2020 has been a year filled with personal and professional challenges. To promote social distancing, many companies have gone to a work from home (WFH) model. The longer employees complete tasks from the comfort of their homes, the more likely it is they’ll want to continue for the foreseeable future.

According to Stanford economic researcher Nicholas Bloom, 42% of Americans now work from home, with only 26% working in essential positions and service jobs. There are also many still unemployed due to lockdowns and the subsequent recession.

Bloom points out that there are both positives and negatives with a WFH-centric economy. As we near the one-year mark of being on a pandemic shutdown, here are some ways you can prepare for another quarter of remote work for your business and employees.

1. Audit Your Expenses

Although the first coronavirus vaccines have arrived in some areas of the country, it may be many months before everyone gets an injection and life returns somewhat to normal. It’s also possible that another virus or threat arrives at the tail end of COVID-19, throwing the country into a longer social distancing period.

Now is a great time to look ahead and decide if you want some roles to continue in remote work even after the threat eases. If so, you may be able to reduce some of your expenses. Do you need such a large office space if you have half the workers in the building?

2. Offer Better Security

One concern many people working from home have is how to keep their network secure. They don’t have an IT department in their home as they have in an office building. They may worry about accidentally spilling company secrets or someone getting on their private network and tapping into their personal computers and smart speakers.

Research shows that about 50% of all remote workers fear security threats in a new setting. Tactics such as multi-factor authentication, single sign-on, and biometrics help ease these worries.

3. Encourage Communication

There are pros and cons to not having someone in the same building as you. One big drawback is that you can’t talk to them anytime you want without picking up a phone or initiating an online meeting. One significant advantage is that you can’t distract your workers by constantly popping into their office for a chat.

How do you encourage communication without taking valuable productivity time away? You can host stand-up meetings via Zoom to start each day. Each person gives a quick update on where they’re at, and you offer some words of inspiration. These meetings should be short and to the point.

You should also have an open-door policy where your remote workers can text, instant message, or email you throughout the day. Make responding a priority, even if you have to assign one person to chat with employees and help with issues.

4. Utilize Third-Party Project Management

Using third-party project management tools keeps all your employees on the same page. Cloud-based solutions update in real-time. So, if your graphic artist logs in, she can see if there are notes on her phase of the project and implement them, thereby avoiding wasted time and effort.

Sites such as Trello, Basecamp, and Asana help everyone stay on track. See at a glance where you are on a project. It’s one of the best ways for people from different locations to work together without confusion. You can even loop in a client to approve a graphic or mockup.

5. Onboard Everyone

Many of your employees may have been thrown into the role of a remote worker when they never planned to work from home. Their initial training was likely in-person through the human resources department. Now, they face a situation where they may not feel fully equipped to finish tasks independently.

The Human Capital Institute conducted their 2020 Talent Pulse Priorities survey with 462 human resources leaders. They found the biggest priority is retaining high performers. The best way to ensure engagement is excellent and applicable onboarding.

Your onboarding process must look different for remote work. Go through some basic concepts with everyone, such as securing their computers, protecting passwords, and what a nondisclosure agreement really means.

6. Improve Time Management Skills

One of the biggest challenges your employees face is time management. For many working parents, their children are home and may even be doing e-learning at the moment. Juggling family responsibilities and work is challenging.

You can help them navigate this time by allowing for some flexibility in the schedule. Let them start the day early before the kids wake up. Give them longer breaks so they can ensure their children sign on to meet with their teachers. Allow them to work later into the evening.

You can encourage higher productivity and loyalty if you provide flexible scheduling. This only works for some types of positions, though. A salesperson must call prospects when they’re most likely to answer the phone, for example. However, someone working on a graphic for a new website design can do the work at any time, as long as they meet deadlines.

Ask for Input

Going from an in-person office setting to a remote environment presents unique challenges. Be open to ideas from your workers. Ask for input on how to improve every process. They deal with co-workers and clients daily. They can see where any wasted time goes and pinpoint a better method to complete tasks on time.

The more you give your staff ownership of projects, the more likely it is they’ll develop brilliant ideas. Anything that improves productivity and team morale is a positive change for your brand, especially when everyone works from home.

Lexie is a digital nomad and graphic designer. If she’s not traveling to various parts of the country, you can find her at the local flea markets or hiking with her Goldendoodle.Connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.