The Center for Disease Control has provided some very good guidance for business owners in the face of the threat of the coronavirus (or, more specifically, COVID-19). It includes helpful suggestions regarding hygiene, sick leave, and other practical advice. The CDC also urges business owners to allow employees to telecommute, if possible.
Explore whether you can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others if state and local health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies. For employees who are able to telework, supervisors should encourage employees to telework instead of coming into the workplace until symptoms are completely resolved. Ensure that you have the information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple employees who may be able to work from home.
The Harvard Business Review also published a helpful article about the eight issues that you should consider right now. The article specifically includes maximizing your employees’ ability to work remotely. Is your IT network structured so that you and your employees can effectively telecommute? If not, now is a very good time to put a plan together. Large companies, such as JPMorgan Chase, have already begun and are testing their ability to do so. Your plan should address the hardware needs of your employees, their access to your company’s network, teleconferencing capabilities, and communication.
- Hardware: It is not recommended that employees use their own home computers for work and accessing your network, for security reasons. Thus, you may have to determine who your most crucial employees are, and weigh the cost of their potential downtime to the cost to supply them with necessary laptops, etc. This is the same basic drill that those of us in Greater New Orleans repeat annually during hurricane season.
- Network: Speak to your IT provider if you are unsure of how to access your network remotely. You should have a solid disaster and recovery plan for your data and to ensure business continuity, as well as strong cybersecurity tools in place. While the general public may be focused on the coronavirus, unfortunately, this is a prime time for cyber-criminals to prey on those who are otherwise distracted.
- Teleconferencing: There are many free and paid options, so it’s really a matter of picking the service that works well for your business. We happen to use Zoom.
- Communication: We have written about the benefits of Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. VoIP allows your phone lines to run through your internet and provides many ways to customize them, including easily forwarding your calls to your cell phone.
We urge you to start planning now. Businesses across the country have already cancelled events and are preparing their employees to work remotely in light of the risk of the coronavirus. Your business, no matter the size, should follow suit. At the very least, this will prepare you for potential future emergencies and disasters. Stay current and be proactive! We are here to help. 504-301-1094