With snap lockdowns becoming an ever-increasing part of operating a business, and no real end in sight for at least the foreseeable future, it’s important to have strategies in place to help minimise their impact on business. The shift to working from home has helped many businesses remain operational. However, there are also many factors to consider when determining how a business carries on during periods of lockdown, so it’s fundamental for business owners and managers to look at the following factors to support business as usual.
Do Employees Know How to Move to Remote Working?
Working remotely comes with its challenges. Even before the home environment, families and working in isolation are considered, employers need to ensure that workers have the basics in order to effectively complete their tasks while working from home. Developing a business continuity plan is critical as it contains all the information needed to keep businesses functioning during lockdown.
Employees require a certain level of technology to support working remotely whether it’s a computer, phone, internet access or software. Ensuring employees have the necessary equipment and systems to complete their tasks is the first step. Work stations should also be set up safely and ergonomically to protect the health and safety of employees.
The second is to establish a clear communications plan, and share it with all employees. How will workers communicate with colleagues while working remotely? How will they communicate with external customers? Providing clarification to the team on how to communicate with both internal and external stakeholders while working from home is critical. Any systems (i.e., email, instant messenger, phone) used to communicate should also be made available to workers, and appropriate training provided so that employees can utilise it well.
Use Past Lockdowns as a Learning Tool
By now, the majority of Australian businesses have experienced some form of lockdown since the start of the pandemic. When managing a business during previous lockdowns, what was successful? What aspects of the business struggled? By looking at how well business continued to operate remotely during past periods of restrictions, necessary improvements can be made to address any areas of concern.
An effective way to determine this is to gather feedback from employees. How did workers adapt to the changing working conditions? Were there any aspects that employees really struggled with? Did communication continue effectively? Were targets met? Did employees have enough support to meet targets? By having open and honest conversations with employees, managers are better able to look at the whole picture when it comes to assessing the success of operating remotely.
It’s also important to stay up-to-date with employee personal details such as contact information, remote working equipment requirements and remote working environments. Do employees require additional resources in order to operate efficiently should another snap lockdown take place? This type of information is essential to ensure an easy transition from working at the office to working from home with minimal disruption to business.
What Skills are Needed More When Working Remotely?
It’s worth considering if there was another snap lockdown in the future, what changes could be implemented so that the business can continue to run well. During previous lockdowns, what skills were utilised the most? Did working remotely highlight a skills gap? Perhaps the team require further training using IT systems? Was the level of communication between workers sufficient to complete tasks at the required level?
Upskilling or cross-training is an effective way to not only provide employees with important skills and knowledge for their own professional development, but it assists the business as a whole during a lockdown. It is also beneficial in increasing employee engagement, leading to better performance and improved outcomes.
Consider the Challenges that Lockdown and Working from Home Can Bring
One of the most important factors to consider is the mental and emotional wellbeing of employees during lockdown. Levels of anxiety within the community are higher as a result of isolation and enforced restrictions, and this can cause significant distress to workers having to move to working from home. Having support systems in place is vital to ensure that managers can respond effectively to these types of issues.
Another consideration is the potential risk of increased family and domestic violence for remote workers. Employers should provide clear guidelines surrounding family and domestic violence in the way of policies and procedures and where possible, support alternative working arrangements so that workers who are at risk can perform their duties in a safe environment.
It’s important to continuously review policies which protect the health and safety of employees working remotely during lockdown, as the situation is always evolving in consideration of government announcements, the level of restrictions and each employees’ circumstances. Implementing a clear hazard and incident reporting system is a good place to start.
Staying up-to-date on the latest advice surrounding COVID-19 and how it is impacting business is now more important than ever. Get in touch with our team who can help your business navigate the increasingly changing landscape of business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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