With state-mandated closures due to coronavirus increasing, it’s time to consider the logistics of transitioning your team to remote work for COVID-19. Already, many states are mandating closures for non-essential businesses, schools, and universities. If your business hasn’t already been affected, it could be only a matter of time. By considering remote work logistics, protocols, and security measures now, you’ll be in a much better position if your business is affected by a mandated government closure.

How will remote work help with COVID-19?

Coronaviruses, including COIVD-19, are spread much like the flu – through respiratory droplets. We are still learning more each day about how this novel coronavirus is spread and how long the virus can survive on surfaces, but one thing is clear: slowing the spread is essential to ensuring that those infected will have access to the medical resources they need to recover. Italy is already experiencing shortages, including life-saving respirator valves, which a group of volunteers is now 3D printing.

By encouraging remote work for COVID-19, employers play an important role in minimizing employee and community exposure. When deliberate measures are taken to reduce exposure, such as social distancing and increased handwashing, communities decrease the risk of surpassing healthcare system capacity. This is known as “flattening the curve.”

Graph illustrating the concept of "flattening the curve" by incorporating remote work for COVID-19.

Not only will encouraging remote work for COVID-19 help to “flatten the curve” and reduce employer and community exposure, but it may also help eliminate virus-related organizational interruptions like extended sick leave.

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Maintaining Smooth Operations in a Remote Workplace

Transitioning your team to work from home in light of COVID-19 can be quite simple with the right technology, policies, and security measures in place.

Set some ground rules.

If at all possible, set expectations for employees working from home prior to the transition. In light of the state-mandated shutdowns, you likely won’t have time to develop brand new policies and update employee handbooks or other documentation. For now, an email addressing expectations for remote work will suffice, with an official policy coming later if you foresee the necessary duration to continue over an extended period.

Be sure to address the following:

  • How long do you anticipate employees working from home?
  • Will employees be expected to maintain their usual shifts/availability, or will remote workers be afforded more flexibility in when they complete work?
  • What new technology will employees need to use to maintain business continuity?
  • Will hourly workers have any changes to how they clock in?
  • Will any company events, travel, or meetings be postponed or canceled?
  • Do employees need to take any new security measures when working remotely, such as using a VPN for a secure connection or securing company property in a safe location when outside of the home?

Provide the right technology.

One of the biggest challenges when transitioning a team to work from home is replacing day-to-day norms, such as meetings and collaboration, with remote options. Choosing the right technology for the job will make a big impact on maintaining business continuity when transitioning your team to remote work for COVID-19.

Below, we’re outlining a few applications that can help, but you may also need to brainstorm other business functions specific to your industry that will require remote alternatives.

You may also want to consider hardware when determining the technology you’ll need to provide for a successful, remote operation. While most employees will have everything they need already, those who frequently print, mail, or fax may need additional items to continue to perform their expected tasks. You may also need to provide webcams if you require employees to use them for remote meetings.

Supporting Your Remote Staff

One of the biggest disadvantages to remote work is feelings of isolation, which is why it is so important to ensure that you are managing your workforce and providing the support they need. This is especially true in the current environment, with the global pandemic, empty grocery store shelves, and looming uncertainty. Ensuring your employees have frequent check-ins with managers and immediate access to HR and/or benefits support is crucial.

Check in — frequently.

Managers should be encouraged to check in with their team at least once a day. Not only will this help keep managers apprised of any new developments or obstacles with ongoing projects, but it will also help alleviate feelings of isolation employees may be experiencing. If possible, one-on-one check-ins should also be encouraged on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

Nurture your company culture.

Another way to assuage feelings of isolation is to focus on maintaining company culture, especially when your team is transitioning to remote work for COVID-19. This will be more challenging while employees are working from home, but maintaining a sense of community within your staff will be well worth it.

Below are a few of our favorite ideas for keeping remote employees engaged with one another:

  • Establish a recurring teleconference staff meeting. Ask team leaders to share any progress updates they may have and offer time to address any employee questions or concerns.
  • Host a virtual costume party. Encourage everyone to dress up and use their webcam to show off their costume. Remind employees to use what they already have as unnecessary shopping could lead to COVID-19 exposure.
  • Use group chats to bring employees together. There are endless possibilities with this option. You could create a special group chat dedicated to daily wins where employees can share what they’ve accomplished and encourage one another. Or, you could create a group chat for “memes of the day” where employees can share memes expressing how their day is going.

Prepare for COVID-19 questions.

In the next several weeks, we can expect a flurry of employee benefits questions, especially related to COVID-19. Make sure your employees know who to address these questions to. More importantly, ensure your HR and/or benefits staff is equipped to answer the questions.

It may be wise for your HR and/or benefits point of contact to designate office hours to field employee questions. This will help protect their time while also providing employees with a set time/date to reach out.

Your HR/benefits staff should be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What if I need to take time off work because I contract COVID-19?
  • I can’t work because I’m taking care of someone who is sick. What are my options?
  • What if I am asked by a medical professional to quarantine, but I am not sick?
  • If we shut down temporarily, will I be eligible for unemployment benefits?

Outsource employee benefits questions.

Depending on your employee question volume and your HR/benefits staff workload, it may be in your best interest to delegate employee questions to a third party. This will alleviate the burden from your HR/benefits staff and allow them to focus on other pressing matters, such as keeping up with the most current benefits changes and updating company policies to reflect remote work for COVID-19.

ClearTrack HR offers a Benefits Call Center Concierge service that may be especially valuable as COVID-19 concerns continue to rise. Our call center is US-based and staffed with representatives who are licensed and non-commissioned. They will become an extension of your HR department and answer all your employee benefits questions accurately and in a timely manner. We provide specialized training for each of our client profiles, so all our representatives will be uniquely familiar with your company’s plan rules and COVID-19 exceptions.

Sign up for a demo to learn more about this service!

Do you have concerns about transitioning your team to remote work for COVID-19? Let us know in the comments.

The Remote Readiness Checklist - Free checklist to make it easier to determine if your team is ready to transition to remote work. Get it now.