Coronavirus Interrupts Businesses Around the World
Massive companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google all tell their employees to work from home, conduct interviews from teleconference means rather than in person, and have instituted a number of measures to increase hygiene and safety. As it continues to spread across the world, Coronavirus is beginning to reach pandemic levels of infection, with no clear response in some parts of the world on how to stop it.
Especially within the US, amidst corporate shutdowns, canceled public events, and other interruptions, the disruptions to daily life are becoming greater and greater. In these tense days, employers are being tasked to develop and implement protocols at lightning speeds as everything from business travel to how employees work has had to adjust.
For many, they have not had the plans in place, and have had to scramble to find ways to reduce the risk of infection while not sacrificing the ability for employees to conduct necessary tasks to keep the business running. This has led to a lot of trouble, and a lot of exposure to the fact that for many companies, they are not able to respond flexibly to major problems.
If you feel unprepared, then it is time to reevaluate your policies, and make the necessary changes to ensure that your business will be able to conduct operations even if how you do so have to change. For many companies, this means setting up a remote-work protocol that allows for employees to work from home or another location as needed (or in some cases as instructed). That way, in person interaction is limited, thus reducing the risk of infection.
Doing so can save your company a lot of money long term, even if it might require some initial expenditures. After all, the cost of setting up tech or certain systems will often be much less than days, or weeks of employees needing time off for sick leave due to any kind of infection. We’ve made a guide on how to make sure you’re ready:
How to Prepare for Remote-Work
1. Limit Nonessential Business Travel:
- One of the first things you can do is look at your upcoming travel plans for the company. If you have employees that are traveling a lot, or are going to be, look at the benefits of that travel. With the virus now spreading at a global level, you run the risk of employees being put directly in the path of the infection.
- It is highly advisable to cancel these travel plans, and reschedule to either video conference, or to conduct the business after the threat of the virus has subsided.
- Many businesses are adopting this protocol, and it should be of no surprise given the amount of traffic in general that goes through many airports in a day.
- This is something that even major companies are doing as well, as even beyond the threat of infection, there is also the possibility, should a travel ban ever be put into effect, that employees could become stranded, creating more complications that could cost a lot of money and time to fix.
2. Evaluate Which Jobs Are Most At-Risk:
Depending on the nature of your business, there are different degrees of risk that are at play. It is first important to look at how you operate and evaluate how an emergency like COVID-19 could impact it.
If your business is one that has a lot of people in the same room, or deals a lot with in-person interaction, even one infected employee could have dramatic consequences. Take stock of the specific tasks that are part of day to day operations and begin to evaluate whether or not they can be done remotely.
The key word there is evaluate. You may look at some things and just assume that they have to be done in office, but it is critical that you ignore that assumption and actually commit to looking at things from a new perspective. While certain tasks do require a physical presence in the primary workplace, there are many others that do not. Planning accordingly can limit people’s time in-office, and thus limit exposure.
For other tasks, setting a system in place for working remotely from home should be done
3. Ensure Data Is Accessible
Once you have discerned which tasks can be completed off site, you have to start taking stock of how to make that work. Having access to data, email, and other key information will be imperative for any business looking to institute a work from home policy. After all, employees will need to actually be able to do the work they aren’t allowed to in office.
The best way to do this is to make sure that data is accessible off-site in some way. For many businesses this will likely come in the form of a cloud database, be it in a total cloud configuration, or a hybrid one with an on-site data center.
If you are not already using a configuration like this to manage your data, consult with you IT (which we will go into more later), and discuss what options there are to ensure data accessibility, as well ease of use for people that will need to access it.
4. Establish Plans for Communication
Your employees should know what is expected of them regarding communication, availability, and other important information. This should include how to get in touch with other coworkers and supervisors if needed, and by which means they should communicate and coordinate for any meetings.
It will also be important to inform your clientele as well of any changes that may be made to services so that they are made aware in case of interruption, or an inability to get through to their services.
If phone services are to be conducted at home, ensuring that this is also communicated is important so that employees can factor that into their home work setup.
This will ensure that as they work, they can do so with as much efficiency as they can within the workplace.
5. Provide Necessary Tools and Equipment to Employees
Much like with data access, having the ability to work from home is dependent on having the required tools.
Having available hardware that can be setup to fit the parameters required for necessary work can alleviate the burden of employees having to use their own home technology. These machines can be custom setup to ensure that they have everything needed, as well as having the needed security to ensure that nothing becomes compromised during the work from home period.
While allowing employees to use their personal devices is an option, they should first be vetted and put through the test to see if they are viable alternatives.
Additionally, if there is any additional training, employees should be made aware so that they can properly utilize the technology provided, and not do anything to potentially damage it during their time with it.
6. Ensure IT Services Are Available
One of the most important things that will have to be planned for in the event of having to have everyone work from home is how to handle any possible IT failures. In the event of a failure, your employees could be stranded at home if they do not have any way to get a fix for their computer or other devices.
Ensuring that your IT will be available is critical to this process. This works easiest if your IT is handled by a managed services provider, as they will have a help desk team that ought to be available to handle employee needs as they occur. Another benefit of managed services is that as they are already working remote much of the time, they are going to be able to quickly and efficiently adjust to your new needs.
This is beneficial as having on-site IT might not be viable for an effort at this scale. Especially if the team is small (or in some cases just a single person) they may not have the manpower needed for ensuring proper support can be provided.
Your IT should also help you with general setup and other technology needs along the way. Setting up laptops for employees is one example of this, but they may also have other solutions available that you may not have considered. Be sure to consult with them and take their advice into consideration.
7. Communicate with the Company
More than just setting up the communication protocols, it is important that employees know what is going on. Talk to them to discuss the nature of the situation, how it could impact the company, and why it is a team effort that must be taken to get through it.
An interruption like COVID-19 can be a stressful, scary time for people, and taking measures to create trust and empathy can help relieve some of that stress. Especially for small businesses who may be impacted adversely no matter what they do, keeping that morale high can help with bouncing back after the risk passes.
It is also important to understand and take into account that in this situation, keeping the channels open to talk about what is and isn’t working during these work from home days, or any other emergency protocols.
It is also important to consider and discuss that these changes may have a knock-on effect that is going to affect the company in the long term. Further policies may change as well as the way certain tasks are conducted and implemented. Some of these may even help improve the workplace, though it will take time to fully see how.
Coronavirus has forced businesses of all sizes to dramatically rethink much of their emergency plans. While the full scope of the virus’ infection has yet to be seen, it is critical to ensure that you and your company are able to remain flexible.
With careful planning and implementation, things can be a bit less chaotic, and you can create some solidarity to rely on, and ensure that your business as well as its employees are secure.