Managing staff remotely during COVID-19
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As the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to develop and disrupt traditional workflow patterns, companies big and small, right across the globe are putting measures in place to ensure continuity of business, as best as possible.
This unprecedented public health crisis has drastically affected all of us, and workplaces have had to adapt quickly to the demands of having a remote workforce.
This new climate means leaders are now tasked with not only keeping their businesses afloat, but also working out how best to keep their staff focused, agile, and motivated through this fast-paced and changing environment.
Dr Brandon Gien, CEO of Good Design Australia, says he genuinely feels there is a sense of ‘we’re all in this together’.
“As uncertain as things are at the moment, my take is that we will come out of this with a completely fresh perspective on how we work and I reckon we are certainly going to re-think the need for a traditional office workplace,” he added.
Similarly, CEO of Ninox Robotics, Marcus Ehrlich, said the biggest learning from COVID-19 was around the idea of working from a physical office.
“It has effectively ceased to exist in a practical sense. Everything that can be done remotely; meetings, discussions, collaboration; is all done digitally,” he said.
Adapting to a remote workforce is less of an issue for tech companies, as many of these companies already have these processes in place, but for those that are doing this for the first time, it can be a daunting task.
Mohamad Jebara, founder and CEO of Mathspace, a booming edtech business focused on helping high school students with mathematics, said his workforce had always operated remotely because its workforce was distributed interstate and across the US.
Companies that already use this model are slightly more advantageous when dealing with these situations “as they have had time to refine the process,” he told Stockhead.
In terms of what leaders need to do when managing a remote workforce, Jebara said, “over communicate. Whether it be the CEO, leadership team or individual team members, everyone has a role to play to communicate effectively to ensure strong alignment between team members and across teams”.
Karn Ghosh, CEO and founder of Kinela, a home food delivery and counselling service for people on the NDIS, said its investments into people and infrastructure allowed its workforce to simply pick up their laptops and monitors and head home as a connected team.
Being an innovation-led company, that has always been cloud-based, he said “it’s times like these that you can see the true power of company culture at play.”
CEO of HashChing, Arun Maharaj, said being a fintech, it had all the technological capabilities in place that allowed them to work remotely already.
What is important, however, is that employers and staff need to “ensure they have a clear understanding of what their working hours are so that a separation can be made between work and personal life”.
At times of crisis, it is human nature to be afraid, have feelings of anxiety or uncertainty. Therefore it’s critical for leaders to keep their workforce feeling positive and connected throughout this time.
CEO of HR tech platform, Shortlyster, Rudy Crous said keeping a workforce connected through “continual communication between employees and management, as well as having the tools and processes to facilitate this i.e. Slack, Google hangouts, etc” is important for building staff morale.
In his workplace, “to make the team feel even more connected during this uncertain time we have been implementing more frequent virtual catch-ups and have created a dedicated ‘coffee break’ channel on Slack where everyone can go for a break and chat,” he added.
CEO and founder of Lumi, Yanir Yakutiel, said given his employee demographic was exceptionally young, “with most of them in their 20s or 30s and are generally better with technology” and adapting to change, it has strongly encouraged the use of audio visual technologies like Zoom, Google Hangouts and Slack to stay connected.
“Funnily enough, our productivity KPIs have actually increased since working from home, so once we come out of COVID-19, we can definitely expect a tectonic shift in terms of workplace flexibility at Lumi,” he told Stockhead.
Klaus Bartosch, managing director of 1st Group Limited (ASX:1ST), said now was the time to “continue to innovate”.
Working in healthcare, he and his team have had to work quickly to release new functionality on its online booking platform to provide online COVID-19 patient risk screening when booking appointments to ensure the safety of its frontline workers.
“COVID-19 has taught us that we were always capable of adapting. It is usually in times of crisis that the greatest ideas and leaders are born,” Bartosch said.
“After the dust settles, we may find that the world’s view on traditional methods of work will change and adopting a remote workforce model may form a new norm in society.”