not taking this whole quarantine thing seriously. I wasn’t being ignorant to it, but I didn’t think I would completely jump on the wagon. However, seeing how the government and public officials are left to set requirements on our social activities because we cannot adhere to our personal and social responsibilities without restrictions being put in place, made me realize that the quarantine is not about ME… it’s about US as a community and looking out for each other.

My brother works almost every day at the local hospital. He lives with my mum who is now going through her second round of chemo, she started on her journey back in 2018, as well as a diabetic which puts her at high risk. A couple of weeks ago my mum developed a horrible cold and while she is on the tail end of it, it still sounds pretty bad. I realized the case numbers are almost doubling daily, and while I am a strong and healthy woman, my mother is not. If my brother came in contact with someone who may be carrying a stage of the virus, he could easily pick up the contagious illness and contaminate the home that they live in. Just because he’s healthy and might not be seriously affected by it, my mum certainly would be. I decided to bring my mum to live with my husband and I during this time so we can ensure minimal outside contact and keep her safe considering her delicate state.

I wanted to share this information with you because I know what you might be thinking, “this is blown out of proportion” “this is probably just a government scam” “everyone is just overreacting” I’m fine and this will pass over soon”, because I thought it too. Whatever your thoughts are of the pandemic, ask yourself “am I making decisions that are in the best interest of my employees, my customers, and more importantly, who they come in contact with outside of the workplace?”. If you answered “no” or didn’t answer because you’re embarrassed that your answer is a “no”... then read on and I will share how you can keep your business running efficiently and effectively while your employees telework, without sacrificing production, communication, or revenue. The truth is, these 5 components are absolutely necessary in order to take your business to the next level anyways. So, take advantage of this opportunity in time and let’s beef up your operations to get on the same playing field to do as the big dogs do.

THE 5 OPERATIONAL COMPONENTS

Teamwork Culture:

Saying your company operates as a team and actually operating as a team are two completely different things. You hear all of the successful businesses talk about teamwork, but what does that actually look like? Simply being a group of people that work in the same space does not solely make you a team. It’s a mutual respect and understanding of the value each individual adds as they support your companies’ mission and goals, collectively. A teamwork culture starts from the top with you, the business owner. The more you care about your employees, the more they will care about your company.

What are a few simple things you can do to instill a teamwork environment?


  • Set clear and definitive expectations and goals

  • Respect each others workday and time

  • implement a practice to utilize your calendars

  • Set uniform requirements across all employees and departments

  • Don’t only require meetings and set expectations for just one department

  • Everyone should feel the work they put forth is contributing to your ability to drive the business forward

  • Maintaining professionalism while allowing your company to develop it’s own personality

  • Don’t be too strict and lead others with fear, but don’t lose control and allow your employees to take advantage of you

  • Respect is given when respect is received

So, how does a teamwork culture help make your business continue to run smooth in times like this and in growth? It pulls everyone together moving in one unified direction. One person pulling in their own direction can slow down or stop the entire team.

Internal Communications:

This is an area that is often difficult to get smaller businesses to adopt. This is mainly due to not understanding it’s necessity, until you’re forced to develop a new system to accommodate new needs... like allowing your employees to work remotely or enhancing your company culture as it grows. In an office setting, your employees are in close proximity of each other, and you. You can simply pop your head into each others offices, ask questions, get updates, or even just overhear other conversations around the water cooler. This is actually a very inefficient way to operate if you have 3 or more people in the office. Have you been in the middle of working on something but keep getting distracted with office pop-ins, phone calls, and emails? Something that should take you 20 minutes can easily be dragged out to twice the amount of time due to these distractions. And they are bound to happen because as humans, we believe what we are personally experiencing at that time is the most important task and an answer is absolutely necessary at that very moment. This is very likely to NOT be the case and with improved internal communications, you can develop an environment built on respect which supports the teamwork culture.

What are some examples of improved internal communications?


  • Implementing an internal communications platform, like Microsoft Teams in Office 365

  • Consolidated and professional texting/chatting

  • Slack is another alternative if you don’t have Office 365

  • Consolidated and professional file collaboration included in Teams

  • Dropbox is another alternative if you don’t have Office 365

  • Video meeting is included in Teams

  • Zoom is another alternative if you don’t have Office 365

  • Organized project collaboration is part of Office 365 in Planner

  • Trello is another alternative if you don’t have Office 365

  • Utilize a block scheduling system with your calendars so you know when someone is available or not

  • Reserve specific blocks of time during the day to check your emails

  • Setup special notifications and alerts for pressing or high priority emails

  • The FREE reminders app on Apple is what I personally use

Having an internal communications strategy will support the teamwork culture, remove any doubt or uncertainty with how your employees are operating, and will allow you to maintain control over your resources. An internal communications strategy will limit the number of regular & unnecessary distractions thus improving the efficiency of your operations and keeping more money in your pocket while completing tasks quicker. Do you know a company that has already implemented teleworking into their business? I bet everyone is now able to complete tasks that has been bogging them down for months, considering the limited distractions and as long as these 5 components are being executed.

Meetings:

I have two people that work in my business. Myself and my partner and we meet almost daily. Sure, it might be around the pool table but it’s productive and we are both well aware of what is going on in the business at any given time. It doesn’t matter how many people are in your organization, you absolutely need to have regular meetings. Before this pandemic, a meeting once a week would have been sufficient. There should be an executive meeting to discuss business strategies and growth, and a company meeting with department heads to deliver whatever reports or information is necessary to help you make the decisions to drive the business forward.

