In an emergency situation, it doesn’t matter if you’ve equipped employees with the latest smartphone, the fastest laptops, or dropped gigabit fiber into their homes. All of the technology in the world won’t keep your workflow moving if an employee can’t remember his or her VPN password.
That’s why business continuity plans that make provisions for the capacity, security, and access tools that employees need for remote work must also adequately account for another critical element: The employees themselves.
It’s easy to fixate on the technology layer in a continuity plan. But the full benefit of that plan won’t be realized without employee training and education, collaboration tools, and enhanced communication between the help desk and remote workers, both novice and experienced.
What started as a short-term fix is already looking like a longer-term solution than most companies originally anticipated. So, whether you’re scaling up your remote workforce or reassessing your program, you can improve the return on your investment by focusing on three key people priorities that will put your remote workers more at ease, even as the chaos of a crisis situation grows.
Give them the guardrails they need to succeed. A lack of training or the absence of an instruction manual is by far the most significant problem facing employees who work remotely. Organizations need to take an omnichannel approach that can accommodate the various learning styles and different levels of tech savvy among employees.
Information needs to be made available via multiple channels such as: emails targeted at specific groups, departments or teams; links to FAQs so that employees can refer to information at their leisure; physical booklets or PDFs that employees can print out and keep near their kitchen tables or home desks. Training documents need to include critical information on how employees can continue to get their work done, addressing remote work “soft” issues such as how to avoid distractions, tips on making a home office efficient, etc.
Create opportunities for employees to practice collaboration. Once employees are scattered to the winds, those who were accustomed to rubbing elbows with other members of their team will likely feel stranded. Organizations need to make sure that videoconferencing and other collaboration platforms are available to employees. Some popular options include Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom and Slack.
Making these tools available is only half the battle. Using them regularly is key. Managers should take extraordinary measures to check in with employees on a daily basis and conduct remote meetings as often as needed to keep everyone engaged, productive, and in sync with fellow teammates. At the executive level, the chief executive officer should be sending global updates to the workforce to provide a single source of truth, to keep everyone informed about the latest developments and to reassure employees in times of great anxiety. And employees should also receive guidance and training in the best ways to interact with external partners, customers and clients.
Now is the time to lean on employees who have been working remotely for years. Encourage veteran remote workers to share tips and best practices with employees who suddenly find themselves thrust into a home office environment.
Bolster your support resources. Depending on the circumstances, an employee might end up on an unfamiliar device. Maybe they need to connect over a complicated VPN. Perhaps they’re collaborating with coworkers on a bandwidth-intensive videoconferencing platform with technical challenges. Or, they might be experiencing them all at the same time.
It’s a sure bet that your IT support team will need to be ready to handle a deluge of support requests, so provide multiple avenues for employees to get assistance in the way that works best for them. Different support channels have unique benefits — whether that’s a phone call, a conversation over chat, a face-to-face interaction in which the help desk employee walks the remote worker through a problem, or the support team’s taking physical control of the device and fixing the problem remotely.
Ideally, the contingency plan would provide for proactive and predictive analytic services that would remotely fix an issue before the user is even aware of the problem.
Business continuity programs should combine both the human aspects and the technology aspects of remote work to create a comprehensive, unified approach that keeps workers engaged, productive and safe.