Snowed In: 5 Ways Online Work Solutions Can Help When Employees Can’t Get to Work
Last year was one for the books—literally—when it comes to extreme weather. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that in 2017 there were 16 natural disasters that each caused more than a billion dollars in damage, tying for the record set in 2011 for the most billion-dollar natural disasters in a year.
But, 2017 set its own record: $306.2 billion in damage caused by natural disasters in one year, the most ever recorded. Droughts, floods, severe storms, cyclones, and wildfires all added to these totals.
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And, 2018 has started off with some extreme weather of its own.
With outlandishly frigid temperatures covering much of the country in the Midwest and along the East Coast, more than 100 million people are stuck at home, just trying to stay warm despite wind chills close to -100 degrees, knee-deep snow, and chilling winds of more than 90 miles per hour.
For businesses, this means employees are stuck at home, unable to drive or having to deal with frozen pipes, snow-buried cars, and other weather damage. These days, the average worker already works from home for about eight hours a week, so we’re no stranger to getting work done outside the office.
But, when employees are home for longer periods of time, managers need a way to seamlessly coordinate work, collaborate with employees, and make sure projects stay on track. They need powerful tools to help them manage employees and workloads, even when everyone is working from different locations and on different schedules.
The answer? Online work solutions. Here are five ways they can keep your business running, regardless of what the weather brings.
1. Stay on Top of Work Requests
Even when everything is frozen over and you’re bracing for a bomb cyclone, work requests can still come in. In situations where some employees are able to come to work as usual or you work with people across the country enjoying sunny weather, things will still move forward, even when you can’t come to work.
With a good web-based tool, you can have all of your requests in one place, making it easy to stay organized and know exactly what your workload looks like. You can also easily respond to requesters and organize your team’s efforts, so work can move forward even when you are snowed in.
2. Maintain Visible Communication
One key benefit that comes with using web-based work tools is that all communications— between colleagues, from managers, and with clients—happen in one place. You can say “goodbye” to messy inboxes, reply-all conversations that don’t accomplish anything, and missing information.
This is crucial when employees are working from different locations and keeping the lines of communication open can be challenging.
Brian Kreutz, a software administrator who spent a year traveling the world and working remotely, emphasized the importance of documentation when working with remote employees.
"Also, when you have a remote workforce, you can’t cut corners, you can’t just do things anecdotally or just talk amongst yourselves.
"You have to document things. You need to follow up with the same process. You need to be on the same page. You need to communicate better."
When all messages are in one place, everyone can see what is going on and getting real-time, accurate status updates is easier. It also makes it easier for colleagues to collaborate and add input, even when they can’t meet in person.
3. Make Files and Information Accessible from Anywhere
With online work solutions, all you need to be productive when you are snowed in is your laptop and the internet. The fact that you can’t get to the office isn’t a problem, because all of your files and information is accessible from home.
This is also an important security feature because it means that if a natural disaster affected your office, your important data wouldn’t be lost because you aren’t relying on hard copies or local files.
Heinan Landa, CEO of Optimal Networks, believes that cloud storage is the way to go when it comes to securing data: “In today’s environment, one of the most secure ways to secure your organization’s data is to put it into a hosted cloud environment.”
4. Collaborate on Proofing from Different Locations
Web-based work tools that include a proofing feature make it easy for team members to provide input on any deliverable, even when the roads are covered in ice and they are working from home under a blanket.
Rather than having to wait for everyone to add their notes to a document that’s passed around the office (do people still do that?) or for each team member to respond to an email, everyone can proof a document online when it’s convenient for them and all the comments stay in one place, making for easy revisions.
5. Manage and Reassign Resources on the Fly
When some team members can’t come into the office, you will likely find yourself having to reassign tasks and manage resources differently. With web-based tools, you can easily make changes to workloads, deadlines, and project schedules to accommodate emergency situations.
Best of all, everyone will be up to date on the new plan and can check in from wherever they are to see new timelines and status updates.
Natural disasters can have a major impact on businesses and the way teams operate, but when employees can’t get to the office, work doesn’t have to come to a grinding halt. Using online work solutions, managers can reassess situations and have the flexibility to change plans while keeping everyone in the loop and maintaining productivity.
See our post "5 Ways to Build Trust in Your Remote Workforce" to learn how you can build strong working relationships with your remote workers.