Last week, almost 100,000 workers at 11 offices across the US have been advised to work at home by Alphabet, owner of Google, because of coronavirus – and that’s just been the start.
It’s an easy enough decision for companies who are well set up for agile working, with workspace management technology in place.
But what if your organization isn’t into agile working? What should you do?
As providers of workspace management technology, we’ve focused on this healthy and productive way of working for years – so there are our 5 best tips for success.
1. Don’t panic. Virtual communications have become such a big part of our daily lives (shopping, Facebook, twitter, helping with homework…) that moving to digital working from home is psychologically simple.
It’s not exactly business as usual, but it’s definitely do-able.
2. Assess practicalities. What devices will your people use for work at home? Do they have the functionality and bandwidth they need? Will some need to borrow equipment or need software updates? Decide your needs and run an audit.
3. Be secure. Not only humans get viruses. If you don’t have excellent protection for your key networks, it could be badly damaged by homeworkers perhaps accessing it via their own devices or unencrypted memory sticks.
Set up protocols and secure practices immediately, and make sure every member of staff is warned about how important it is to adhere to them.
4. Think wellbeing. Encourage every person to be coronavirus-aware, of course, but recognize that working from home can seem isolating and lonely. Use collaborative tools such as Skype to bring workers together virtually, and allow chatting.
Managers must catch up with each person at least once a day on an informal basis, but you should need to establish a formal process for communicating important info – use video or audio conferencing, emails, intranet postings and newsletters.
5. Monitor productivity. Many people find working from home boosts their productivity, but some will be prone to distraction (or simply keen to loaf).
Deal with this by setting clear and realistic deadlines for projects, and monitoring the outcomes.
Meanwhile, back at the office…
Coronavirus is taking a terrible toll on human life and global economies.
But as locked-down cities and even countries do their best to carry on, it’s creating a fresh opportunity to think deeply about how we use technology.
In China and the UK, for example, schools and universities are continuing their lessons and lectures online; even judo lessons are going ahead via Skype.
But if you still need your workers to visit the office – not all jobs can be done remotely – there are still ways to protect them.
Don’t allow your staff to travel to badly affected areas, of course, and cut down travel even within your own country. If you have video or audio conferencing facilities, make sure you encourage people to use them.
Tips for safety in the workplace
- All sick employees should stay away from the workplace.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene.
- Clean commonly touched surfaces should regularly.
- Appoint a leader in your workplace to support staff, and to share ideas that will work in the company, such as encouraging staff to use hand gels.
- Establish and deliver an infectious disease outbreak response plan and be ready to deal with your staff’s anxiety and misinformation.
The unexpected effect of coronavirus?
We don’t know how long the crisis will last, or even how it will play out.
But one thing’s for sure. In dealing with the virus and finding practical ways to carry on, we are learning valuable lessons globally about how we work.
In Japan, hardworked ‘salarymen’, who work very long hours, are finding unexpected benefits of being banned from their offices and spending more time at home.
As one told a newspaper this week: “I feel less stressed from not having to travel in a jam-packed train. I save time from not commuting so I can work an hour longer, and also have time for myself.” That says it all.
Could coronavirus, once it’s beaten, actually be welcoming in a whole new world of agile working? We really hope so – and in the meantime, be safe.
* Learn more about agile working and workplace management technology.