The novel coronavirus has created a novel new normal for the foreseeable future. Or as one major media outlet (CNN) declared in this headline:
“America’s way of life changes indefinitely”
As a research and intelligence agency and managed services provider, LAC Group gets work done whether it’s at the client’s workplace, our workplaces, or remotely. With that background, we’d like to share some ideas to help organizations with a more static work environment operate under this new normal in the coming weeks and months.
Travel restrictions and bans
Lockdowns and entry bans are in effect in some countries, and while domestic travel within the US and Canada remains unrestricted and airlines have adopted special cleaning and disinfecting practices, cancelling unnecessary travel is advised for the coming weeks. Social distancing is important, which means many companies, including LAC Group, are limiting travel to an as-needed, pre-approved basis through the end of March and into April.
Remote work considerations
Working remotely is not an option for all work roles or business functions, and some employees who can work from home may struggle. Yet wherever possible for the coming weeks, it is prudent to expand or implement at least a temporary remote work policy. This is especially important for employees with children, as many schools and daycare facilities are also closed, presenting an additional burden for working parents.
In addition, with other personal distractions, some people have difficulties adjusting to working from home. It’s important to implement structure and routines, which includes things like carving out space and time dedicated to work and keeping a manageable work schedule. Links to articles with helpful tips on working from home, including how to optimize internet connections, are included at the end of this article.
Communication, collaboration and project management
Make sure employees working remotely have the tools they need to be productive, including a secure and reliable internet connection. With many schools closed the coming weeks, child care may become a burden and shared resources like internet bandwidth could cause problems.
Communicating via phone, email and other web-based technologies will be even more critical. Employees working from home can feel isolated and lonely. Information will not flow as freely. If not already in place, consider giving employees access to tools like the following:
- LogMeIn produces technology for communication and collaboration, engagement and support, and identity and access. As the makers of GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar, the company has made available Emergency Remote Work Kits in response to the coronavirus. (Included in resource links below.)
- Google Hangouts is an easy option, especially for enterprise users of Google’s productivity apps.
- Microsoft Teams has added new features like real-time noise suppression to eliminate background sounds, a hand raising feature to signal when you have a question or comment and the ability to read chat messages and write responses without an internet connection.
- Zoom provides video conferencing with real-time messaging and content sharing and other communication solutions, including integrations with common business tools like Hubspot for marketing and Zendesk for customer service.
- Project management systems like Asana, Slack and Trello will keep teams organized when people are working from home by capturing and tracking responsibilities, priorities and progress.
Many subscription-based, cloud options that are easy to implement and use with little to no training can be found on software listing and review sites like Capterra.
Management and supervision
Some businesses have resisted remote work policies believing that employees working from home cannot be productive or managed as needed. However, data show that remote workers tend to put in more time and are often more productive. Success will require accountability, and also some give and take on both sides.
Be willing to show greater flexibility, within reasonable constraints. Make sure first-line managers and supervisors are prepared to keep open lines of communication with their teams and to monitor work progress. Details like specific hours or the time of day that work gets done shouldn’t matter. As long as deadlines, required hours of coverage, and other needs and expectations are met, unconventional schedules should be open to discussion and consideration.
In the office or other company workplace
For workers who need to do their job in a specific facility, ensuring workplace cleanliness and healthy employee behaviors and hygiene are now imperative. If your work locations are cleaned and maintained by an outside company, you may have already heard or will be hearing from the vendor about the extra steps and precautions they’re taking. If not, initiate the conversation.
In the meantime:
- Make sure everyone has access to, and regularly uses, surface wipes to disinfect their desks, keyboards, computer mouse, work phone and any other touchable objects or surfaces. According to sanitation experts, the surface must remain damp for a few minutes. Include smartphones in the mix. The recommendation for Apple and Android devices is to use microfiber cloth on the screens and backs, and Apple has announced that disinfectant wipes may be used on iPhones. Take care not to get them wet.
- Frequent and proper hand washing is important, using both water and soap and rubbing hands together for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer may be used when washing is not an option.
- Encourage and enforce any symptomatic employees to stay at home and contact their doctors for testing and guidance. If symptoms develop while at work, immediately isolate and send the individual home or arrange for medical attention.
- Limit gatherings and take extra precautions in shared spaces like cafeterias and break rooms. Also limit movement between floors, buildings or departments, relying on phone and email instead.
Business resilience and continuity
The novel coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic will be testing business resilience, continuity plans and leadership effectiveness. Just as individuals must hunker down and exercise caution, so too must organizations.
- Now is the time to review and update plans to anticipate new needs and new risks. Line up backup services and resources to ensure work will continue to get done in the event of your own staff disruptions or gaps.
- Ensure your clients are being serviced and keep them aware of any new procedures that may affect them.
- Monitor your financial situation and monitor all spending.
LAC Group has employees across the United States and Canada, including major metro areas and international hubs like Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC. Some of our employees working in Manhattan, both in our office and at client locations, have already reported fewer people on the city’s buses, trains and streets.
The work week starting Monday, March 16, is likely to see even fewer people and more social distancing during commutes, as well as more people wearing face masks, empty break rooms and cafeterias and more. What the world has learned already is that early containment is critical. “Flattening the curve” is key to slowing the spread of this contagion. We at LAC Group are doing all we can to support our employees, clients and prospective clients through vigilance, sharing reliable information, and making our research and other professional services available as needed.
Related coronavirus links
Remote work technology
- Capterra software reviews and comparisons
- Zoom remote work technology and Zoom App Marketplace
- Google Hangouts
- Microsoft Teams
- LogMeIn remote work technology and Emergency Remote Work Kits
Remote work policies
- Coronavirus may finally force businesses to adopt workplaces of the future (Fortune)
- Coronavirus: Best Practices for a Work From Home Policy (Property and casualty insurance company AmTrust Financial Services)
Tips for working from home
- 8 Tips To Make Working From Home Work For You (NPR website)
- How to Upgrade Your Home Wi-Fi and Get Faster Internet (Wired)
Reliable and current health information
- COVID-19 situation updates and resources (U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)
LAC Group services and interim business support