As many other industries suspend business and halt service in compliance with state and federal mandates that aim to curb the spread of COVID-19, the transportation industry’s role in ensuring food and supplies are transported to where they are needed has become more important than ever.
One of the challenges you may be facing right now as a freight broker or third-party logistics provider is how to transition your operations to a work-from-home model. To help you with that process, we’ve pulled together advice from several business experts on the best practices for setting up remote work capabilities for your staff and operations.
This is probably one of the most difficult aspects of converting your operations to a work-from-home model on the fly. To start, contact your TMS provider to find out if your employees can access the TMS from a web browser. If not, you may want to consider using a VPN to connect your employees with your server. If you already use load boards, digital load tracking apps, and other Internet-based freight visibility and capacity tools, you’re already one step ahead. Free or low-cost communication tools such as Skype, Zoom, Slack, Google Docs/Sheets can help you move some of your in-person operations to a virtual environment.
When your employees are working from home, you lose some of the IT security safeguards that you have in place at your office around data protection, phishing, malware, ransomware, and encryption. If you have an IT department, work with your IT team to establish clear cybersecurity and data protection best practices for your remote workers, including VPN security. If you don’t have an IT department, contact a local IT company for support and/or check out these recommendations from the National Cyber Security Centre.
In order to keep your business up and running, it’s important to try to maintain a sense of normalcy for employees. It benefits your employees’ mental health and productivity, as well as your operations. Continue to hold meetings as scheduled. In fact, you may want to schedule additional check-ins and online meetings with colleagues, staff members, and managers to ensure that everything is running as smoothly as possible. Close communication with your team allows you to address any road bumps as they occur.
Working remotely is different from working in an office environment. To avoid chaotic virtual meetings, create written rules for online meetings that can be shared with employees. These rules can include things such as: turn off your phone, don’t multitask and don’t check emails during virtual meetings. You also may want employees to use the chat function in video conferencing calls to raise their hands to ask questions. It’s a good idea to start meetings with a check-in and ask how your team members are doing, as well.
If you’ve never managed a dispersed team before, you’re probably worried about productivity. One way to hold employees and colleagues accountable is to make frequent use of video conferencing capabilities. And while it’s important to talk to your employees about time tracking, it’s also important that you let them know you trust them and value them. Using tools such as project management systems can help your workers stay focused and on task without making them feel like you don’t trust them to get the job done.
Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School, has spent the last two decades helping businesses learn to manage remote teams effectively. She offers this advice:
“The blurring of boundaries between work and home has suddenly come upon us, so managers have got to develop the skills and policies to support their teams. This might involve being more flexible about the hours in which employees work. You don’t have to eat lunch at 12 pm. You might walk your dog at 2 pm. Things are much more fluid, and managers have to trust that employees will do their best to get their work done.”
As a business owner or supervisor, it’s important that you embrace remote working and speak positively about using the online tools that will keep your business up and running. A positive attitude about remote working also helps keep morale up. One potential risk with dispersed teams is that your employees may actually spend too much time online and work long, unhealthy hours, which is why it’s important that you set the tone and model going offline during non-work hours, as well.
For more information on creating an effective remote work environment, read this recent article from Fast Company. To learn more about how you can implement Trucker Tools’ solutions with your remote workforce, schedule a demo with our sales team.