How Companies Can Support Their Employees (and Clients) During COVID-19

Globally, we are seeing companies being pushed into having a remote workforce, whether they are ready for it or not, especially as more US states and countries issue shelter-in-place orders to slow the spread of COVID-19. While shifting to a remote workforce may seem like an impossible feat, there are steps you can begin taking now to help your employees transition, and by extension, improve the experience of your clients. Since our inception, Origami Risk has valued its remote capabilities and the talented team we’ve been able to curate because of it.

Whether you are a work-from-home veteran or not, we’re all facing unique challenges in this new environment—from learning to work alongside your spouse and kids, to dealing with the challenges of conferencing technology—there is always a learning curve when transitioning from office to home. As a company of “remote work gurus,” we’d like to help make that learning curve a little shorter by sharing what helps Origami’s dispersed team efficiently work from home, all while servicing clients without interruption.

Have Readily Available Resources and Training

Some employees have fully equipped home offices, while others may have difficulty adjusting to their new work environment for a number of reasons. From a lack of technological savvy, difficulty working without a second monitor, or simply the social adjustment that comes with telecommuting, there are a number of obstacles that can work against an organization that’s suddenly forced to shift to a fully-remote workforce. First and foremost, it’s important to check in with employees to make sure they’re equipped with the tools and resources needed to effectively work and service their clients.

Does your company utilize a softphone that enables employees to make business calls from their computer via WiFi? Do you have the ability to provide second monitors to employees’ homes who work in multiple programs at once? Is there an easily accessible VPN to safely and securely access sensitive client information? These are just a couple of questions you’ll want to answer, in addition to others, that will enable your company to begin transitioning to a remote working culture while still servicing clients. Understanding that there will be challenges along the way, as well as a spectrum of what should be considered a “successful” outcome, is key when setting company-wide expectations. An open line of communication is critical.

Maintain Transparency and Open Communication with Everyone

Numerous studies have shown that company transparency is paramount when it comes to workplace happiness, and that it can contribute to better operations, compliance, and overall culture. By extension, happier employees can directly correlate with client satisfaction, both of which are critical during what is an already stressful time for many. At Origami, employees have various Slack channels that not only serve as a direct means of critical communication, like our #origami_alerts channel but also help remote employees to feel connected to their coworkers around the world. Channels like #origami_cat_spotting, #origami_dog_spotting, and #origami_chefs allow colleagues to connect over similar interests, form relationships, and also share what works and what doesn’t when telecommuting.

Look at your company’s current communication style and build upon it. Does your organization utilize an intranet to post announcements? Are monthly all-company meetings an already recurring communication point? Look at what has already been established and utilize them as building blocks to develop a COVID-19 communication strategy that fits your organization’s culture.

Establish Virtual Management Guidelines

In theory, managing teams in-person shouldn’t be much different than remotely. But lack of in-person supervision, distractions at home, and regular office engagement can prove otherwise. A few simple management changes can help to ease this transition, including establishing daily touch-points and frequency of communication, which can instill a sense of structure.

When employees have an established communication structure with their managers, they’re able to spend more time servicing their clients or working on client-critical functions. Though without it, employees can be left with a breakoff in feedback, feelings of isolation, and wondering if they’re doing the “right” thing in an unusual time.

Oftentimes, managing by example is typically a good rule of thumb. “Research on emotional intelligence and emotional contagion,” according to the Harvard Business Review, “tells us that employees look to their managers for cues about how to react to sudden changes or crisis situations.” Here at Origami, we’ve instilled a sense of trust, openness, and collaboration into our culture to help guide teams across the organization, especially in a time like this.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Video

“What’s missing from our texts, emails, conference calls, and other digital communications? Body language. Even when we’re co-located, the tone of a text or the formality of an email is left wide open to interpretation…” according to the Harvard Business Review.

The lack of face-to-face interaction or socialization that working from home brings can prove to be a difficult new reality. For managers, keeping a pulse on how your team is doing (both professionally and mentally) can also feel challenging. Though the power of video calls can make a world of difference and “…experienced managers of remote workers (and the workers themselves) report that virtual events help reduce feelings of isolation, promoting a sense of belonging.”

Origami teams utilize a number of messaging and videoconferencing tools (Slack, GoToMeeting, Zoom), which not only help teams across the organization collaborate but opens up an opportunity to restore some face-to-face socialization. Whether through daily team meetings or weekly happy hours, Origamians have a long-established “norm” around video conferencing, which has helped lead to a strong culture among employees, despite their location.

While companies across the world shift to a remote culture amid coronavirus, no one is a “pro” at working remotely in the current environment. Without extra effort, these same technologies that work to connect us can serve to isolate. As part of an initiative to share Origami’s knowledge, we are working on opportunities to share resources, tips and tricks for a remote culture, and more in an accessible format.

If you want to learn more about Origami’s response to COVID-19, join our webinar this Thursday, March 26 at 12:00 pm CDT. We’ll also be posting weekly updates via email and social —subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on LinkedIn.