Your business is looking forward to employees returning to the office and going back to normal life. Yet, many states are still dealing with rising COVID-19 infection and death rates (as of July 2020). Also, healthcare experts worry that a second wave of infection can happen. Therefore, your business must have the flexibility to work through uncertainty and disruptions.
According to the consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles, six forces are influencing the workplace due to COVID-19:
Consequently, your business should consider the trends and risks within the forces when designing more flexible operations.
How are employees feeling about the situation?
Your business must consider different employee viewpoints on working from home. Some are anxious to get back to the office because they feel isolated at home, or their household members are driving them crazy. Others need to stay at home longer because they are taking care of a sick family member or do not have childcare options available. Or they want to stay at home longer because they can continue to stay productive, avoid congested commutes, and work flexible hours.
- Conduct an employee survey of their ability to return. Ask about their return date, daily schedule, childcare, sick household members, commuting, and any other concerns.
- Managers should schedule phone or video meetings with employees weekly to keep them motivated and reduce feelings of isolation.
- Review this blog for setting up a safe home network for accessing work tools.
- For employees that can complete their duties outside the office, add more remote days to their employment contract.
- Employees should schedule personal appointments that occur during business hours into their work calendars, such as homeschooling sessions, online gym classes, and doctor’s appointments. This helps managers schedule meetings during a time that is convenient for the employee.
- Evaluate employees based on output rather than hours spent in the office.
- Remind employees of wellness options available on the company’s healthcare plan including COVID-19 testing and video chat visits with physicians.
How will you use technology to stay productive?
State-mandated lockdowns forced many employees to work at home. However, some workers rely on outdated methods for fulfilling their duties such as physical paperwork, old equipment, locally installed tools, and in-person interactions. These businesses stuck with these methods because they believed they were still getting the job done. Also, they did not want to invest the money to upgrade technologies and train employees. However, if your company sends these employees home, they will not have the tools to get their work done.
- Run a business technology analysis to find inefficient tasks your company can digitize and automate. For example, some accounting departments use outdated employee time clock methods, such as punching cards into a time clock machine or filling out paper forms. These departments can switch to an online payroll system with a built-in time clock.
- Keep devices up to date and scan them with security software. For tablets and smartphones, you can support these devices by subscribing to a mobile device management plan.
- Review this blog for setting up your physical and virtual work-at-home space.
- Set up remote access tools such as Microsoft 365, Digital Workspaces, and VPN. Also, migrate your line of business software from locally installed to cloud versions.
- Adopt cloud communication tools such as Microsoft Teams. The platform combines phone, chat, video conference, and document sharing.
- Prepare home and office networks for extra Wi-Fi-enabled devices. In your office, we can set up a high-bandwidth solution with access to multiple internet service providers. For the home, we can recommend high-speed internet plans and routers powerful enough to handle the line of business applications.
- Take an inventory of equipment coming back into the office including laptops, hard drives, monitors, mice, headsets, and docking stations.
- Keep copies of important files, especially customer databases, accounting records, and intellectual properties. Your business can do this by subscribing to our Backup as a Service.
- Create a business continuity plan. If you already have one, expand it to include a pandemic response.
- Watch out for COVID-19-themed phishing emails. Review this blog for more information.
How does the new COVID-19 economy affect your ability to serve customers?
The restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 might be preventing your business from serving as many customers as before. It depends on your industry and the need to have a physical presence with customers. Also, your customers may not have the budget to spend on your products and services.
- Think about new ways you can serve your customers. Extend remote and self-service options when possible. For example, have customers request your services via phone, mobile app, or website. Also, offer contactless drop-off and pick-up of goods. Furthermore, try not to meet with customers in person unless your business is delivering an essential service.
- Provide extra services, consultations, and seminars via video conference if the format aligns with your business model. For example, gyms offered video classes to members working out at home.
- Arrange payment plans for customers that cannot pay their invoices because of COVID-19-related cash flow issues.
- Make sure to keep website software and plugins up to date, especially if it has e-commerce functions. Also, use a cloud web application firewall, such as Cloudflare or Sucuri.
