On January 31st, it was reported that Coronavirus Covid-19 had been confirmed amongst two family members in the UK.
Since then, the World Health Organization announced on the 3rd March that the mortality rate for Coronavirus had increased to 3.4%. As of this Friday (13th of March) the UK has 594 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and with No. 10 stating that they anticipate the virus “is going to spread in a significant way”, we can expect that number to continue to rise.
So far, the crisis has led to multiple school closures, and businesses such as Google asking their staff in their European Headquarters to work from home. Italy, having confirmed a significant number of new cases, has entered a state of widespread quarantine.
As part of the UK government’s plan to control a possible pandemic, attempts to pass `Social Distancing’ legislation are being made, which would allow for the necessary powers to stop large gatherings, close schools and place restrictions on public transport.
According to the UK government, up to a fifth of the workforce could be absent during peaks of the outbreak. However, their action plan advises that closure of the workplace is not necessary.
A phased response: contain and delay
In spite of the UK government’s ‘Keep calm and carry on’ approach, the FTSE 100 has faced its worst day since the financial crisis this week. It’s becoming clear that uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 could be a disruptive factor for businesses going forward.
In order to offset some of this uncertainty, many businesses have begun exploring remote- working options where possible.
Becoming a remote working business doesn’t happen overnight. Going remote takes careful planning and consideration in order to prepare yourself and your employees adequately. So, where do you begin? Luckily, we‘ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you get started.
Is my business suitable for remote working?
There are many industries where remote working is simply not feasible, such as catering, building and healthcare. However, there may still be people in your workforce who could carry out their job effectively from their own home, such as customer service and office- based staff.
Fewer employees attending the office would naturally result in a reduction to the risk of the infection spreading, should one of your employees become ill, so it’s in your team’s best interests to find out who’s able to work from home.
If an employee only requires a phone, the internet and a computer to do their job, they are ideal candidates for remote work.
How will remote working benefit my business?
Aside from the reduction in workplace-spread illnesses, it has been proven that a remote working team will:
There are many more benefits to remote working, but there are also some pitfalls, including isolation, reduced collaboration and a transitional period that can sometimes impact productivity. However, with careful planning and the right tools, these challenges can all be overcome.
What tools will my business need to support its remote workers?
Communication is key when considering remote working, and getting an effective system in place is the answer to most of the problems you will face.
Using an intranet to provide updates and act as your digital workspace will enable you to close the distance between your remote employees. Whilst some intranet providers are costly, and require extensive build time to get your intranet up and running, our out-of-the- box intranets are affordable and ready to use, should you need to quickly transition into operating under a remote-first model.
What’s more, by using communication software such as Microsoft Teams to hold regular meetings and keep in touch, you can ensure your employees stay well connected.
How do I prepare my staff to work out-of-office?
Firstly, ensure that team members have internet access, a working phone and a suitable computer or laptop. Most people already have access to these basic amenities, and are happy to make use of their own equipment in exchange for the opportunity to work from home.
It’s important to remember that if employees are using their own equipment, you’ll need to manage the sharing of potentially sensitive company information, in order to conform with GDPR, and for your company’s own security.
Knowledge-sharing tools, such as a suitable intranet, can enable your remote staff to access sensitive information in a secure digital environment, whilst protecting valuable business intelligence.
Once an employee has established that they have access to the correct equipment, they should set up a suitable work station that keeps in line with health and safety regulations.
Some staff may not be able to keep a 9-5 schedule whilst working from home, and will find it easier to start their day earlier or later. Ensure that if this is the case, they update everyone in the team about the hours they’re keeping.
Staff working earlier or later can be extremely beneficial, particularly where businesses have internationally-based clients in different time zones.
Can I trust my team to work from home?
Productivity has been found to increase amongst team members that work from home, with many reporting they experience fewer distractions. Communication between remote employees becomes more work focused, as opposed to discussing last night’s football or soap drama.
Employees working from home often have an increased sense of accountability, as the proof is in their results.
You’ll know if a member is not pulling their weight, as they won’t be delivering work to the same standards and/or on time. Ultimately, if you can’t trust an employee to do their job without your direct supervision, you have to ask yourself whether they should be working for you.
Looking to the future
It remains to be seen how severely Covid-19 will impact our workforce over the coming months. With best estimates predicting that around one-fifth of the workforce could be out of action at the virus’s peak, restructuring your business to support remote working could prove to be vital in the long run.
What’s more, once the crisis subsides, businesses who’ve made steps to support remote working will find themselves able to benefit from the increase in productivity, staff retention and positive environmental impact the model provides.
If you’re concerned about the wellbeing of your workforce in light of Covid-19, or if you’d like to know more about the signs, symptoms and solutions for coronavirus, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses- about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-covid-19#contents.