Transitioning to remote work isn’t solely about getting the job done, virtually. We must remember an essential element of business: humans. Here are three ways to adapt to the new norm during the COVID-19 crisis.
Just two weeks ago, we were going about our regular routines. Kids went to school, grocery stores remained fully stocked, spring sports were underway, and the news bounced across a myriad of topics. Enter a new week and a new reality.
Today, my house is full of remote workers as my kids adapt to e-learning and my wife joins me in the world of full-time remote work. I’ve been at it for two years, although not quite like this. Most of my go-to work spots closed their doors to in-store customers. My home office is much louder. And, the news has one topic in-mind as they race to keep their communities informed.
Businesses work diligently to adjust to ever-changing CDC guidelines, trying to assess and forecast the potential impact on their business and quickly pivoting to adapt to growing or declining demands. One thing is for sure, during a crisis, two things become the focal point for most companies – employees and customers.
Questions abound. How do we keep both stakeholders safe? How do we quickly enable a remote workforce? How do I keep my customers? The answers to these questions are slightly different industry-to-industry or even company-to-company, but here are three things I believe can benefit you the most.
Moving into the New Remote Work Norm
1. Leverage design thinking sprints as a problem-solving methodology.
You must make decisions quickly in a time of rapid change, but in our attempt to move swiftly, we mustn’t lose sight of human (employees and customers) needs. This focal point is the core of a design sprint. Solve problems first by empathizing with the customer or employee need and then test prototypes with direct stakeholder input. Design sprints move quickly. You can execute these in a matter of 2 to 3 days when accelerated.
A quick example of problem-solving with a keen focus on customer needs: My gym closed last week, but they realized their customers still want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Now more than ever, their customers need physical activity to relieve stress, to maintain a healthy immune system, and for a welcomed distraction from COVID-19. In a quick pivot, my gym started producing videos that guide their customers through at-home workouts. They kept their focus on customer needs and rapidly adjusted their business model in response.
2. Foster collaboration with a remote workforce.
Most customer opportunities and challenges reach across functional boundaries. So, how do you foster cross-functional collaboration when your entire workforce is now virtual?
Technology plays a vital role here. Collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams help colleagues connect, share and organize work more effectively. I first started using Teams when I joined Centric and am a firm believer in the role this tool plays in helping virtual teams work more efficiently and effectively.
My colleague, Michael McNett, wrote an excellent blog on leveraging Microsoft Teams to keep businesses humming: Coronavirus and Remote Work: How Microsoft Teams Can Keep Your Business Running.
3. Optimize your eCommerce site.
Recently, our city mayor issued orders to end unnecessary travel as our community works to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Now is the time for companies that may have put off enhancements in their eCommerce site to invest in this sales channel.
From navigation and design to improving product pages and increased personalization, every enhancement you make in this sales channel should intentionally lead users towards purchasing your products or services.
Preliminary data from Quantum Metric show that eCommerce associated with selected “Brick and Mortar retailers saw an average revenue weekly growth rate increase of 52% and an 8.8% increase in conversion rates,” compared to a year ago. The company bases its findings on more than 5 billion U.S. retailer web and mobile site visits between January 1 and February 29. As more of us receive instructions to stay home, we will likely look to make essential purchases online.
While no one quite knows what the full impact of the coronavirus will be on businesses, this is not a time for hesitation or a wait and see approach. We are entering into a new reality that, at a minimum, is changing how we work and, in some cases, radically changing business models. Companies that succeed will stay relentlessly focused on their employees and customers as it makes decisions.