As the coronavirus continues to spread, major companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Hitachi, and Chevron are all requesting their workers to work remotely as a measure against the rapidly-spreading disease.
This has sent many human resource departments scrambling to adopt business continuity plans, and contingency plans that include keeping workers home.
While an estimated 24% of all working Americans already work from home at least part of the time, it’s still fair to say that a great majority of us are still navigating our way around working from home. So whether this is your first attempt at managing remote teams, or whether you have a roster of digital nomads, here is a collection of some best practices to get you started:
Have a policy in place
While approximately 63% of organizations have remote workers, 57% still don’t have a remote work policy in place.
A remote work policy is an agreement that outlines when and how employees can work from locations other than the office. These policies can be temporary or permanent. Remote work policies describe who can work remotely, best practices to follow, and the legal rights of remote employees.
If you are curious how to get started, a quick online search will reveal a lot of policies to emulate. The majority of content in these policies may feel like common sense, but it’s still worth having a policy for employees to refer to and adhere to. It’s also worth having a specific coronavirus policy for employees to reference.
Leverage video technology
While nearly every organization has audio conferencing abilities, not all have video conferencing. Video is important because it’s one of the few technologies that still enable us to make eye contact with each other. This provides us with visual cues and stronger insight and context into what others are saying.
Advances in technology have paved the way for reliable and affordable video conferencing technology. If you don’t currently use video on your workplace, now is the time to try one out. Many vendors offer free trial solutions allowing you to best select the solution that matches your organizational needs.
If you are unfamiliar with video conferencing technology, there are various other nuances to keep in mind—like remembering to mute, and unmute yourself at the appropriate times, and ensuring you allow all participants the chance to contribute.
If possible, record meetings and share on your intranet. This allows employees who weren’t able to attend, or may have otherwise missed a moment in the meeting due to a bandwidth hiccup, to catch up.
Keep employees informed
Whether it is the spread of a disease, a natural disaster, or another form of disruption, it is critical to keep employees informed as much as often as possible. The best place to post this information is on your intranet, where all employees can access updated information.
In the case of coronavirus, this may include information about where the disease has spread, known travel restrictions, and when you anticipate employees to return back to the office.
We once had a customer leverage their intranet unify employees during a Tornado. With no other way to communicate, their intranet served as a hub for information detailing everything from the impact of the storm to the safety of employees.
Create a comfortable environment
Creating an environment conducive to good work doesn’t need to be elaborate. Focus on simple things like natural lighting, tidy surroundings, and comfortable seating.
It’s also ok that your remote office doesn’t resemble your workplace, so don’t fret if your funky artwork, or meandering pets are visible while on video—it all helps humanize the experience.
Give your co-habitants a heads-up
If you’ve never worked from home before, now is the time to have a conversation about what it means to those you live with. Whether that is a roommate, a spouse, or children, it’s important to communicate that working from home isn’t a ‘day off’. It might be as simple as, “When this door is shut, I am not to be interrupted.”
Continue a regular routine
Working from home can be an isolating experience which is why it is imperative to take breaks, and get fresh air as often as possible. Just a few moments of fresh air can do wonders for the lungs and the mind.
It’s also important that employees find ways to replicate any conversations or social banter that would otherwise occur in the office. Your intranet is an excellent platform for employees to engage and connect with each other.
Conduct a test run
Don’t wait till an actual disruption before testing out your business continuity plan. If possible, mandate a work from home day for all employees now to ensure there are no surprises in the potential event of an interruption.
This will also allow employees to check their internal set up as well, and ensure they have the right connections, batteries, adapters, VPN access etc. Also, make sure your employees determine what audio configurations work best. For example, a headset may be superior to relying on your laptop’s speaker and audio.
Obviously not every sector has the ability or privilege to enable employees to work in a remote or hybrid workplace, but mandating employees work from home can help reduce the risk of exposure to the virus.
And even though no business continuity plan can guarantee full and immediate resumption of business operations, creating a solid framework as well as implementing solid processes and controls will prepare your organization and its employees to handle and manage against any potential disruption to business operations related to coronavirus.
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