As companies risk collapse if the consequences of the pandemic are not correctly anticipated, business leaders have a role to play in awareness and prevention. They also must put in place proper contingency plans.
We have already seen organizations shut down their offices and companies suspend all types of activity. Several large-scale events have been cancelled or postponed and even some conferences, such as the Facebook F8 developer event, Google I/O and E3 – among many others, have also been cancelled.
So how do you prepare your company to face the new challenge?
Start by preventing and informing
Given that employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for employees, they should take some basic steps to help prevent the spread of the virus and keep employees healthy, providing hand sanitizer and hand washing stations, cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched objects and surfaces, to minimizing unnecessary meetings and allowing sick employees to work from home or take leave as appropriate. Now comes the internal communication part.
Employees will want to know the impact it could have on the organization and individual projects. Those who travel in their roles will want to know if a travel ban is likely. Others will want practical information, such as remote working options and policies.
Employers should provide their team with clear instructions on how to stay safe, but you also need to ensure not to add to the overall anxiety. If a company has a confirmed case in their workforce, they need to be able to communicate quickly to the rest of the team – they shouldn’t be learning about it through the media.
Once internal communication has been properly dealt with, time to switch to remote work.
Out of office but not out of work
“The crisis is a very, very big challenge to the society,” Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang told investors on a recent earnings call, but it also gives people a “chance to try a new way of living and new way of work.”
Remote work is here to stay, that’s true, but the Coronavirus is accelerating the transition. Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and several other large tech companies already told employees to start working from home.
Most startups are used to “working from home”, but many others are only now getting to grips with this dramatic change in their working patterns. Switching to a remote-work setup isn’t easy; it’s in fact quite challenging, for two main reasons:
- On the non-technical side, remote work is prone to interruptions and distraction, and sometimes gives a feeling of isolation and lack of human interaction.
- On the technical side, it does involve some communication challenges and there is a big eventuality of technical glitches.
Thus, deciding whether to encourage your team to work from home can be quite a challenge. You need to set the proper systems in place to support their work and keep everyone connected. Even with the right tools in place, leaders need to lead communication efforts. Remote-work success depends heavily on the way you support and enable your employees. Hold regular virtual team meetings, frequent check-ins, individual one-on-one’s if need be, send status updates, ask how you can help and remind the team you’re there for support. It will have a profound impact on their productivity and will keep them motivated.
Engaging and enabling employees through technology is critical for business leaders during what is becoming a major shift to remote work, especially now that the Coronavirus outbreak is becoming more widespread.
For the IT manager, the difficulty is to make the process as simple as possible, making most of the company’s applications accessible from the outside, without compromising security. What’s also risky for companies is exposing their VPN (virtual private network) by giving access to their employees to work from home, therefore authorizing foreign stations not controlled and not secured by the company, to connect to company networks. Another concern is the external management of the company’s landline numbers.
Seize Diversification Opportunities
It should not be a practice left on the shelves for rough times; it makes good business sense to diversify your offerings and have varied sources of revenue instead of solely depending on a linear business, which can be heavily impacted when there is any downturn.
Be prepared with a contingency plan
The best way to avoid a crisis is to prevent it
When a crisis is about to burst, rather than adopting ostrich-like behavior in the hope that it does not impact the business, a business leader must show foresight and perceptiveness to make sure that the intensity of emotions and overall panic does not obstruct the decision-making process. This is one of the principles that allows certain organizations to stand out by transforming a seemingly insurmountable obstacle into a real springboard.
Make a list of potential crises. Try to imagine the worst outcome, at the worst time, and with the worst consequences for your organization. If you develop mechanisms to respond to this scenario, you will get through the next crisis.
TLDR: As Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, spreads around the world, business leaders have to think creatively to adapt to the evolving crisis.