How to Virtualize Your Business During A Shutdown

By Anna Anderson and Kandi Hamble

The world has been shifting beneath our feet in these past few weeks. As more and more people must transition to working from home, many business owners are wondering how to keep their business running. Kids out of school, bills, cash flow, and even worry about how our lives will change are all worthy distractions to combat – with love and clean hands.

Here are some things you can do to work from home, keep your employees and customers safe, and help you weather these current events.

1. Set Up Your Workspace

Having one area where you will always work while at home can help set expectations for everyone at home, including you. You will most likely face one of two scenarios:

  • You are able to dedicate a room in your home where it is nice and quiet
  • You will be surrounded by your family because they, too, have been sent home

Set up in a room where you can close the door if the kids get too rambunctious. Having a quiet place where you can work is ideal, but not many people have that option! If you need to share space with your family, consider creating a corner in your living room or at your kitchen table. Limit visual distractions as much as you can (I set my desk up to face a wall).

Another important part of moving operations from the office to your home is forwarding calls. WikiHow has a tutorial covering how to forward calls from a landline, android, and iPhone. If you have a phone service for your office, talk to them about forwarding calls -and voicemails- so you and your team can remain available to callers.

Your team will also need a proper setup to work from home. It should include anything they need to complete their job. For instance, your accounting and customer service teams would need a computer. Are your technicians performing roof repairs? Helping delivery essential supplies? Think about what they would need and help supply it.

No matter where you set up, organize and treat the space as if it were your office. Dress up and be professional to help keep your mindset focused on work. Take breaks from your home office throughout the day, just as you would at the office. Leave the area once your day ends. Work is done and it’s time to play!

2. Digital Connection

Face to face interaction has great value. Just because we must practice social distancing right now does not mean face-to-face interaction should go by the wayside. When you need to talk to employees or customers, use video conferencing instead of calling them.

Video conferencing apps such as Zoom and Skype can be easily used for remote meetings. Each has free and paid accounts which are easy to set up. They can also be used when you need to see a potential job site.

Consider setting up a weekly group check-in or short daily ‘coffee breaks’ where you and your team catch up on day-to-day life over video. Make some of these breaks be about life instead of business to help your team stay united.

Set up instant messaging to help replace talking in the office. We use the Google suite, so Google Hangouts is how our team gets a quick answer to something. We also have a chat thread dedicated to funny memes and non-business conversations. Although running a business requires dedicated, serious people, we still need levity in our days. Other options include Slack or groupme…even MarcoPolo could help grow a shared culture.

Using an app such as Asana or Hygger can help you and your team track daily goals as well as keep the whole team on the same pages for projects. Here are some more options you can look into for your business.

3. Have a Working Website

While this is low on our list, a working website is just as important as your team being set up to work from home. Right now, people are on the internet much more than usual. Keep your home page up to date with hours and how you are responding during our current events. Have a easy to find contact form. Your CRM should be connected to your forms, also.

4. Limit Distractions

Working from home can present many distractions – especially now. Kids, laundry, dishes, pets, that TV show you wanted to catch up on…If you wouldn’t do these things at the office, you shouldn’t do them while working from home. Set clear boundaries for your work time and home life.

  • If you live in tight quarters, everyone will have to adjust to this season. Ask your family to keep their voices down as they do their stuff (you may need to, also).
  • Being able to shut a door to the rest of the home can help. If you’re the social type or have younger kids, keep the door open so you can still hear the family buzz without being overly distracted. When you absolutely need to be left alone, put a “do not disturb” sign on the door.
  • If you are able to work while listening to music or a podcast, put on some headphones and listen. Those can help block out other distractions so you can focus on the tasks at hand.
  • If you have pets, they can really help you stay sane; however, they can be distracting as they also adjust to you being home. Help them know what to expect during this time by being consistent with what you allow. They’ll catch on that when you’re in your workspace they need to leave you alone. To get out some jitters, take your dog on a walk during break times. Our cats seem pretty chill, so give them attention as they want it, as long as they don’t take you away from work.

5. Be Intentional About Time

Time is your most valuable asset. Having a proper setup and good time management will help as you and your team work from home.

Add structure to you and your team’s workday:

  • Have set ‘office hours’ so your customers and team knows when you are available
  • Keep track of what you need to finish each day – either through a checklist or an app
  • Split your day into sections, such as emails first thing in the morning
  • Make a plan of what can be done and what will wait until the Stay At Home orders have lifted
  • Set alarms for regular break times
  • Block off time throughout the day to spend time with your family
  • If you have meetings, set up independent activities for kids beforehand

Having set boundaries for your workday versus when you can run errands, do homework, walk your dog, or play with your kids is critical to working remotely. Setting your mind on work can make all the difference!

6. Be Smart About Snacking

Food. It is one more thing to stay aware of when working from home. If you planned your meals and snacks when you worked in the office, continue to do so. If you haven’t, now is a great time to start. Keep healthier snacks like nuts and fruit on hand. I notice how much easier it is to ‘boredom snack’ when working from home. This leads to fluctuating blood sugar which leads to distraction and…weight gain. Keep (or set) good habits and follow them.

7. Have Grace

Our generation has not lived through a global pandemic – while this is new to us, it isn’t new to history. This is the perfect time to practice grace and empathy for yourself, your family, your team, and your community.

  • Have grace for yourself. Expect for things to be slow going at first and to have kids show up in meetings for a while. While productivity can be a good thing, this is a time of adjustment to a new way to live.
  • Have grace for your family. This is new for them, also. Each person will have their own adjustments and fears. This time can help you grow closer to each other.
  • Have grace for your employees. Transitions will take time and things won’t always run smoothly. Don’t expect perfection right out of the gate! Work through any issues as they present themselves.

To help during this crazy time of physical distancing and closures, we still have so much to be grateful for! Let go of expectations of ‘normal’ and find something new each day to be thankful about. Find a way to get outside each day, move your body, and cultivate beauty during this dark time. We will get through this together, from six feet away and through our computer screens.

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