Frequently asked questions about managing your business through  COVID-19

It's natural for people to experience various challenges when adapting to a remote work environment and to help make this transition smoother, we have put together some helpful insights on FAQs about what leaders and employees can do during this time. 

Our FAQ will be updated as more is known about COVID-19 and how it affects businesses worldwide, for more information check back regularly or send us your own questions at hello@harbinger-scr.com 

We usually come into the office to work, but have made the decision to have all of our people work from home. Where do we start?


The good news is, you’ve already completed the first step! Making the decision to have your employees work from home is often a challenging one, as this will be new territory for many companies.

From here you’ll have to develop a comprehensive plan that includes business continuity, communications, a work from home strategy and more. One of the most important pieces will be to make sure that your leaders are informed and have the ability to cascade updates and other important information to keep their teams engaged and connected. Check out our leader communications and work from home tip sheets for more information.

It’s also crucial to engage the right groups or areas like Human Resources to ensure you have the appropriate support to address things like flexible hours, ergonomic requirements and how to measure performance in this new work environment.




We have decided to make it optional for employees to work from home or come the office. How can leaders and our business manage this so that we continue to be productive, while keeping our employees safe and healthy?


There are several things you can do to keep productivity moving when you have employees in the office and working from home, but it’s important to also accept that productivity will also decrease at this time. During times of uncertainty, especially when people’s health is at risk, it’s natural for everyone to be distracted and for productivity to decrease despite all of the planning that may place. With that said, there are ways to help maintain productivity. One of the first things you can do is complete a team charter where you will agree on team etiquette and rules. Some questions to ask and agree on include:

  1. Updating your status on Microsoft Teams and respecting your colleagues status (e.g. if they’re on Busy or Do Not Disturb, do not message them!)
  2. Turning on the video for all virtual team meetings
  3. Staying home if you are sick
  4. Updated contact lists including phone numbers

Another activity that can be completed is for leaders to have 1:1 meetings with each team member to develop an agile work plan including expectations and measurement.

Finally, keep your employees informed with frequent updates on what’s taking place with the coronavirus, and how it will impact them. The situation is incredibly fluid and constantly changing so it will be critical to keep your employees informed of what’s taking place and what it means for them.




My employees cannot work from home. What steps can I take to make sure they remain healthy?


There will always be roles where employees will not be able to work from home. In these cases, we recommend enforcing additional health measures such as providing them with hand sanitizer, new or more frequent cleaning processes and information on how customers should be interacting with them (think social distancing). Once these new steps have been implemented, make sure you share this information with your customers as well. This can be done on your website, by providing your employees with messaging so they are able to communicate this with confidence when dealing with customers, or by email.




What are some of the ways of the ways we can make sure to stay connected while working from home?


First and foremost, do the best you can to operate business as usual. If you have daily huddles, continue having them so that you can maintain some form of regularity. If your business is setup to operate virtually, change your meetings to digital ones and leverage the tools you have in place like SharePoint or Yammer to keep your people informed. Also don’t forget about email communications and using the phone where possible.

If you’re not digitally setup, you can stay connected by setting up regular touchpoints where you can connect through conference call. Or set up group text groups.

And despite everything that is taking place, don’t forget to have fun to keep your people engaged. Share tips or ideas on how to keep children entertained at home, recipes, or television and movie recommendations.




I am not digitally savvy and feel uncomfortable using most of these tools while we work remotely. What are my options?


Change is hard, and we completely understand if you are not comfortable using some of the digital tools available. Our recommendation is to continue communicating and connecting with your employees in the way you feel most comfortable, and to also take advantage of this time to learn how to use other tools so that you can become more comfortable.

During times of change, training is crucial. To help you through this, we’ve included some free courses and information for Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Outlook for mobile, and Microsoft Icebreaker, a new tool that uses chatbots to connect two random employees each week for a meeting.




Unfortunately, I don’t trust some of my people to work from home. What can I do to help facilitate this?


For these types of situations, it is always good to engage your human resources team if you have one. They will be able to make the appropriate recommendations and will help you to develop a plan of action that includes how to measure performance, goals, as well as, the support you can provide them so that they can successfully work from home.

You can also use this time to determine what kind of support you need to help make this transition easier for you and your employees who may have a challenging time in this new work environment. In the initial stages there will be more frequent touchpoints, but as you settle into a routine, you and your employees should find a rhythm that works for everyone.




Where can I get the most up to date information on the COVID-19 situation in Canada and the United States?


We strongly encourage staying up-to-date with the coronavirus and recommendations from reputable health experts such as Canada’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam and government websites. You can follow Dr. Tam on Twitter and make sure to bookmark the government websites (Canada and United States of America) which are updated frequently. Use this information for guidance when making decisions for the well-being of your employees and customers.




With schools, most daycares and city facilities closed in Canada, how can we ensure productivity continues when the majority of our workforce will be required to take care of their children as well?


In such circumstances, productivity will decrease. The important thing to note here, is that one of the priorities for you and your business is to do what we can to flatten the curve and keep everyone as healthy and safe as possible.

There are however steps you can take to minimize the impact to productivity. See the response to question number two above.




I’m worried about the impact this will have on our customers. What do I need to do and plan for to ensure there is minimal impact to them?


If you haven’t done so already, develop a customer statement that provides them with more details on what you are doing as a business to protect your customers and employees at this time. This may include limiting in house appointments, shutting down your business completely, or delayed response times.

Once you have developed your customer statement, share it across multiple channels including your social media channels, on your website, and through email. Also make sure to equip your employees who interact with customers with the appropriate messaging so that they can accurately rely the information.

At this time, many businesses will be suffering and fortunately there have been actions taken by the government to help to alleviate the impacts of the coronavirus. More than anything, it’s important to note that your customers will appreciate and welcome the steps you are taking to keep everyone safe and healthy.




There’s a lot of fake news and rumours circulating around our business about the impact of COVID-19. How can we manage this?


It’s natural for people at a time like this to have fear and question what is taking place. A great example of this is the toilet paper phenomenon and panic buying. It will be challenging to manage the message, however the best way to combat such reactions is to keep your people informed. Having one trusted source of information, like the President of your business, communicating at set times each day, will help to manage this. Also keeping your leaders engaged by providing approved FAQs and key messaging will go a long way. Don’t forget about developing an avenue where employees can send in their questions. This may be through a portal, or by email. Once you have answered their questions, share them with everyone in your business. Many of them are likely to be asking or wondering the same things.





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For the next week 

We're offering complimentary advice, support and consulting to small and medium-sized organizations 

Harbinger is offering complimentary advice, support and consulting to small and medium-sized organizations who are struggling or uncertain of what to do, how to plan for the possible disruption to their workplace as well as the what and when to communicate during this crisis.

 

We have extensive experience planning, deploying and supporting remote, agile and work-from-home workplaces, supporting organizations going through disruptive change as well as experts in internal and external communication.

Questions? Get in touch. 

New thoughts, ideas and tips on change management, learning, communications & training updated regularly.

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