What’s Your Company’s Emergency Remote-Work Plan?

March 06, 2020

What’s Your Company’s Emergency Remote-Work Plan?

unsplash-logo Roberto Nickson

 

At the end of February, early March 2020, the coronavirus (or Covid-19) took a more serious turn in Korea, Italy, Spain, UK and the U.S. with warnings that it could very well impact how, when, and where we work:

“Disruption to everyday life may be severe,” Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, cautioned at a news conference. “Schools could be closed, mass public gatherings suspended, and businesses forced to have employees work remotely.”

The global spread of the virus may be a moment that reveals whether employers are ready to respond rapidly to unexpected workplace changes. Business travel could decrease or come to a full stop. More employees may need to work outside of local “business hours” and use video conferencing to operate across time zones. And, if it gets bad enough, many could indeed be asked, or request, to work remotely.

Are organisations ready? Chances are probably not. But even for those open to rethinking how the work would get done, are they ready for the inevitable post-crisis question: “Why don’t we do this all the time?”

How do you prepare your organisation to not only flexibly respond to this potential disruption, but also to use it as an opportunity to reimagine work broadly? Here are five steps to get started:

Acknowledge the possibility that all or part of your workforce may need to work remotely.

Hoping and praying it doesn’t happen, or simply ignoring it, is not a strategy. Neither is handing everyone a laptop and saying “Go work someplace else” on the day they expand wide-scale quarantines. Plan as if the only way to remain operational will be for as many employees as possible to work remotely. Gather a cross-functional team together now that includes business-line leaders, IT, HR, communications, and facilities to start to plan for different scenarios and optimize execution, should circumstances require a rapid response.

Map out jobs and tasks that could be affected.

Note which roles and duties: 1) Can be done, even partially, without a physical presence in the workplace, 2) Cannot be done, even somewhat, outside of the physical office, and 3) Not sure.

Challenge any potentially inaccurate default assumptions about specific jobs you may have thought couldn’t be done remotely. And for those in the “not sure” column, be willing to experiment. For example, for years, I’ve been told, “Administrative assistants can’t work flexibly.” And, for years, I’ve worked with teams of administrative assistants to prove that is not true. Yes, certain tasks they complete require physical presence, but those can be planned for. The majority of their tasks can happen effectively outside of the traditional model of work and benefit the business.

Audit available IT hardware and software, and close any gaps in access and adoption. 

Assess the comfort level with specific applications, such as video conferencing and other collaboration/communication platforms. Where you find gaps, provide training and opportunities for practice before people need to use them. Real-time mastery is not optimal and is inefficient. Identify devices owned by the organisation that people could use and clarify acceptable “bring your own” phone and laptop options. Determine if there are any data-security issues to consider and how best to address them beforehand.

Set up a communications protocol in advance.

This communications plan needs to outline: how to reach everybody (e.g., all contact information in one place (i.e. HubSpot CRM), primary communication channels clarified — email, Asana, Slack, Zoom etc.); how employees are expected to respond to customers; and how and when teams will coordinate and meet.  

Identify ways to measure performance that could inform broader change.

After the flexible response period is over, this data will allow you to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and why. The data will also prepare you in advance to answer the inevitable question once the crisis has passed, “Why don’t we do this all the time?” Depending upon the outcomes, you may decide to continue certain aspects of the flexible response permanently. For example, perhaps you cut business travel by 25% and substitute video conferencing. You determine afterwards that about 80% of those meetings were equally as effective virtually. Therefore, a 20% decrease in business travel will continue, but this time as part of the organisation’s sustainability strategy to cut carbon emissions.

Global health emergencies, like Covid-19, are scary, disruptive, and confusing for everyone. And if you plan and nothing happens? Then, at minimum, you have an organised, flexible work disaster response ready the next time there’s a challenge to operational continuity, which chances are, there will be.

 

CLICK HERE - if you're interested in speaking with a consultant about how you can prepare your organisation to not only flexibly respond to this potential disruption, but also to use it as an opportunity to reimagine work broadly? 

 

This article was originally written by Cali Williams Yost, CEO and founder of Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, is the author of Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every DayFull credit goes to HBR, who published this article earlier this year. This article has been reprinted for the purpose of education.

If you enjoyed this article then why not sign up to our mailing list to gain access to high-quality content and exclusive offers.





Also in Portal's Daily Dose

Best Practices for Instant Messaging at Work
Best Practices for Instant Messaging at Work

April 04, 2020

“I’ll Slack you.” In workplaces around the world, the name of the popular online messaging system has become a verb, just like Google. Slack has been enthusiastically integrated into the day-to-day functions of legacy corporations and burgeoning startups: The company claims that, in 2019, it hosted 10+ million daily users.

Continue Reading

Virtual Meetings Don’t Have to Be a Bore
Virtual Meetings Don’t Have to Be a Bore

March 27, 2020

Those of us who present, facilitate, and teach for a living understand the importance of developing a personal connection with an audience. It’s critical to be and feel natural; to make people laugh, feel at ease, and fully engage — and perhaps even lose themselves — in the content you’re delivering. 

Continue Reading

A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers
A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers

March 20, 2020

In response to the uncertainties presented by Covid-19, many companies and universities have asked their employees to work remotely. While Millions of people report that they work remotely around the world, the new policies leave many employees — and their managers — working out of the office and separated from each other for the first time.

Continue Reading