The Italian government announced closure of all schools and Universities from 5th – 15th March 2020 in a bid to slow the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
UK schools are discussing ways to minimise disruption to learning and exams, by looking at ‘virtual education’ options.
If the UK and other countries follow Italy’s lead, the impact on a workforce with school age children will be felt acutely.
Remote working and flexible work options won’t be a ‘nice-to-have’ but a necessity.
Here at Guild we have a distributed workforce of both parents and non-parents. Remote working here is the norm.
But what if remote working isn’t in place?
And what if you are a small business, where there aren’t mega-budgets, resources or time to create a remote working ‘tech-stack’?
Here are some helpful pointers to help you quickly adapt to a different way of working:
Get your internal communications right around Coronavirus
Clear and factual communications in the workplace vs. hearsay and disinformation in times of crisis is critical. It is important to get on the front foot, establish clear communications and a ‘single source of truth’.
Businesses must determine who sends information about the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) to employees, through which channels and what the message is.
Whether it’s the Managing Director, Office Manager, HR or your PR team, the information you share about Coronavirus and your company policies must be factual, simple and clear.
Communications expert Stephen Waddington wrote an overview about fact-based Coronavirus resources to help those responsible for developing employee policies and communications around the virus.
Email is the obvious channel of communication for most organisations and many have already sent emails aligning company working policies to NHS advice.
Be prepared for remote working
Regardless of the policy on schools, people with symptoms associated with Coronavirus (COVID-19) have been advised to self-isolate.
That period can last up to 14 days. It is important to think about ways of working if your employees cannot come in to the office or workplace, but are well enough to work.
If you haven’t done so already, create a set of basic principles around how to get the most when teams work from home, that include the following elements:
Availability - agree when employees should be available. For example, this can be around your core operational hours (e.g. 9am – 5pm) or you may allow staff to set their own schedules, as long as productivity remains high.
Responsiveness - you may wish to consider providing guidance on responsiveness to emails, messages etc. At Guild we don’t have this, but we do have simple rules about where team, suppliers and partner conversations happen. We use Guild for messaging, instant response and workplace chat and then move to email if instructions and actions need to be codified for partners and suppliers.
Collaboration – teams will need to convene if working remotely for any prolonged period and you may also have to provide specific instructions to ensure collaboration between individuals and teams is smooth. You may have to decide on something like ‘a weekly 30 min catch up via videoconference on Monday 9.30 – 10.00am’, state expectations such as ‘ensure your personal schedule is kept up to date’ ‘keep CRM up to date with sales contacts daily,’ or determine channels of communications, e.g. ‘use messaging for work chat, email for specific actions’.
Productivity – at Guild we don’t have productivity measures, but we do have team KPIs or Key Performance Indicators that measure the outcome of our work vs. the number of hours that we work or our outputs. It’s worth considering how you may need to adapt measures of productivity if your workforce is remote.
Technical Support, Security and Equipment - think about suitable equipment and connectivity for remote workers. If you don’t already have a secure network, you will need to address. You should also create employee guidance around using secure Wi-Fi connections. For example, many large organisations do not allow employees to use free WI-FI in public spaces such as cafes to access work emails. IT support will need to adapt to requests from workers in their homes and involved when adapting any IT policies and processes.
Client confidentiality – this may be less of an issue when employees are working privately from home, but do ensure that all employees are reminded about client confidentiality. Consider providing advice around sensitive business calls or looking at private information in public spaces such as cafés on laptops.
Ensure that you have the right blend of remote working technologies
Some organisations will have workplace collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Slack or Yammer in place already.
For others, such as small to medium size businesses, this may the time to think longer term about technology solutions for remote working.
But what if budget and time hasn’t been allocated for this?
The good news is that there are many free and low cost remote working tools available that can make many work tasks and collaboration significantly easier. Many of these can be set up in minutes rather than days.
Use free and low cost remote working and team collaboration technologies
These 3 remote working and productivity tools can be set up in a matter of minutes. They are broadly called ‘Freemium Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) Apps’.
That means for small teams looking for basic features, they are totally free.
If you need more features and more users, then charging structures are very reasonable and scalable.
Trello – for project management
Trello is a simple project management tool for colleagues and collaborators . This app and web-based platform is like a virtual to-do list or ‘vision board’. Trello has lists and drag and drop cards to set and organise tasks for individuals, connect them to calendars, show what is in progress and when tasks are completed.
Join.me- for screen sharing, audio and video meetings and presentations
Join.me is a video and audio conferencing tool that makes online team meetings. It’s simple and quick to set up if you need to run an urgent meeting or share something from your screen with others. It’s also a brilliant tool for meetings with clients/prospects, presentations, interviews, and running training sessions.
Guild - for professional messaging and collaborative communities
Guild is a browser based and mobile GDPR compliant professional messaging app with the ease-of-use of consumer messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram, but with the privacy, security, control, measurement and regulatory compliance necessary for business use.
Guild is great for building private messaging groups of small or large virtual teams of employees (and external collaborators). It can be set up and used in a matter of minutes. Guild has a much more simple interface than workflow collaboration tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, and users can pick it up and use it quickly. See How to use Guild for remote working for more.
We use all 3 of these tools at Guild and there are many more organisations that love the simplicity of Trello, Join.me and Guild to keep remote and dispersed workforces connected, collaborating and productive in a safe and private way.
Stay informed and stay safe
Hopefully, the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) will be contained and the impact on schools, public services and the workplace will be minimal.
Meanwhile, ensure that you and your employees stay up to date using official sources of information, such as this from World Health Organization.
And do stay safe!
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Join us on a platform that is purpose-built for professionals and businesses.
- Just want to join some groups? Simply join Guild and then look through the discoverable groups and communities to find relevant ones to join
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