The Coronavirus (COVID-19) may be throwing your company into a completely unknown experience. This blog series has been created in the hope of helping businesses and employees overcome these obstacles.
Feel free to check out Part 1–which highlights effective remote work culture–and Part 2–where I provide tips on how to best support your team during remote work.
Going fully remote is a challenge, but it isn’t impossible–and there always will be room to improve no matter how long you have been remote-friendly. For example, do your in-office employees work from home when they’re on call? If so, touch base with them for first-hand ideas of how your company can strengthen its remote status. There are already plenty of areas in your company that you can pull from to support work from home success!
Here are some ideas you can use as inspiration to help along the way.
1.) Ask questions and take lots of notes
Every situation is unique and every person is different. While you’re checking in with your coworkers, or the employees you’re managing, take notes on the good, bad, and in between.
Documenting the upsides can be helpful to reinforce what’s going well, but it’ll also be a benefit in the future. You’ll be able to create more effective remote onboarding for employees or help someone out when they change work environments. It also tells you what approaches to keep when processes become stale and need an overhaul.
Noting any obstacles your team is facing helps in eliminating those stressors. Even if you don’t have a solution yet, or if you think the problem is too minor, still write it down so it’s easier to discuss with others who can help you come up with an answer or prevent a small issue from expanding.
With your collected data points–with everyone (hopefully) working remotely–you should be able to determine what’s working well and how to make the process smoother. Who knows, maybe your team can discover new strategies when it comes to adapting to a remote environment.
2.) Review your business continuity plan
With those notes, it’s a great time to review–or start developing–your business continuity plan. This plan is what you will use if any major event or disaster occurs in order to ensure your business stays up and running.
Here are a few strategies to consider during plan development:
What might trigger use of a business continuity plan, and who will be making that decision? Try to select more than one person, if possible.
Remote Work Prep
Include a description of everyday practices already in place that support remote work, and integrate training if necessary. Here at Hurricane Labs, we have our work from home when sick policy and an already-functional and secure VPN for remote access, for example.
Make sure your system administration team has well-documented procedures that they can follow and can adequately support your remote team–it’ll be a huge help in transitioning your non-remote staff over, should it be required again (let’s hope not!).
Identify priority job roles–including secondary support functions–that will be targeted for continuity, and address scheduling concerns to ensure adequate shift coverage. In our case, everyone is able to work from home almost immediately, but some companies may not be able to do this. Identify who on your teams needs to be up and running first and foremost.
Test, Test, Test
You’ll want to run a few test scenarios, which may have already taken place during the current situation with the Coronavirus. However, generally, continuing to have checkpoints and tests during non-crisis business operations is important.
Establish a restoration plan for returning to normalcy. This includes who will be making this decision, and what the expectations will be in order to restore the return to business as usual.
Constitute a statement on how often the business continuity plan is to be reviewed and by whom.
If you’re looking for more information to help you establish the steps of a business continuity plan, these sites will come in handy:
3.) Have an effective scheduling system in place
Now is a great time to test your scheduling system.
This could be a worst-case scenario to test your scheduling system. We hope it isn’t, but with family members potentially getting sick as well as your employees, it’s smart to make sure your scheduling needs remain flexible and to have a system in place making it easy for people to request days off and notify the team.
4.) Cross-train your staff
It’s easy to depend on a single person for a single task. There just isn’t time to train anyone!
Much like documentation, as we discussed in Part 2, cross-training will save time because others will be prepared to pick up tasks if someone is out sick or caring for a family member. It’s important to start cross-training as soon as possible–and while you are training, take note of any procedures or processes that aren’t clear, are difficult to remember, or need to be documented. When you’re training someone, that’s your chance to see where the gaps are in documentation based on their feedback.
5.) Create systems that keep everyone well-informed
You’re not going to be able to make every decision for everyone, but being on the same page is super important. This is also a good way to make sure you are not doing too much and are properly delegating decisions. Monthly newsletters, emails, or a website where employees can look to for guidance are all ways that you can keep everyone informed. Communicate detailed decisions from leadership so everyone can make appropriate decisions based on company objectives.
It’s not going to be perfect and that’s okay
Understand that everyone makes mistakes. This is not the time for harsh discipline, but instead a time for coaching employees, or teammates. When we’re nervous about something or it’s unfamiliar, the chances of messing up become more likely–especially if there’s heightened pressure from management.
With clear instructions and helpful guidance, we are more likely to remember difficult circumstances in a positive light.
The thing about it is, if we do a lot of this right, everyone can come out of this experience with more knowledge and confidence in their abilities for the future. I hope this helps you and your team, and stay safe everyone!