Lately, many roofers are doing something they’ve never done before: working remotely. If you’re used to going in to the office every day, working surrounded by your team, and having the resources of the office at your disposal, remote work can be a big challenge. You want to be productive and get the things done that you need to, but your desk has been replaced with your couch, your cat can’t answer your question about that one roofing job, and you have to access everything from a laptop. How can you adapt to remote work and thrive?
Staying productive and managing your work while at home is possible—with a little innovation and some know-how. This guide to remote work for roofers tackles it from two angles. First, for office staff and salespeople, this blog discusses how to work effectively while remote and stay productive. Then, for managers, we cover how to manage your teams while they’re spread out. Here’s what every member of a roofing team needs to know to make the most of this new remote work environment.
Part 1: Working From the Remote Office
What do roofers need to know to work effectively at home? Here are a few strategies that can help you maintain productivity, get the resources you need, and make the best of remote work.
Keep Yourself Organized
One of the most important ways to stay productive while working remotely is to stay organized. In your roofing office, there are likely systems your whole business uses, whether that’s a white board with job notes, a filing system, or simply everyone in the office checking in with each other. Once you’re working remotely, some of these things vanish, and others get harder to implement. Staying organized becomes trickier—and more essential.
Putting a system in place to keep yourself organized and on track will not only increase your productivity, it will also help you communicate more effectively with the rest of your team (for instance, if someone asks how a particular job is progressing, it’ll be easier for you to find the answer). Many people find themselves more distracted when working from home, and an organizational system can help you stay focused.
There are a few different ways to stay organized at home. Take advantage of personal productivity apps, like Google Calendar, Trello, or reminders, to help you stay on top of your projects and keep track of what needs to get done. (Even an old-fashioned to-do list can be a big help—just make sure you don’t lose it in case you need it again.) If you rely on other members of your team to help yourself stay organized, figure out creative ways that you can replicate those touch points even when you’re not in the same place. Keeping any physical documents or files in a safe, easily accessible place can also make a big difference to staying organized at home.
Of course, many contractors rely on tools like roofing software to help them stay organized. If that’s true of your roofing business, the software will also be a powerful organizational tool from the home office. You’ll have access to the same information you would be able to see if you were in the office, so you’ll find it easier to keep yourself organized. Don’t forget to take advantage of these digital tools that your business already relies on when you’re at home.
Get Creative About Connecting
What’s the hardest part about working from home? Many people would say it’s being separated from your coworkers. For people who regularly work in an office who are suddenly having to work remotely, not being in the same place as the rest of your team can be very difficult. You can’t pop over to someone’s desk to ask them a quick question. Meetings become more challenging. And perhaps hardest of all, the energy that comes from working with others is harder to come by.
Luckily, with remote positions on the rise even before this crisis, there are plenty of ways to reach out to the rest of your team and stay connected. Using video conferencing software like Zoom facilitates virtual meetings and presentations. Tools like Slack, which let you send quick messages to your team, help you replicate the “you got a second?” type of communication. In roofing software like AccuLynx, you can use the @Me feature to draw someone’s attention to something in a job or send a message.
It might seem strange or uncomfortable to rely on messages, phone calls, and video conferencing to do things you’re used to easily doing in person. But you can’t function as a single unit—you’re still part of a team. So reach out to the rest of your team, remind them that you’re all in this together, and find ways that work for all of you to stay in touch. This might look different for every business or every team, but as long as you’re connecting regularly, that’s the most important thing.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask More Questions
In a similar vein, communication can become more difficult when you’re working remotely. It may take a little while to adjust to using the tools mentioned above, especially if you’ve never relied on them before. Instructions and responsibilities may be less clear (did you write down everything that was said in that Zoom call?). In addition, when working remotely, many people have an understandable impulse to move forward on their own and keep their communications to a minimum. Calling or messaging can feel more intrusive, and since everyone is juggling a lot, wouldn’t it be easier just to leave people alone?
However, since you and your team are dispersed, it actually becomes more important than ever to make sure you’re all on the same page and are clear about your tasks. This is especially true if some aspects of your business have changed due to the restrictions and challenges of coronavirus. You may have one idea about how things need to be done, but practices may have changed to adapt to these difficulties.
In order to stay informed and on the right track, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Many of us get out of the habit of asking lots of questions once we’ve adapted to how a business works. But the only way to confirm that you’re working the way you need to be from your remote office is to ask. Since team members are separate, you have to reach out actively in order to communicate effectively. And that means asking questions. While it might feel awkward at first, in the long run, it will help you work more effectively and be confident in what you’re doing.
Stick to a Routine
This is one of the most common pieces of advice for remote workers, with good reason. Working in an office imposes a routine on you—there are business hours, in-person meetings to attend, and a flow to the work. When you’re not in the office, that routine disappears. For some people, this is a relief, but for most people, a lack of routine can mess with their productivity and make them less effective at their jobs.
Creating a work routine for yourself while at home can help you stay productive and replicate the benefits of being in an office. Start by trying to work between the same hours on each day. The closer you can come to working the hours you would work in the office, the better—your brain is already primed to be most productive during that time. It can also help to work in a certain location in your home every time, or doing the same kinds of work that you typically do during a certain time of day. If you always have a production meeting on Tuesday mornings, keep having that meeting on Tuesday mornings—remotely.
Of course, certain aspects of your working routine will be naturally different when you’re at home. As long as you have a routine of some kind, this won’t be an issue. Sticking to a routine as much as you can will go a long way towards helping you work effectively from home and giving you the capacity to implement the other solutions mentioned in this section.
