Tata Motors in India has ordered all of its office-based staff to work from home because of COVID-19 – and that’s just been the start as the virus strengthens its grip around the world.
It’s not a difficult workspace management technology for companies that already have agile working policies in place.
But what if your organization isn’t set up for remote working? What should you do?
As providers of workspace management technology, we’ve watched and supported the development of this healthy and productive way of working for many years – and we’ve compiled our 5 best tips for success.
1. Don’t panic. Virtual communications are a huge part of our daily lives now (Facebook, twitter, helping with the homework…) so moving to digital working from home is psychologically fairly simple for man people.
So it’s not what you’d call business as usual, but it’s definitely do-able.
2. Assess the practicalities. What devices will your staff be able use while working at home? Do they have the functionality and internet bandwidth they require or a quiet space to work? Will some of them need to borrow equipment or be given software updates? Decide your needs and run an audit.
3. Be secure. Not only human beings get viruses, of course. If you don’t have robust protection for your key networks, they could be damaged by homeworkers accessing them via contaminated devices or unencrypted memory sticks.
Set up strong protocols and secure practices straight away, and make sure every member of your staff is warned about how important it is to stick to them.
4. Think wellbeing. Encourage every person to be coronavirus-safe, of course, but recognize that working from home can also become isolating and lonely. Use collaborative tools such as Skype to bring your workers together virtually, and also let them chat.
Your managers will need to check in with each person at least once a day informally, but you should also establish a formal process for communicating important updates – use video or audio conferencing, emails, intranet posts and newsletters.
5. Monitor productivity. Many people discover that working from home actually boosts their productivity, but there are some who will fall prey to distraction (or be simply keen to loaf).
Deal with this by setting clear, realistic deadlines for the projects they are working on, and monitor all outcomes.
Meanwhile, back at the office…
COVID-19 is taking a hideous toll on human life and global economies.
But as locked-down cities and countries do their utmost to carry on, it’s also forcing us into a fresh opportunity to think deeply about how we use technology.
In China and the UK, for example, universities and schools are teaching online; even judo lessons are going ahead via Skype.
But if you do need your workers to come along to the office – not all jobs can be done in an agile manner – there are still ways you can protect them.
Don’t allow people to travel to badly affected areas, of course, and cut down travel even when it is closer to home. If you have video or audio conferencing, encourage people to use them as much as possible.
Tips for safety in the workplace
- All ill employees should stay away from the workplace until they recover.
- Encourage good respiratory manners and hand hygiene.
- Clean all frequently touched surfaces regularly.
- Appoint a leader in your workplace to support staff, and share ideas that will work, such as encouraging the use of hand gels.
- Establish an infectious disease outbreak response plan and be ready to deal with staff anxiety and potential misinformation.
The unexpected effect of coronavirus?
We don’t know how long the crisis will go on, or even how serious it will become.
But one thing is for certain. In dealing with COVID-19 and finding practical ways to keep business moving, we are learning impressive lessons about the way we work.
In Japan, hardworking ‘salarymen’, accustomed to long hours, are discovering unexpected benefits from being locked out of their offices and spending more time at home with their families.
As one told a UK newspaper: “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 everything about agile working.
Could COVID-19, once it’s vanquished, actually usher in a whole new world of agile working? We really hope so – and in the meantime, please do your utmost to be safe.
* Learn more about agile working and workplace management technology.