We can never anticipate when the most trying times will pop up, but we can certainly face these challenges in a way that keeps everybody safe, secure, and productive. During the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak, employers and employees have felt immense pressure to keep their staff and themselves safe. This has to begin with taking precautions, whenever necessary, to keep everybody isolated and home-bound.
Meanwhile, business has to go on in order to make an economic recovery as painless as possible. For these reasons, many companies have swiftly transitioned to a fully-remote staff, often in moves that were never thought possible. If anything, this difficult situation has shown us that we're more capable than ever and, even without proper preparation, our workforce is able to adapt and thrive no matter what.
As you make the transition to a remote workforce, consider the hurdles that can be overcome with strategic decision making and a strong management team:
Be Thought Leaders
The most trusted information your staff can receive will come directly from your own thoughts and research. Make sure that you're receiving the best information from the most reliable national, statewide, and local resources; misinformation is rampant, as are emotionally-driven opinions that don't reflect the current situation. Use empirical data to support any claims and follow authorities in HR and management to create a remote work policy that will work the best.
Valuable guidelines and recommendations provided by The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention will outline, at a national level, the most up-to-date suggestions about prevention and mitigation. For real-time updates and tracking at a data-driven level, consult the John Hopkins University Global Cases by the CSSE dashboard and map.
"It won't happen to us" is easy to say. If all goes well, it won't happen to you, and sometimes that can feel like wasted effort once a critical situation calms down. Consider it a result of your preventative action; if your organization makes it through a crisis, it could very well be due to measures put in place from the onset.
Beyond your own employees, COVID-19 and other viruses will often have much greater reach. While an employee is asymptomatic, it's possible to spread the illness to high risk groups, such as older populations, people with chronic illnesses, and healthcare professionals that have continued contact with naturally high-risk groups. Transmission goes beyond the workplace and mitigating harm is more than a full-time job
Change Course, if Necessary
As situations change, don't hesitate to update the policies you've put in place and the recommendations that you've made. Constantly evaluate your policies, protocols, and any direct orders that have been applied to your organization, mostly to ensure that the proper precautions, timelines, and resources have been provided.
While these changes can be made at any time, provide additional benchmarks for reevaluation related to established policies. For example, if you have halted all air travel or imposed a quarantine of international travelers, announce that you'll take time to recommunicate standards and precautions every two weeks or on specific dates.
Identify Essential Employees
Before the need for a large-scale work-from-home policy comes into play, identify what job functions must be completed in the office versus those that can fully function offsite. Remember that these positions don't denote a hierarchy or signify that one position is more important than the others. Some essential departments and duties may include:
- IT / Helpdesk: While employees begin using remote technology, they may encounter difficulties with their laptop in ways that cannot be fixed with remote IT support. Additionally, any company that relies on server-based storage will need the option for onsite support.
- Video / Photo Teams: These groups often use powerful computers that aren't exactly mobile, multiple high-res monitors, and industry-specific audio equipment. Additionally, these teams work with extremely large files that, while portable on external storage devices, cannot be accessed in a fully-remote capacity.
- Administrative Services: The importance of support staff can't go unnoticed both in peaceful and stressful times. Be mindful of the people who are at the ready to receive mail, answer general inquiries, and keep day-to-day processes running smoothly. These jobs can't be completed offsite, for the most part.
- Building Maintenance: The people who keep the lights on are integral, even when most of the workforce has been sent to work from home. For those who are still office-bound, the hard-working service staff is still responsible for maintaining the habitability of the building.
Seek Out New Resources
Never stop searching for tools and ideas that can help your now remote employees thrive. Take inspiration from other companies that have been operating on a remote-based workforce. These globally-minded organizations have found solutions that can keep their teams cohesive, even when there's a lot of space between members. Collaboration software, video conferencing, and project management tools are integral to maintaining this team mentality at any distance; use your time to find fitting tools that can increase cohesion both in and out of the office.
We can only hope that preventative measures and caution will solve the problems we're facing today. As you take these precautions and implement your remote strategies, look towards the future to lay the groundwork for policies that will support occasional, emergency-related, or even fully-remote practices. A company that's ready for anything is a company that can flourish in the face of any challenge.