We are about to enter a new era, post COVID! The time when “Work from Home” would be new normal. We could witness deliveries happening via robots, goods transfer with self-driving vehicles, telemedicine, and video consultation part and parcel of people’s daily lives. But what happens to the SME’s? Have you observed lately the shop owner[one with non-essential goods] in your neighborhood hasn’t opened his shop? Would he be able to work from home? Or the distributor/supplier from whom he gets the supply – how he would manage logistics and inventories? Add to the misery is that payment collection in SME market is still via cheque/cash mode, that stresses more on-field job for humans. Can an SME work from home?
Challenges Faced by SME’s in working remotely
Lack of Technology Infrastructure
Arvind who was working for a construction company was in an idle state for few days at his home due to lockdown imposed, unavailability of laptop and a trustable, high-speed internet connection. Since last 6 years he has been going to office to get his work done and never thought that he might need to work from home. The owner of the firm is also finding it difficult to provide their employees with computers/laptops so that they can easily work from home.
Lack of Remote Working Processes
What kind of collaboration tool should be used once you work remotely? Where should the employees share their files? What tool can be used for video/audio calls? What are the work ethics expected from an employee when working from home?
These are some of the basic questions an SME is figuring out amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Individuals working remotely loose a sense of “staying connected” and that comes as a challenge to the manager who is responsible for motivating, boosting, employee morale. A sudden shift to “isolation” is taking a toll on “team spirit” and employee engagement
With COVID-19 lockdown Zoom installation and usage reached its peak when suddenly a piece of news started floating that Zoom has major security issues. With untested/unexplored technology issue, it’s a challenge for and SME to simply install an app and start using it when monetary transaction and client data is involved.
One of my acquaintance, an SME during the lockdown is worried and anxious. He believes although his employees has the laptop still I do not trust them that they would work when I am not around. People just like to get paid but they only work when their boss sits on top of their head.
The field workers in the SME market are not well-educated hence expecting them to use technology as a professional is a challenge unless they are trained.
A general human trend where “Change is not easy to adapt”, so a sudden shift of operations in remote mode is hard for many to accept and execute.
Why SME’s should be “remote working”?
But why should an SME think of “remote working”. COVID-19 is a rare crisis and may not hit again. Isn’t? Once things are back to normal, SME’s can resume work in a normal fashion. I have three arguments to present for SME’s should be armored with “remote working” mode.
A contingency plan
While we really hope crisis like COVID-19 may never appear again. But no one knows the future of how things turn and so you need a contingency plan, that allows you to run your business and assist employees in their paycheck. Work from home is a back-up plan and hence you need to get it enabled.
SME’s are the lifeline of the economy
You are the heartbeat of any country’s growth. You guys generate revenues, employment, and most importantly innovate that aids in countries’ progress and citizens’ social welfare. You connect rural and urban life. If you stop working, majority of the population gets affected that would certainly impact a country’s economic growth.
Work Should never depend on “Physical presence”
Does your employee work when you are around? Do you think your team should report to you at sharp 9? Work gets done when employees are motivated and enthusiastic about their work, your presence might push them to “pretend work” but not executing it. Work execution is not dependent on physical presence but on the attitude carried by the team.
How SME’s can overcome Work from home hurdles?
Before Taking “Work From Home”
Draft Remote Working Framework
Draft a detailed framework describing the communication procedures that’s staff need to follow when working from home. Put in the exceptions use case clearly, for situations like “power cut”, internet issues or device issue. It helps in reducing the panic and easy execution of daily activities fairly and consistently.
Invest in Technology
Explore and find the right tools that can help you in collaborating seamlessly when working from a remote location. Finalize a list of features you need and then explore the tool that fir right for you. If you are a small or micro size SME, there are many open-source tools available that are secured and rich in features.
Protect, Secure, Guard
If you and your firm on an organization network, you may have to provide your employees with laptop that is configured with appropriate tools and guarded against malware and hacks. If you are on open network ask your employees to follow some strict guidelines before accessing any company data and what should be done in case of breaches.
As an SME owner you should make sure to build trust with your employees. Assign work, keep a track of it but never ever “micro-manage” it. Setting right timelines and expectations help the employee in working in a planned manner and deliver before time.
During Work from Home
Start your day with a quick catchup
Holding daily and quick meetings help the team to stay motivated and highlight any issue at the start so that the day could be more productive.
Organize webinars, virtual trade shows
To stay connected with your clients and team, organizing virtual meetups and webinar is a good way. It helps your client to know “how effectively and stable business is” and offer your team to gain exposure to the insights.
Chit Chat, Take tea break on Skype/Zoom
Chit-chat and tea-breaks are an essential part of Office, just because you are working from home shouldn’t stop you from removing this “necessary” activity. Hold a tea-break together that would help in relieving stress for your team and bond.
Tools SME’s could use while working from home
What Hylo SME’s say about work from home?
Some of the insights from our prestigious client FF21 that runs a co-living space, on how they managed their business during lockdown and keep it business as usual.
In one of the Youtube live sessions Ajay Nemani, the founder of FF21 says – as lockdown was inevitable we were not sure how our client/people living with us would react to it. How would this affect our business so the first thing we did was to plan and think How to run business as usual.
For that we –
- Moved all our staff into our own accommodation provided them with computers, wi-fi, food, and other essential services.
- Reg work execution as the staff was in the premises working as normal though with lockdown the efficiency was said to be somewhere ~60%
- Our clients/people staying with us, almost 50% went to their hometown, so when it came to collect this month’s rent, we were little sceptical as would the payment be made? As we are using Hylo to collect our payments, we sent out the payment link and waited. By 3rd and 4th of the month the payments started flowing in. For a business like our cashflow is very crucial and with Hylo Digital payments, it helped us in collecting the rent without any hassle.
While Hylo helped us in getting our dues on time, our strategic planning assisted us in not affecting our business.
Work from home is more of an “attitude change”, once you accept it things would be sorted. Do try out, its fun! And if you need any assistance in collections of payments, payables or reconciliation we are just a call away.