Written by Hiam Sakakini
All the news around COVID-19 can become quite overwhelming. And while the potential consequences may look dire, it’s important to keep a level head. Now may be a true test of the abilities of a company’s executive and their management. It’s times like this where good decision making is vital, and a true test of a company’s leadership. As always, communication is key.
Where to start?
Obviously people’s wellbeing is everyone’s primary concern. However, there are a number of obligations governments have set forth to deal with the pandemic and it’s important to understand these.
Check you are abiding by these guidelines. A simple Google search for your city, state, or country’s government guidelines should yield the information you need.
Generally, the guidelines share common, and common sense advice, briefly:
- Ensure any measures are communicated clearly to your team
- Make sure hand sanitiser is readily available and employees have access to adequate washing facilities, and actively promote good hygiene
- Identify any high risk activities and avoid those activities if non-essential, or take precautions to limit risk
- Any employees that have come into contact with anyone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19, or recently returned from overseas, must remain isolated at home
- Any employees displaying any symptoms or feeling unwell should be sent home or asked not to come into the workplace
Working From Home
Is there anything that hasn’t already been said about this on social media, including Linkedin?
Opinions range from, it’s the dawn of a new era, to it should be business-as-usual, just from home. For most businesses the reality is likely in between, but there are a few important measures you should take to ensure any employees undertaking work from home can do so smoothly and impact is minimised.
Communication and Planning
Communication! Clear and concise communication is absolutely imperative. Ensure any employees working from home understand their obligations and their managers are communicating effectively and routinely with them
Implement any technology changes or upgrades that required as soon as possible. Ensure all technology is in place and supported to make working from home as seamless and efficient as possible.
– Virtual Meetings and Conferences
Choose a virtual meeting software. It seems the most common piece to use at the moment is Zoom, which has scalable plans. If you already have Google Enterprise suite, you should be ok as this includes Hangouts for meetings. Other software/cloud providers generally have their own virtual meeting applications, such as Microsoft Teams, or Adobe Connect.
– Cloud Access and Adequate Data
Create cloud access for all work needs. Almost all major software comes with cloud access these days. If you’re unsure, contact your vendor. Having said that, if they don’t come with cloud access… it’s time to change! Here are a few of the most common, and unsurprisingly best cloud providers: Google, Microsoft, IBM. Ensure you have adequate data plans for any devices and access you provide to employees.
– Collaboration and Project management Tools
Collaboration! There are a myriad of collaboration tools available, many are already incredibly popular with businesses who often engage contract workers to work from home, most notable is Slack (which also has online conferencing capabilities). Project management tools such as Asana, Trello, Airtable and Basecamp also make collaboration easy whilst tracking projects, allowing for different levels of access and oversight.
Positive Working Culture and Mental health
Finally, it’s important to ensure your workforce is staying mentally healthy if you want to maintain productivity levels. Whilst the news can be occasionally overwhelming, some people may find working from home difficult initially, and there are ways to combat the feeling of isolation and disruption to your employee’s routines:
- Help your team develop routines for working from home
- Schedule regular check-ins with your team to ensure they are tracking well. This may seem obvious but removing regular workplace interactions can mean simple things that are normally communicated may not be in a work from home situation
- Virtual team lunches are a great way to help provide an alternative to work socialisation
- Employees themselves can do simple things to adjust to the new environment, getting ready as they normally would for a work day including dressing appropriately for work can make a huge difference to efficiency, and assist in creating a routine whilst still at home
- If any of your team are struggling and your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), provide them with all the relevant information and help them feel empowered to use it
Be prepared to help your staff through this time.
Whilst it is impossible to avoid all negative impacts that result from the COVID-19 pandemic, the businesses that will come out of the situation best are those that take swift, decisive action, implement plans, and communicate clearly and regularly. We’re all uncertain and that’s ok.
Leaders that listen and can empathise that can make decisions best for a business and its people will come out on top!