Published: April 08, 2020 | Comments
Global concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are prompting many businesses to have their people work from home, at least temporarily. For many businesses, this is the first foray into a distributed workforce environment.
Before thinking about the technologies you’ll need to make this all work, you should be writing (or revisiting) a work from home or telecommuting policy, and making sure your employees are aware of it. If you aren’t sure what should be in the policy, this SHRM post has a discussion of what you should be thinking about as well as a downloadable policy example you can modify to suit your organization and needs.
Gather some personal information from your employees
Along with writing policy, you need to have a sense of how well people will be able to work from home. In a recent discussion about call center workers during the ICMIchat twitter chat, more than one person mentioned that not all workers have a home environment that is suitable. Maybe they share a tiny apartment with roommates, for example, and depend on a local café for WiFi. Having these employees going out into a public space to use your internal systems is probably not the best idea even in the best of times, because they may expose confidential records to others, but it certainly cannot work during a health emergency.
Once you’ve established who can (or must) work from home and what the guidelines are, you should rapidly assess your technology needs. Obviously, workers need a way to access your systems from wherever they are, so either laptops or thin client computers must be provided, if they don’t already have them. Usage guidelines need to be clear, but without making the employees feel like either children or criminals. It should be clear that any equipment they use outside the office is a tool for work, and should be treated as such.
Have a communication plan
Especially now, as conditions surrounding the spread of infections are changing rapidly, your people need to stay informed. You should have regular communication with them, and be prepared to disseminate any urgent information rapidly and thoroughly. As one of the speakers on an HDI webinar on communication said, “Email doesn’t wake people up.”
Here are some questions you’ll need to be able to answer about getting messages out on short notice:
- Do you have primary and secondary phone numbers for the remote workers?
- Do you have the ability to do broadcast texts?
- Will you be able to tell who has received key messages and who has not?
- Do you have a fallback plan when the first method of communication fails?
The right tools and the right rules
As many companies and institutions already know, Work From Home can work out quite well if there are the right tools and the right rules in place, but everyone needs to know where the boundaries are, and it must be clear first and foremost that they are responsible for doing the work, just as they would be if they were in the office.
Keeping employees safe and healthy is critical to your business, just as it is to ours. We’re all in this together.