We have all been watching the news as the Corona Virus, or COVID-19, has swept across the globe, showing no respect for borders or oceans. Every day you hear about large companies considering implementing their “work from home” contingency plan. My question for you is: If this truly becomes a real pandemic, is your business ready?
Since 2008, Remote Office Consulting, LLC has been preparing for an event such as the one the world is now facing. Due to other priorities, the majority of organizations have not spent the time and resources necessary to be ready to continue doing business during a possible quarantine situation.
Although it may be difficult to create a thorough remote workforce plan at this late date, the purpose of this article is to help all companies do what is needed to deal with this serious threat to not only our health, but the stability of many businesses.
Don’t delay! The following steps should be followed as you create your plan that will allow some of your employees to work from home and sustain core business operations.
1. Classify your job descriptions. Review each of your job descriptions and place them in one of the following categories:
- 100% Remote compatible – Almost every aspect of this person’s job can be performed away from a central office.
- 50% Remote compatible – Some of the tasks completed by this person can be performed at home and some can not.
- Not remote compatible – There are very few aspects of the job that can’t be performed from home. Manufacturing positions would be an example of jobs that can’t be performed away from the plant or central office.
2. Identify mission critical tasks. Review the work being done in broad categories and divide into the following groups:
- Mission Critical. These tasks are either required by law or so important that the main business would stop functioning if this was not completed. Some tasks fall into this category because they play a role in the safety of your employees or customers.
- Important. May not shut the business down, but failure to complete these tasks will have ripple effects throughout the company. For tasks in this category, you should also document how long they could be skipped before creating a major impact on the business.
- Non-Essential. There are many tasks that under normal circumstances are required to run a business and make wise decisions, but during an emergency can be delayed or skipped entirely. These tasks may include some of the reporting that is done, or tasks like replenishing inventory. For these items, as in the “Important” category, document how long you could go without performing this task before it would switch into one of the other categories. It is important to temporarily suspend these activities to reduce the workload and overall stress in your company. One common leadership error is to expect all tasks to be completed as normal, but by a sub-set of the employees.
3. Inventory of your Remote Office Readiness. For those employees who perform jobs that you consider mission critical or important and are at least partially compatible with remote offices, perform a quick inventory to include items such as:
- High speed internet access
- Access to an acceptable home computer or a laptop
- Suitable home office for at least temporary use
- Access to critical computer systems, including remote access to the company network through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or other access method. (This should be tested from the home location.)
- Up to date emergency contact sheet containing home phone numbers, cell phone numbers, and alternate email addresses.
- Ability to back up data if the work is not performed on a central server.
4. Task Prioritization and Assignment. For those tasks that fall into the Mission Critical or Important categories, consider those employees who are able to work remotely, and assign these tasks to the workers.
5. Supervisory Plan. Especially if having remote employees is foreign to your company, create a plan to provide supervision for the employees who are no longer working at the central office. This should include setting expectations for responding to emails and phone calls. You should also have a plan for submitting completed work if the data is not stored on a central server.
6. Collaboration Tools. There are several products, such as GoToMeeting, Google Docs, Zoom, Teams, and others that can be purchased and quickly configured. These tools provide a way to share documents and view the screen of your fellow team members.
The key to a good Remote Workforce Plan is communication. Setting clear expectations for all employees and remaining calm during an emergency are both important.
If your organization is interested in creating a more thorough plan, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope that the Corona Virus comes and goes with minimal impact to each of you, but taking steps today can save your business tomorrow.