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Preparing Your Company for Coronavirus Might Mean Embracing Remote Work

Toby Graham /
microscopic image of the covid 19 virus

It’s a scary time to be a hypochondriac.

Right now, the world is facing a potential pandemic of COVID-19, also known as the 2019 novel coronavirus or just “the coronavirus.” As of this writing, there are over 90,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, several dozen of which are in the US.

The good news (if we can even call it that) is that most cases of the disease are mild, and the mortality rate appears to be relatively low, at about 1%. So far, the coronavirus has resulted in approximately 3,000 deaths, including several in Washington State this past weekend. While that’s certainly scary, it isn’t as common as the seasonal flu (which has killed 18,000–46,000 people in 2020 alone) or anywhere near as deadly as malaria, tuberculosis, or rabies.

So, if you’re suffering from a headache, dizziness, nausea, or the sensation that your throat’s closing up, don’t panic. You’re probably just experiencing the symptoms of good old-fashioned anxiety. Perhaps, like many of us, you’re worried about the economic impact of the outbreak—from the global consequences down to the reverberations on your business. Already, the coronavirus has caused countless travel cancellations, project delays, and organizational closures.

Rather than merely waiting and reacting to these issues as they come up, companies should use this time to strategically plan ahead.

Moreover, the uncertainty around the coronavirus presents “an opportunity to reimagine work broadly.” So writes Cali Williams Yost, CEO and founder of Flex+Strategy Group, in a recent Harvard Business Review article:

“The global spread of the virus may be a moment that reveals whether employers are ready to respond rapidly to unexpected workplace changes. Business travel could decrease or come to a full stop. More employees may need to work outside of local “business hours” and use video conferencing to operate across time zones. And, if it gets bad enough, many could indeed be asked, or request, to work remotely.

Are organizations ready? Chances are probably not. But even for those open to rethinking how the work would get done, are they ready for the inevitable post-crisis question: ‘Why don’t we do this all the time?’”

To put it another way, the coronavirus is a great excuse for embracing remote work and offer your employees the option—an option 99% of us would like to have.

Here are Yost’s 5 steps for coming up with an effective remote work plan that can be used during an emergency—or any time:

1. Acknowledge the possibility that all or part of your workforce may need to work remotely.

2. Map out jobs and tasks that could be affected.

3. Audit available IT hardware and software, and close any gaps in access and adoption.

4. Set up a communications protocol in advance.

5. Identify ways to measure performance that could inform broader change.

Read “What’s Your Company’s Emergency Remote-Work Plan?”

Now, for lots of the industries KPA serves, working remotely just isn’t feasible for large portions of their workforce. In those cases, our partners at Fisher Phillips have some great guidance too.

Read “The Coronavirus Email that HR will be Sending to the CEO”

With no coronavirus vaccine or end to the infection in sight, every organization needs to develop a response plan sooner rather than later.

Now is a good time to update your software and systems—to embrace remote work and ditch old-fashioned processes in favor of solutions that can be accessed from anywhere.

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