Of course, during times like these, making the switch to remote work is a luxury that can keep your team safe. But with all the moving parts, managing them can quickly become a burden. That’s why you’ll need a plan to manage them effectively and hit the ground running.
To help you successfully make the jump to a remote team with as few disruptions as possible, we’ve put together some tips. Here, you’ll learn about:
►Strategies to keep your team safe
►Techniques that will boost employee morale
►Tools that can improve employee productivity and close loans faster
Being thrust into the work-at-home environment can be disorienting, so let’s make some sense of it. But first, let’s look at a few important remote-worker statistics.
►56% of the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible with remote work
►3% of the workforce worked from home pre-COVID-19
►76% said they’d be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options.
►69% of millennials will trade other work benefits for flexible workspace options.
►Remote workers are 35-40% more productive.
►25M to 30M U.S. employees will regularly work from home within the next two years
The future of your organizational structure is shifting to remote, and COVID-19 is setting the ball in motion. Here’s what you can do to embrace the transition.
Employ Universal Tools
Embracing technology is essential to making remote teams successful and keeping them in sync. In the mortgage industry, firms are utilizing platforms like Trello, Monday.com, Slack and Microsoft Teams to bring employees together. Many of these platforms enable users to call, group chat, and share video, which can help make managing projects a breeze.
“We’ve been really pushing people to turn on their videos," said Mike Metz, VP of Operations for V.I.P. Mortgage. "I don’t think anyone likes it at first, but once they do it, they get more comfortable with it. And you lose so much on phone calls when you aren’t able to see the face of the person, so I think that helps a lot.”
Managers should encourage interaction between all team members as frequently as possible. Not only does it keep everyone sane, but it helps increase productivity. Consider meeting with your team over video at least three times per week, and if an email chain can’t be kept to three emails, encourage picking up the phone. By nature, humans need interaction, so don’t deprive them of it. And it’s okay to have meetings that consist of mostly non-business- everyday conversation can be a stress-reliever for you and your team. If someone’s child or a furry friend walks into a video-call, invite them in and embrace the moment. It’s no secret that we’re living under unprecedented circumstances- don’t be afraid to have some fun with it.
Many firms are now offering “virtual happy-hours” and “virtual book clubs” for employees to participate in over video chat. Consider creating a company-wide Facebook group where employees can share photos from their personal lives, and even participate in small contests like “Cutest Pet Day”. Some lenders are even having pizza delivered to employee’s homes. Gestures like these can help your staff feel appreciated, and are sure to help with employee-retention in the long-run.
Understand that not all departments are used to the change of working from home. Everyone acclimates at their own pace. Perhaps your underwriting department is used to the routine, but employees in other departments may not have a similar comfort level. Encourage a “buddy system” where employees who may be struggling adjusting to the technology can join a screen-share with a team member who has remote-work experience. This type of “shadowing,” even if only lasting an hour, can help get the struggling employee up to speed.
Think Goals, Not Numbers
Show that you’re supportive of their success by using inquiry to help them achieve their goals; not necessarily harping on file numbers and underwriting volume. Be aware of the extraordinary circumstances we’re all facing. With families home, chances are your employees will need to step away from work from time to time to cope with daily life of having kids and/or pets around.
You’ll also want to obtain agreement from your employees’ to the conditions for remote work. Items to cover in the agreement might include:
►Requirements to continue completion of work assignments.
►Maintaining availability during business hours.
►Agreement with your company’s data privacy, security and confidentiality policies.
►Upholding safe conditions and safety habits at home as established at company facilities.
Tighten Up Data Security
You may be well-protected from the virus in the comfort of your home, but that doesn’t protect you from hackers. When working remotely, there’s a whole list of additional factors you need to take into consideration to protect your data. For instance, if you have employees working from their home Wi-Fi, have them check their connection to make sure it is “secure”. Having a secure network can protect you from outsiders looking to tap into your connection and access your data.
Make sure your conference line is secured and protected against unwanted eavesdroppers. Consider using a conference call service that can tell you exactly who is online, and is data encrypted.
According to Business Insider, hackers have been capitalizing on the COVID-19 hysteria to infect victims’ computers with malware through phishing emails. These emails purportedly contain fake maps tracking the spread of the virus, and will infect the victim’s computer when opened. Prevent falling victim to scams like these by educating your staff on how to identify a phishing attack using test phishing emails. Check out these simulated phishing campaigns
from All In Compliance.
Empathize with your team and take any extra steps to understand the situation they might be going through. Even simply asking “How’s the remote life going?” can get them to open up. Empathy is key. You want them to know that you’ve got their back, and that you’re willing to fight in the trenches with them. If there’s a wealth gap between you and your employees, try not to video chat in front of your lavish home-library or expensive sports car. Garner their trust by understanding their situation and putting yourself in their shoes.
By taking the time to create high-value video and periodic in-person meetings, encouraging communication, and demonstrating empathy, your remote team can function as a single, cohesive unit that is just as successful, or more successful than in-office teams. The bottom line: If your team is performing, why should it matter what chair they’re sitting in?
As a mortgage professional, you’ve got a lot on your plate, and the current state of affairs is making your job increasingly difficult. There’s no doubt that changing credit score, forbearance, and remote-worker requirements are creating a major inconvenience for you and your team. However, now is the time to remember how fortunate we really are. When this is all over, if working remotely, surrounded by our families was the worst thing that happened, maybe we’re pretty lucky after all.
Best of luck and stay safe!