Unprecedented control measures surrounding COVID-19 has seen social distancing and business closures around the world, highlighting the importance of fostering a mobile workforce in the modern age.
The global coronavirus pandemic has seen measures implemented across the world to slow the spread of the virus and lessen the burden on health services.
For most businesses, shutting down operations completely for any period of time would be a financial burden that would be too much to bear.
But WHS and HSSE obligations to employees as well as a social responsibility to care for the wider community mean that the social distancing advice being issued by health organisations and governments cannot be ignored.
To balance these, many companies are moving towards a remote work model where employees can carry out their duties at home.
This has already been a rapidly growing trend in recent years, with FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics research showing that 3.4 per cent of the world’s population is already working remotely.
But while the mobile workforce numbers have been on the rise around the world, the vast majority are still working in a centralised environment.
So with self-isolation measures being put in place across the world, how can your business be nimble and agile, moving to a work from home environment to continue operations?
While companies would have their dedicated IT systems and software in place at the office, it may not be possible to deploy these quickly for use at home.
That means that collaborative solutions provided by Google, Microsoft or other providers like Slack will need to be used to ensure workflow is visible and communications are efficient.
A uniform approach needs to be decided on so that everyone is using the same platforms, teams are set up and communications can continue.
It is also important to assess whether employees have the right technology at home to handle their normal workload. Company computers, mobile devices and internet dongles may need to be provided.
Working and living from home can create feelings of isolation.
It also means that regular activities that your employees engage in like walking the dog, going to the gym, meeting with friends and going out for dinner are now off the table.
This can create a feeling of cabin fever which can be detrimental to productivity.
Provide support by way of simple exercise routines like stretches or yoga that they can do at home to stay healthy.
In a normal office environment, there are many human interactions outside of official business functions.
We can ask questions by simply turning our head, we chat in the lunchroom, we collaborate on the fly.
Be sure to host regular video conference meetings, if only to check in on staff and ensure there is human contact to assist with mental health concerns.
And ensure these meetings and other interactions are boosted from the normal volume to help prevent feelings of isolation and help with productivity.
— Australian Government Department of Health (@healthgovau) March 16, 2020
Working from home can sound like a pretty sweet gig for a lot of people.
No commuting, you can work in your pyjamas, head to the fridge whenever you like – the list goes on.
The problem is that if you treat your home office like home, then you will be truly engaged with your work.
To improve productivity, advise your staff that regular routines should be maintained. Shower and dress for work the same as you would normally. Take scheduled breaks.
This helps put workers in the right frame of mind for work and help avoid any dips in productivity.
The current environment can make it easy for workers to lose a bit of hope.
With sporting events shutting down, concerts being cancelled and businesses closing their doors, there can be a prevailing feeling that 2020 has already become a write-off.
This is an extremely negative way of thinking and will sink productivity extremely quickly.
The bottom line is to pay your workers to operate from home, revenue still needs to be found through your business operations.
Set short and long term business goals and communicate these strongly and frequently. Give every worker a sense of immediate and longterm focus so they will continue to be productive.
At the office and at the job site, we have IT policies and procedures to prevent against cyber intrusion and data theft.
But when workers operate from home, they are no longer operating in this IT environment and sensitive information can become vulnerable.
All company policies around protecting data should be recirculated and all home computers and other devices should have the same levels of security that you would use at work.
This also applies to physical data like thumb drives, portable hard drives and even notepads and other documentation.
As these will be moved from the office to the home, there is a risk of them being lost and picked up by the wrong people.
All digital devices should have data encryption to render the information useless to others while great care should be taken to not lose or misplace written or printed material that could have sensitive information in it.
If this is the first time your business has ever tried having staff work from home, this presents a valuable opportunity.
Document the whole process, how it works, what could be improved and noticeable changes in staff output.
More and more workers are seeking a work/life balance so they can raise families and forge ahead with successful careers are seeking roles with flexible work options.
This presents a window of opportunity for you to try this model with a view towards implementing it as part of company policy down the road.
Having a mobile workforce could prove the difference in attracting the best talent in the future.