It is hard to believe that some offices are approaching the two-year mark of having sent their employees to work from home. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to evolve, it is hardly any wonder that many companies have felt the pressure to continue to keep their workforce away from the office.
Even though many workplaces have adapted to the work-from-home model, there are still many dangers to businesses in this environment. A looming crisis is always possible, and IT directors and managers worry that some of their crisis management plans might not be as up-to-date as they would like them to be. Thus, we wanted to go over some helpful ideas and resources for how to renew a crisis management plan and implement it in the work-from-home arena.
Provide Employees with the Tools That They Require
The first step to managing a crisis is to provide the necessary equipment for all team members to respond to that crisis. If there are certain members of the team that need to be on every phone call and teleconference regarding the ongoing crisis, then it is not going to be sustainable if they are attempting to do this work on a personal laptop computer at their kitchen table. This casual setup might work for a typical business day, but additional equipment may be needed for a crisis scenario.
Preparing employees with the tools that they need ahead of time is the best way to head off what could become a larger problem if left unabated. Help employees set up a dedicated workspace in their home by providing them with the following:
- A company-issued computer
- Additional display screens
- Basic office stationery
- Office desk and chair (optional, but could be very helpful for some employees)
Simple equipment like this is very affordable on a corporate budget, and much of it can be purchased in bulk. However, it is critical to act now to get it as some ongoing supply chain issues are creating delays in getting certain products.
Check in with Employees Showing Signs of Low Morale
The last two years have been a challenging experience for the entire planet. Human beings were not built to be separated from loved ones for this long, and the constant bombardment of negative news headlines about the virus, the economy, the political climate, and so much more have taken a toll on many people’s morale and mental health.
If a company is in crisis management mode for a prolonged period, this additional stress can push some employees to the limit. Take the situation with nurses in the United States as an example. They have been in crisis management mode for the last two years, and they don’t even have the luxury of working from home. This has led to projections of as many as 500,000 nurses quitting their jobs in 2022 due to burnout. No matter what type of work you do, you can only handle so much of it, and those who have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps day in and day out to handle a crisis are quickly depleted of their energy.
Deloitte.com recommends that business leaders check in with their team regularly to see how they are holding up from a mental standpoint. They even recommend using video conferencing not only for crisis meetings but also to enhance the social aspect of work:
Long-running crisis responses can be emotionally and physically draining, and this can be exacerbated by individuals working in isolation. Consider what steps can be taken to maintain team spirit and individual morale during an extended period of remote working, including reward and recognition policies. Make use of software where appropriate; video conferencing tools can reinforce the social side of working.
Simply asking people how they are doing or seeing if there is anything you can do to support them goes a long way. Some of these employees may not even know for themselves what they need to be supported, but they will likely appreciate being asked anyway. If staff needs to be rotated around to give some people a break from managing a crisis, then a check-in like this can be a great way to figure out who might need some rest at this time.
Distribute Work Evenly
People can only effectively handle so many tasks on their plate at one time. If they are called upon to do more than they can reasonably handle, then the quality of their work will suffer. Additionally, being overworked like this can lead to the burnout symptoms that we were describing above. That may result in people leaving the organization, which would only add to more work having to be pushed onto other people. It is a vicious cycle that could create some headaches for the company.
Instead of going down that route, perhaps consider a more equitable distribution of the workload. It is unlikely that an employee is going to speak up for themselves and say that they have too much work for fear of looking like an ungrateful employee. Instead, managers must do what they can to sort out exactly how much each individual should be called upon to take care of.
Fast Company advises all companies to clearly define the job responsibilities of any role that they hire for. Ideally, these responsibilities should be listed in a job posting before a worker is hired. However, it may also be useful to provide a refreshed list of job responsibilities for each employee so they know where they stand even in the job that they already hold. During a crisis, it is nice to know exactly what each person is doing to help make the situation better. Once those responsibilities are spelled out, stick to them! Don’t deviate or make an exception, because then the exception will quickly become the rule in most cases.
Managing a crisis is challenging, and it is even more difficult when a significant portion of the team is working remotely.
We hope that you will contact us if you would like more information about how to effectively handle a crisis with your work-from-home team. We are happy to provide the latest insights and strategies about how to get this done right.