Companies that can should implement remote work policies to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

As the COVID-19 virus spreads, we all have a personal and professional responsibility to slow it down and help minimize the strain on our healthcare system. If we can do that, there is a better chance for people who really need the care to receive it. To that end, I personally believe organizations that can, have a duty to implement work from home programs.

But while remote work programs are an immediate solution to the current crisis, they shouldn’t necessarily have an expected expiration date. At this point, no one knows how long the effects of this pandemic are going to last. In order to make a remote program truly sustainable, it should be part of your organization’s overall digital transformation strategy.

Digital transformation refers to how an organization uses technology, people and processes to improve business performance. Today, these systems, processes and methodologies—including remote work—are helping many organizations all over the world ensure business continuity and continue delivering great results for their customers.

Luckily, remote work is not a new phenomenon

There are many successful examples of properly implemented remote workplace environments. I have personal experience with it. About 10 years ago, I was privileged to cofound and lead a software company called Ceremity with a group of great business partners. We grew the business for over a decade and ultimately sold it to PDI, a private equity backed software company, which already had remote work and agile methodologies it continued to expand it in recent years.

What made Ceremity unique was 1) our remote workforce and 2) that we were a distributed company with employees and contractors on several continents. During that time, we learned what to do and what not to do in order to maintain a company culture and productivity. We were by no means perfect, but it worked for us.

Here are some short-term strategies for companies that are brave enough to change how they operate. This will address cases where the existing workforce starts working remotely.

What you need to know about implementing a remote workforce

Before you can implement any kind of remote workforce strategy, start with these three things. First, reassure employees and customers that you continue to have their well-being and interests in mind. Next, explain why these changes are necessary. Lastly, clearly communicate how you plan to implement remote work and the implications to your business. I’m encouraged by how PDI has prepared and is executing on its business continuity plan during these challenging times.

The senior leadership team setup a Coronavirus (COVID-19) task force that focuses both on the well-being of our people, but also on business continuity. The company communicates with employees very frequently as the pandemic unfolds. A public preparedness statement has been shared with both employees and customers, and it’s a great lesson in leadership and crisis communication.

Considerations for creating a from home program

In order to  enable employees to  work remotely, there needs to be clarity. This may be new and strange for many people and not everyone handles a change well. Some things to consider are:

  • Is the policy mandatory, strongly encouraged, or voluntary?
  • What essential personnel remains working from the office?
  • What personnel is sent home?
  • What are the expectations of all employees day-to-day?
  • How do they effectively get their work done remotely?

The importance of  maintaining good processes and accountability

At PDI, we’ve activated our business continuity plan to ensure we’re delivering on our commitments to customers. When it comes to executing on those plans, nothing is more crucial than staying connected. Just because your workforce is remote, it does not mean that you throw away your existing processes. Sure, they may need to be tweaked, but they still need to exist.

For instance, most software companies like PDI follow some kind of Agile process such as Scrum. Many of these companies leverage daily standups, where everyone on the team (who is able to) literally stands up and presents updates. However, daily standups can just as easily be implemented remotely using collaboration tools. The same can apply to other meetings as well. Notice, I didn’t say skip the necessary meetings. Instead, meetings are just conducted digitally, and everyone is still expected to participate and be productive.

Additionally, your remote workforce should still be expected to maintain productivity while working. People need to be accountable for their results even if working remotely. Likewise, companies still need to retain their existing planning cycles. As with other processes, the accountability process simply leverages digital tools. Frankly, even without a remote workforce, it would wise for most companies to leverage digital tools to track goals and results.

In the face of change, remote work can be a viable solution

As the speed of change increases, communication is the secret sauce to keeping with business as usual. And it can be done. Even if your remote workforce strategy becomes necessary due to changes like we’re seeing with the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing a successful solution is achievable even when much the workforce is distributed. Obviously, there are still many organizations across various industries where working remotely is either impossible or at least impractical without changing a business model. If this situation applies to your business, look to your vendors and partners for help. They may have a remote workforce ready and able to assist you to keep your business up and running.

At PDI, even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic our professional services team has had remote work capabilities, and since the outbreak, we’ve mobilized even more to support our customers remotely. For some companies who may be dealing with workforce shortages or infrastructure issues, a viable solution could be hiring a managed services partner to help with critical business processes and ensure business continuity, even if it’s just temporary. More information about how PDI’s preparedness during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the website.

In my next blog I’ll share insights on digital technologies that can help empower a remote workforce. Stay tuned!

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