Part 2: Managing Remotely
Just working from home can be hard enough. What about managing from home? How can you stay connected to your teams, provide direction, help your employees work effectively, and keep morale and motivation high? Here are a few tips to help roofing managers look out for their teams despite the distance.
Keep Track of Your People With Management Tools
One of the most daunting aspects of managing remote roofers is knowing what they’re working on. How can you tell if your salespeople are hitting their targets? Is that one job still moving forward, or is it on hold? It’s harder to keep tabs on workers that are scattered, and being away from the office means that some of your check-in mechanisms will have to shift.
A key tool to help you stay on top of what your teams are doing is roofing software. In many roofing software platforms, there are tools built in to help you visualize how work is progressing, assign things to team members, and see if anything has fallen through the cracks. In AccuLynx, managers can easily see how their sales teams are performing with the sales leaderboard. Within a given job in AccuLynx, you can see when and by whom updates were made, and send messages or assign tasks to a specific team member. Software like AccuLynx also gives you the capacity to see how jobs are progressing at a glance. The AccuLynx dashboard highlights which jobs are where in the pipeline, so you can follow up with any employees who are responsible for those jobs. Since the software is cloud-based, it can be accessed from anywhere, so you can manage from your couch.
Stay Connected and Communicate Clearly
The one thing remote teams need most to function effectively is an engaged, communicative manager. As the manager, you set the tone for the rest of the team, particularly when it comes to communication. Creating the expectation that people will reach out to each other (and you) for help and questions will help teams work more smoothly and prevent miscommunications.
Managers can help model effective communication in the way they give instructions and assignments. Speaking clearly, following up to make sure your employees understand what you’re asking of them, sending reminders, and checking in throughout the process will go a long way towards creating clarity and making sure work is done well. Communicating with remote employees often takes more effort and intention than communicating with employees when you’re all in an office together. But the clearer you are with your teams, the more likely they will do their work effectively.
In addition, managers also need to find ways to maintain team culture when everyone is dispersed. Working remotely represents a major adjustment for most roofers, and this can lead to a drop in morale and motivation. So don’t just reach out to your team members to ask about assignments and projects. Reach out to celebrate a big win by your salespeople or quick thinking by your production manager. Connect virtually for a team lunch or happy hour, where everyone can gather and catch up. Make your messaging positive. This time represents a challenge for roofers, but roofing is a historically resilient industry. Keeping your team’s spirits up and continuing to create connection points for your employees will also have a positive impact on their productivity, and help you grow your office culture even when you’re not actually in the office.
Equip Your Teams With The Tools They Need
Working from home is about more than just staying motivated and focused. Your employees also need to be equipped with tools that can help them do their jobs more effectively when they’re not in the office. For many roofing business owners, this means that you’ll have to try adding some technology that will help your teams collaborate from afar and stay productive at home.
Some of this technology will be intended to serve as a stopgap or replacement for more typical ways of doing business. For instance, if your salespeople are trying to connect with homeowners via video, you’ll want to set them up with a Zoom or Skype account to make this easier. Once you’re able to go back to knocking on a homeowner’s door, it’s likely that your salespeople will stop using these video conferencing tools, but for right now, they’re an essential way to help your teams continue to sell effectively.
However, some technology is not only helpful for remote work, but can continue to provide value for your business throughout the rest of the year and beyond. If your roofing business relies on paper files and documents, this presents a major challenge when working from home. Who gets access to the files? Do employees have to come to the office to pick them up? How can you get signatures from customers on paper documents when homeowners are trying to limit outside contact? Using roofing software to manage your business eliminates these problems.
Roofing software like AccuLynx is cloud-based, meaning that it’s accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection. Information about all your jobs is stored in the software, so anyone with access can find what they need. Updates to this job information are saved and stored automatically. In addition, AccuLynx offers electronic document templates and an eSign feature, so roofers can create and send estimates, contracts, and more, and receive legally binding electronic signatures. These features make it much easier for roofers to gain access to the information they need while at home, and reduces the number of visits needed to the job site. But once you’re back in the office, the benefits of using roofing software will continue. You’ll never have to hunt through paper files again, and keeping everyone on the same page about a job will be much easier. Adopting roofing software during this time will not only equip your teams with the tools they need for this period of remote work, it will also help you work more effectively when you’re back in the office.
Evaluate Your Processes
This unusual time represents an opportunity for roofing business owners. When businesses are forced to adapt to new situations, it often brings into focus some of the challenges and pain points of the business. Having to work from home makes it easier to see which parts of your business are working, and which need some extra attention to help them run more smoothly. In addition, some roofers have a little more time now than they typically would at this time of year—which offers a chance to make any changes to your business that you might otherwise put off until the end of the year.
Take advantage of what you’re learning about your business to make plans for improving your processes and develop new strategies to help you hit the ground running. This could take a variety of forms, from creating plans to sell more effectively to finding new lead sources to adopting new technology that can help your business run more efficiently. Whatever it is, don’t forget to look towards the future, and take steps to make sure that your business emerges from this time even stronger and more effective. And communicate these new ideas to your teams—it will help them remember that there’s light at the end of the tunnel and stay motivated as they work.
Working remotely can be daunting in a number of ways, especially if it’s suddenly thrust upon you and your teams. But roofers are an adaptable bunch, and with the right tools and strategies, remote work can be productive and even enjoyable.