Businesses of all sizes and types have struggled to weather the adverse impact of the ongoing pandemic. Companies that had prior experience in managing remote workers were quick to implement work-from-home (WFH) policies for their workforces. Other businesses that were firmly tethered to physical offices had to run remote work experiments on short notice.
Amidst the largest work from home shift, wherein the barriers between professional and personal lives have been removed and cross-functional teams of professionals have to collaborate virtually, many lessons have been learned on remote work and crisis management.
Some of these lessons are helpful in current times and others will remain relevant even when COVID-19 is history.
Here in this post, we will discuss some of the most important lessons learned on remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
INVEST IN IT INFRASTRUCTURE
Whether you can go remote, and how effectively you can do it, depends on the IT infrastructure you have. Businesses that had already invested in IT networks, cloud services, etc. were able to ensure business continuity during the lockdown and stay-at-home orders. Others learned this lesson the hard way.
‘Data security’ should naturally be a major consideration for any organization that needs its employees to work off-site during or after the current crisis.
Though government agencies and private companies have not released the figures yet, instances of targeted cyber attacks, data theft, phishing emails, and spam activity are likely to have increased during this crisis when millions of people with little or no training on data security are connected to the internet via unprotected networks.
It essentially means that you need to update your IT practices and train your workforce on how to protect themselves and the company data when they work remotely.
From basic user password management and file-sharing protocols to the implementation of well thought out security policies, companies may also consider investing in IT security accreditation.
For business organizations, the time is right to invest in IT infrastructure. It is possible that in the post-COVID-19 world, businesses permanently make remote work a part of their working style.
In 2019, a Google study claimed that while office technology does have certain limitations, remote workers performed just as well as those who were together in an office.
CENTRALIZE RESOURCES YOU NEED THE MOST
Whether business organizations had a few dozen or hundreds of employees working remotely, an important realization dawned upon them that having a central repository for all important documents, procedures, tools, software, shared resources, etc. is not something nice-to-have but a must-have in the age of information.
Team members who stumble upon different versions of important documents or have to struggle with obsolete software cannot be expected to be highly productive in a remote work environment.
BE CONSIDERATE OF THE CHALLENGES WORKERS MAY BE FACING
The remote work experience is not going to be the same for everyone.
Due to school and daycare center closures, many of your employees may have to devote time to look after kids at home during the work shift.
Some of your employees may also have sick or elderly family members. Others may not have a cozy and isolated work area.
Some people may even be stressed out due to salary cuts, fear of job loss, prolonged social isolation, existing mental health issues, etc. These are some of the major concerns that HR leaders need to address during the pandemic.
So organizations need to be considerate of such challenges that workers may be facing during the pandemic. HR departments, in particular, need to ponder upon such considerations.
For instance, employees working from home cannot be expected to be available for a conference call or review session at any time of the day.
ENCOURAGE PEER-TO-PEER INTERACTIONS
Team managers may need to individually check-in with all members on a daily basis to ensure everyone has the resources or inputs they need to do something productive.
Peer-to-peer interactions must be encouraged in a remote work environment.
There should be a clear set of protocols on when and how team members can update each other when a task is allotted, completed, or deliberated upon.
Even if a team member cannot immediately respond to a message on a collaboration tool or instant messenger, virtual check-ins still go a long way in increasing productivity.
MANAGEMENT AND HR MUST COMMUNICATE PROACTIVELY
Communication from the top management or HR leaders within an organization can have a serious impact on how employees respond to a crisis situation.
Even as businesses lay off workers, announce salary cuts, or plan for the eventual return of employees to workplaces amidst the pandemic, it is important to convey the right message to everyone.
Workers will almost certainly expect clarity on whether their employer has implemented necessary workplace controls to protect everyone from the novel Coronavirus.
STAY AGILE AND EXPECT SURPRISES
You can’t be sure when this crisis will be over. By the time the world moves past the pandemic, there may have been lasting effects on your organization’s bottom line and business operations.
The industry, market, and economy may also have undergone various changes by then. Put simply, you should expect surprises and remain flexible.
Businesses must think of ways to remain agile so as to maintain business continuity in the long term.
It is possible that many large-scale organizations will continue to have hundreds or thousands of their employees working remotely in the post-COVID-19 era in order to cut costs.