For over 10 years, we at Meetupcall have been helping organisations to work and host meetings remotely. Given the travel restrictions and work from home advice that we're now seeing from government's around the world, we've put a simple five-step guide together to help you plan for how your business would react should your employees be forced to work remotely.
We hope you find it useful. If you prefer, you can download a free PDF version of this guide here.
Burying your head in the sand and hoping that the coronavirus will just go away and not affect your business isn’t a viable option. Public Health England have already warned that widespread transmission of the virus is now highly likely, with worst-case scenarios showing that up to 80% of the UK population may contract Covid-19. Simply handing your employees a laptop and telling them to stay at home on the day of a quarantine isn’t going to work. You need to put a disaster plan in place now for such an eventuality.
Decide on how your business could remain operational should the office be closed tomorrow.
Gather a cross-functional team including line managers, IT, HR, operations, communications and any other departments or key stakeholders and start to plan for different scenarios. Decide who would need to do what should the situation require a rapid response.
Map out each employee or department’s job roles and tasks and group them in to one of the following categories…
a) Jobs and tasks which can be carried out, even partially, without a physical presence in the office
b) Jobs and tasks which cannot be carried out, even partially, away from the office premises
For any that fall in to the second group, challenge any assumptions that a particular role cannot be carried out at least in part remotely. With modern internet connections and 4G coverage alongside collaborative business tools such as Slack and Meetupcall it is rare that many tasks cannot be carried out in some capacity away from the office. Of course, certain jobs will always require a physical presence, but if these can be limited to as few tasks as possible then contingency plans can be put in place for these.
In order to work effectively from remote locations, it is more than likely that employees will require access to devices that can connect to the internet (as well as an internet connection). Laptops and mobile devices are the most obvious, however it may be that they would need desktop computers at their homes. Any data-security issues would need to be considered and addressed if employees are accessing the internet away from the office.
On the software front, there are many apps and collaboration tools out there that will help your employees to work remotely. If you haven’t already, consider rolling out an internal collaboration tool such as Slack to help your workforce keep in touch. For meetings, both internally and with external clients and customers, then a conference calling solution such as Meetupcall would help to replace physical meetings. Ensure your full workforce is trained up on these software tools and where any gaps are identified then provide training and opportunities for practise before staff need to use them.
One of the biggest challenges when working remotely is keeping the whole business in contact with one another. It is vital that you decide on how everyone can keep in contact and choose your preferred communication channels. For example, you may request that everyone sends daily email updates. If you do implement an internal communication tool such as Slack then you could set up dedicated channels for each department to keep in touch. Other options may be WhatsApp groups or other instant messenger options.
In addition to internal communications, you will need to decide how you communicate with customers and clients, and how and when teams will coordinate and hold meetings. For this, a conference call provider such as Meetupcall would work well, enabling you to hold remote meetings whilst using features such as screenshare to help your teams collaborate.
Once the remote working period is over and employees can begin to return to the office, it would be extremely valuable to reflect on the period and review what worked, and what didn’t.
As well as helping you to be better prepared for any similar situations that could arise in the future, you may find yourself asking the question “Why don’t we work like this all the time?”.
Depending on the outcome of your review, you may decide to implement some aspects of the remote working period permanently. For example, if you found that conference calling worked well in replacing physical meetings then you might decide to replace some of your business meetings with conference calls. In doing so, you could help to reduce your companies’ business travel – something which may form part of a wider business strategy for cutting carbon emissions.
As well as the obvious panic that global health emergencies like the coronavirus can cause amongst the public, the disruption that they cause to businesses can often be overlooked. However, by ensuring that you have a robust disaster plan in place then you can help to mitigate the impact that Covid-19 could have on your business.