Suggested meeting schedule before COVID-19:

  • Weekly

  • Executive meetings to strategize growth and change

  • Department meetings to gather information to help you make the decisions

  • Gather data to drive the business forward

Since this article is revolved around the current situation, there should be at least one meeting a day, perhaps even two. One meeting in the morning to discuss the upcoming day and to see what can be done to make improvements or provide assistance & support for your employees. Another meeting should possibly be at the end of the day to compare what the expectations were from the morning to what actually happened. Things are changing with businesses quickly and you need to be aware of what those changes are. You need to be able to make decisions fast but how can you do that if you don’t have all the information?

Suggested meeting schedule during COVID-19:

  • Daily

  • Morning meetings with employees to discuss the expectations for the day

  • End of day (EOD) meetings to discuss challenges encountered and develop new processes to overcome them

  • Gather data to keep your business operating

Not only should you have these meetings scheduled regularly, but there needs to be a preplanned agenda to ensure it’s productive and efficient. Your employees will not see the value of the meetings if you try to wing it every time and don’t cover areas that are important or pertain to everyone involved. This is the time for you to collect the data you need and most importantly, for your employees to present that data you ask for. As the business owner, you need to be the steering wheel that decides if you go left, right, straight, or maybe even a step back. Let your employees be the wheels on the ground getting you to where you need to go but you have got to be able to direct them.

Meeting tips:

  • Only include appropriate employees considering the department or topic

  • Project Management & services

  • Administrative & back office

  • Executives

  • Make sure each individual understands what they are expected to bring to the meeting – everyone should have something either tangible or reporting something back to you

  • Give each person a voice. Don’t make the whole meeting about you talking – this is boring and not engaging. Remember the purpose of this meeting is to gather everything you need to make decisions for your business. Meetings will provide an organized system to collect and report data, keeping the momentum moving forward

Accountability:

None of the components will matter if you can’t hold your employees accountable. Accountability is essential to have efficient meetings, internal communications, and is a key ingredient with developing a teamwork culture. Holding your employees accountable is just half the battle, you as the business owner need to be held accountable too. Your employees are counting on you to make the high-level decisions and guide them with what exactly they should be doing and focusing on at any given time. Holding your employees accountable does not mean telling them to do something and then following back up whenever you remember to do so. It’s scheduled at regular and reasonable intervals. It’s a practice, a discipline that’s essential to happen consistently and like clock-work. It’s critical for your employees to respect the person assigning them the tasks and if it’s inconsistent or something is said and not followed up on when it should be, that respect and accountability aspect will diminish over time.

If there’s not currently an accountability practice implemented in your business, this can often be a heavy lift to make. If your employees are accustomed to not having someone follow up with them, at first they might feel like they are being micromanaged, and there’s likely to be some push back. “We’ve been operating just fine without this” is a common response when trying to implement change into a company. Just like the commercial from AT&T states – “just ok, is not ok”.. and in times of shifting your employees from being in the office where you might remember what you asked of someone because they walk past your door, employees working remotely will require that you document what you ask for and when you ask for it to be completed.

Tips for holding employees accountable:


  • Document what you ask for

  • Set a reminder for when you ask for something to be done by

  • Not following up with these will result in lack of future seriousness when asked to complete a task in a given time frame

  • Show appreciation when your employees do what you ask of them

  • Provide additional coaching & training if your employees don’t do what you ask of them

  • Implement a warning system but identify if you continue to struggle with specific employees

Processes:

Out of all of these operational components, I know you have processes in place because you just can’t operate without them. Processes mandate the workflow of the entire company. Whether they are documented and followed properly is a whole other topic. Your business processes can be anything from handling your current customers, previous customers, new leads, turning in contracts, approving financing, installing a job, completing an installation, etc. Right now, during this pandemic, it’s your obligation as the business owner to implement some new processes and make adjustments to others.

Examples of process considerations with employees working remote:

  • Handling new contracts – are you completely paperless?

  • Scheduling installations – What are the precautions your crews are taking? What steps are you taking as an owner to protect your crews? How are they communicating with you on these updated protocols? How are you enforcing these new processes?

  • Communicating with your customers - ensure your business is complying with guidelines and respectfully taking precautions

  • Collecting payments – Your customers may be financially affected by COVID-19, how do you plan to handle this?

  • Timekeeping – Are you completely paperless?

  • Keeping your crews busy and rescheduled as jobs cancel – As businesses close their doors, your jobs may be getting cancelled, what’s the process to keep your crews working if possible?

Bonus:

One more bonus operational component I’ll share with you that you need to consider during this time, and for growth, is your company file infrastructure. If you are not a completely paperless organization, allowing your employees to work remotely may seem impossible. Not to worry, there are systems you can put into place to begin the migration process. Again, take advantage of this opportunity in time to take the necessary steps to turn your business into an efficiently running money making machine. What if the situation we are in continues for another several months? or years? or society is shifting and this is now the new norm? Now is the time to begin making the necessary changes in your business to accommodate the current situation and to improve your businesses’ operations, in general.

How to begin implementing these changes:

Now, I understand this is a lot of information. And where do you even begin if you have none of these operational components currently implemented or running efficiently? That’s where a company like Evolving Enterprises, LLC comes in. Evolving Enterprises, LLC provides “hands-on” operational consulting for businesses in the home improvement and home services industry. We develop, implement, and manage any and all aspects of your business that pertain to operational efficiency, including each of the components discussed in this article. If you, or a business you know, needs assistance with developing, implementing, and or managing any of these operational components or needs assistance with adjusting their operations during this time, reach out to us on our website or connect with the author on Facebook to stay updated on more information just like this.




Tiffany Hundley and Rick Carroll have combined their 20+ years of individual operations and project management experience to create Evolving Enterprises, LLC.


They are your dedicated team helping you take your home improvement business to the next level through their simplified approach to increase operational efficiency in your business.


Connect with Tiffany on Linkedin

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Evolving Enterprises, LLC

 Broadlands, VA

703.687.4652

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