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.
It’s not too hard a decision for companies who are well set up for agile working, with workspace management technology in place.
But what if your company isn’t already into agile working? What should you do?
As providers of workspace management technology, we’ve been focused on this productive and healthy way of working for years – so these are our 5 best tips for success.
1. Don’t panic. The virtual world has become such a big part of our daily lives (shopping, Facebook, twitter, helping with homework…) that making the transition to digital working from home is psychologically simple.
It won’t exactly be business as usual, but it’s definitely do-able.
2. Assess practicalities. What devices will your people work on? Do they have the necessary functionality and bandwidth? Will some need to borrow equipment or need software updates? Decide your requirements and run an audit.
3. Be secure. It’s not only humans who get viruses. If you don’t have good protection for your key networks, it won’t be helped by homeworkers perhaps accessing it via their own devices, or using unencrypted memory sticks.
Set up protocols and secure practices immediately, and make sure every member of staff is aware of how important it is to stick to them.
4. Think wellbeing. Encourage everyone to be coronavirus-aware, of course, but be aware that working from home can feel isolating and lonely. Use collaborative tools such as Skype to bring workers together virtually, and allow chat time.
Managers should catch up with each person at least once a day on an informal basis, but also you should establish a formal process for communicating important information – you could use video or audio conferencing, emails, intranet postings and newsletters.
5. Monitor productivity. Many people find working from home makes them more productive, but there are others will be prone to distraction (or simply keen to loaf).
Deal with this by setting clear and realistic deadlines for projects, and monitoring outcomes.
And back at the office…
There’s no doubt that coronavirus is taking a terrible toll on human life and global economies.
But as locked-down cities and even countries do their best to get by it is creating a fresh opportunity to think again about how we use technology.
In China, for example, students locked out of their schools are continuing their lessons online; even judo lessons are going ahead via Skype.
But if you still need your workers to come in to the office – not all jobs can be done remotely – there are still ways to protect your workers.
Obviously, you should not allow your staff to travel to badly affected areas, but it also makes sense to cut down travel even within your own country – so if you have video or audio conferencing facilities available, make sure you encourage people to use them.”
Tips for safety in the workplace
- All sick employees should stay home and away from the workplace.
- Respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene should be encouraged.
- Routine cleaning of commonly touched surfaces should be performed regularly.
- Appoint a leader in your workplace with responsibility 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, rumours, and misinformation.
The unexpected effect of coronavirus?
We don’t know how long the coronavirus crisis will last, or even how bad it will be.
But one thing is for sure. In dealing with it and finding practical ways to carry on, we’re learning valuable lessons about how to work.
In Japan, hardworking ‘salarymen’, used to working very long hours, are finding unexpected benefits of being banned from their offices and spending more time with their families at home.
As one told The Times 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.” Says it all, really.
Could coronavirus, once beaten, actually be ushering in a whole new world of agile working? We sincerely hope so – and in the meantime, be safe.