By Bob Sibik, SVP and co-founder, Fusion Risk Management
A healthy and available workforce is any business’s most valuable asset. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has already incapacitated some employees and resulted in others being quarantined. Many organisations have activated plans for operating with a remote force, while others are dealing with the changing and often growing number of employees self-isolating.
To protect your workforce and help ensure its continued productivity, it is important that businesses:
- Establish a strategy that enables employees to continue to function without endangering them.
- Ensure employees can effectively work from home. Do they have the right computer equipment and technology?
- Plan ahead for remote working that may last weeks, months or longer. Do employees have proper home office space, printers, scanners, computers, office furniture, telecommunication portals, etc.?
- Verify that the relevant tools, technology, capacity, and security measures are in place to support a large, remote workforce.
- Determine the cybersecurity strengths and weaknesses of local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) used by employees at home. Some ISPs are better than others. If security is found to be lacking, ask employees to switch providers – or work with the ISP to strengthen its security measures.
- Review HR policies to ensure employees will not be personally impacted if they must be quarantined for an extended period.
- Modify existing policies as appropriate to give greater flexibility to normal working arrangements.
- Decide business continuity priorities and have contingency plans in place for continuing operations of critical processes with minimum staffing requirements in the event of a significantly reduced workforce.
- Identify key employees and ensure other staff members have received appropriate training to comprehensively cover their absence.
- Create a communications plan that includes providing regular situation updates, along with actions taken, to your employees and other stakeholders.
- Establish a protocol for frequent interactions between employees and their managers, and strongly encourage the use of videoconferencing.
- Ensure employees know who to contact and how to get assistance when needed.
One of the most frequently asked questions today is, “When is the time to implement a remote force?” Here are some indicators that any business should monitor for:
- Statements, advisories, reports, and updates from local and national governments, as well as local and national NHS organisations. These are closest to the pandemic crisis.
What would be an indicator that things are returning to normal? Or, more likely, a “new normal”?
- National government begin lifting bans on social gatherings and allow restaurants and bars to open.
- Reported cases are trending downward.
- Employers and employees can safely return to their normal workspaces.
- Financial markets stabilise and investor confidence returns.
- Manufacturing companies begin to meet production targets again.
- Retail companies find supply chains are back to meeting demand, and sales are returning to normal.
While businesses are evaluating their strategies and plans, they should also assess the tools they are using to maintain relevant information and assist in the execution of their plans. Old technologies and obsolete tools will put execution of even the best plans at risk. Organisations should identify any deficiencies in the tools available to them and create a comprehensive list of requirements to enhance their ability to execute as soon as possible.
The sooner you begin to upgrade your tool set, the sooner you will be able to reduce your execution risk.