- Stay in touch with customers through a variety of platforms including emails, surveys, website contact forms/live chat, and social media. For example, communicate how you will keep customers and employees safe from COVID-19. Also, if there is a second wave of infections, warn customers of any service delays due to factors such as employee absences and supply chain disruptions.
Environmental and Health
How can we keep employees and guests safe against the virus?
State and local governments allowed certain industries to reopen. However, the COVID-19 virus is still a concern with infection and death rates continuing to go up. Some employees may not feel safe going to the office. They need to feel your business is taking necessary precautions to keep them safe from the virus.
- Follow your state’s orders, especially for business openings, social distancing, and face coverings.
- Review industry-specific guidelines for reopening your businesses. These documents give details on creating a site-specific protection plan, training employees on limiting the virus spread, individual control measures, disinfection protocols, and social distance guidelines.
- Take temperatures with touchless thermometers.
- Consider a switch from an open space layout to cubicles.
- Supply disinfectant wipes and sanitizer around the office.
- Employees should wipe down their desks, keyboards, mice, monitors, phones, and any other frequently touched surfaces daily.
- Consider alternating days that employees come into the office.
- Replace large gatherings with video meetings.
- Revise your policy for visitors in the workplace, including health screening methods, the number of guests allowed at one time, and whether to allow in-person meetings.
- Tell employees to stay home if they have cold or flu symptoms.
- Hire a cleaning service to deep clean your office if any in-person employees test positive for COVID-19.
Political and Regulatory
How can regulations and politics affect your business operations?
The response to the COVID-19 crisis has taken a partisan turn. Your workers may have differing opinions about business openings, facial coverings, protests, and political figures. The expression of political opinions in the office could create productivity disruptions and an uncomfortable work environment.
- Review and revise employee policies to consider politics. For example:
- Remind employees that the company is monitoring their devices and web activities
- Limit political discussions in the workplace
- Employees should not wear or display political paraphernalia
- Do not conduct political activities using company time and resources
- Employees should not overshare on social media
- Investigate claims of harassment and discrimination because of political beliefs. You can review surveillance footage, emails, chat history, print job logs, and web activity for evidence.
- Warn employees to watch out for politically-themed phishing emails, fraudulent phone calls, and malicious text messages.
- Run email and web content filters on the network. Also, block time-wasting websites like Facebook and YouTube for employees spending too much time on those sites.
- Subscribe to our Security as a Service. The service includes network monitoring, intrusion protection, anti-virus, anti-malware, ransomware protection, spam filters, and anti-phishing solutions.
How can your business get and keep a competitive edge in the market?
COVID-19 created shortages of workers, services, and equipment. For example, when companies sent employees home to work, laptop orders spiked, and buyers experienced long waits for their devices. Also, critical employees became unavailable due to illness and childcare needs. Unfortunately, this situation also made their specialized skillsets unavailable. If your company can continue to access scarce resources throughout crisis periods, it can get a competitive edge against less prepared competitors and then steal away its customers.
- Plan for uncertain times by predicting different economic scenarios for the COVID-19 recovery. For example, your business can plan scenarios for COVID-19 containment happening within months, the next year, and two years from now. This helps company leaders predict drastic changes and make highly strategic decisions.
- Find ways to use technology to increase worker productivity, streamline operations, and deliver better customer service. For example, a new CRM program can help your business track customer activity including sales proposals, subscribed services, future service needs, and customer satisfaction.
- Ask SwiftTech to review IT expenses so your business can combine or cut unneeded services.
- To ensure your business can get high-demand equipment during a crisis, keep a list of alternative supply chains on hand. SwiftTech can help you get this equipment by using our IT vendor partnerships and volume discounts.
- Teach employees how to complete essential tasks in case the designated employee is absent. Employees should create instructions for these tasks and store them on a Wiki. Also, offer training through e-learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Udemy for Business, and Kajabi.
- When recruiting talent, expand your options by finding remote employees. Also, keep a list of freelancers you can hire on a project basis.
- Use business analytics software such as Power BI to combine data sources, track market activity, and forecast demand.