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During this preventive shutdown period, people are organizing remote work for themselves or their employees if they want to stay open and they are not an essential service. This type of work is certainly not possible for all employees and all companies; manufacturers must have people on site. But being forced to render your business virtual (even partially) will likely open your eyes to possibilities that may not have been considered before.

If you successfully transfer your face-to-face operations to virtual, one of the positive aspects could be lowering your lease expenses. If you can reduce your needs for a permanent workspace, you may want to adjust this when the time comes to renegotiate your lease. You could turn to part-time offices as offered by coworking spaces or have a permanent space, but with unassigned workstations.

This is what we went through in 2002! At the time, we occupied approximately 3,000 square feet of office space in the center of Plateau Mont-Royal (in Montréal). When the lease came up for renewal, we looked at the value-added to our business of this space, by asking ourselves the following questions:

  • Did our customers come to see us?
  • Did our employees enjoy coming to work on-site or did they prefer to work from home?
  • What was the impact of a "highly visible" address on our business?
  • This last point is less important these days. But this decision was made in 2002. Today, having a good website is often enough. When we realized that the impact on our operations and marketing was lower than the price we were paying, the decision was easy. Everyone working from home.

    Two other important factors to consider in favor of remote work are increasing productivity and employee satisfaction. According to a study done in September 2019 by Owl Lab and Global Workplace Analytics, 33% of employees working remotely work more than 40 hours per week because they like what they do (to read the full research). For some, the current situation involves children at home, so this increase in productivity may be less. But homeschooling will not go on forever.

    But having virtual employees has a few unique features that are important to identify.

    Having an adequate workspace

    The first thing to consider is to set up an adequate workspace at home. What does this imply?

  • Good internet connection.
  • A good computer.
  • Important tools to do your work (printer, headset, camera, scanner, etc.)
  • A good phone/a cell with a good network
  • A cloud phone number is an option to have a work line, without giving your private number. Good idea if you are in contact with customers or providers of your company.
  • A good workspace with the following points:
  • An illuminated and private office as much as possible.
  • A good work chair that allows you to be at the right height and be comfortable while you work.
  • Why take the time and invest a certain amount of money to create our workspace? Too often, when we work from home, the same switch does not go on as when we go out to the office in the morning. By having a specific space, we reproduce this transformation at home. Some people think that showering and dressing up as if we are going to work is a good routine to maintain. Doing this helps to create a separation between working and being at home and not being overtaken by home life such as: Should I do the washing? What should we eat? Did I take out the garbage? This can take precedent to work, but with a workspace, there is a certain separation that happens.

    Good communications

    Another element that is important to consider is communication. Working from home also means being separated from colleagues, resources, supervisors, and others. Of course, a large amount of follow-up can be done by email, but often this tool is not enough. Having a private chat group unique to your team is an option. A simple solution; create a private Facebook group and use the Messenger of this group to establish a certain presence. There are several other options, the technology is there, all you have to do is to think about it and offer it to our employees, colleagues, and collaborators.

    Another good idea is to schedule regular video meetings, both individual and group. Yes, everything can be done by emails in less time. But for many, the feeling of being part of a team is important. Video is a good tool to achieve this goal. Here are some options for these meetings:

  • Zoom
  • WhatsApp
  • Google Hangout
  • Messenger
  • Skype
  • GoTo Meeting
  • And many others.
  • If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me.


    Stéphane Elmaleh-Riel, B.Ed., MBA
    Marketing consultant