Most business influencers and professionals indicate that boosting both customer and employee confidence will greatly help businesses reopen successfully and help to revive the economy in a sustained manner. Due to the dangers to the health of the public for the last three months, and the financial losses for companies across the country, there are likely to be drastic changes in the business conditions going forward.
Business owners and management helping their company recover from Coronavirus pandemic and its resulting recession must take precautions to ensure the workplace environment is safe for employees and business associates like suppliers, contractors, visitors and clients. Companies who don’t want the threat of closing down again must function without adversely affecting confidence or health.
Major Concerns for Employers
– Workers may be nervous about returning to the workplace since they do not know what to expect. While preparing the business for returning employees, employers may realize that some essential employees are suffering from high risk health conditions and as a consequence their workspace or their role may have to be adjusted. Since employees may ask if there is any testing such as temperature screening for the virus, employers should have a plan to handle these queries.
– Vendors and customers may find it risky to visit the business’ premises, or they may not be familiar with virtual meetings. In some cases, a business may have limited infrastructure, and cannot deal with a large number of people digitally.
While the painful news spirals around us daily, it is challenging to accurately predict when the economy will recover, the pandemic will fade away and what adjustments will be required in the ‘new normal.’ But companies can take some steps to be better prepared to recoup lost business when most restrictions are lifted.
9 Steps for Successfully Reopening after the Pandemic Recedes
Businesses should try to make workers and customers confident that the business workplace is safe. This includes changing the work environment physically, altering acceptable behavior, or changing the way the business functions. Some tips are listed below:
1. Prevent Personal Contact
Make rules so that there is no personal contact , to limit handshakes, hugging, avoid meeting in closed spaces or other physical contact which is not necessary
2. No Object Sharing
Though all businesses may not be able to provide separate work tools or equipment for each employee, these items should be shared as little as possible. Inexpensive items like pens, notebooks, staplers, file folders, computers, and markers should be assigned to each employee and not used by others. Other expensive items need a cleaning regimen (See 7).
3. Rules for Facemask Usage
Most states have specified rules or guidance for using face-masks and these rules should be considered by employers while devising relevant rules for their own business. If you have an employee handbook, don’t forget it should be updated with these rules, and employees should also be informed.
4. Rearrange the Workplace
The floor plan of the workplace will often need to be modified to conform to the new social distancing norms. To ensure that the distance between workers, visitors and customers is at least 6 feet, desks may have to be rearranged, work stations staggered, spaces reconfigured and partitions added where feasible.
5. Eliminating Gathering Areas
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, employees shared lounges, break rooms, kitchens, and now there should be a 6 feet distance between users of these facilities if the common areas are still available. Hence people should gather together mainly outdoors for meetings, since indoors the virus infection is more likely to spread.
6. Hand Sanitizing
Businesses will have to invest money in taking safety precautions like making hand sanitizers readily available, so that customers and workers continue to trust. If the workers or customers feel that the workplace is unsafe, customers may not come back or employees may be disgruntled and performance suffers.
7. Cleaning Rules for Multi-User Equipment
If the workplace has expensive equipment used by multiple people such as photocopy machines, business related tools, machinery or even gym equipment, it is advisable to post detailed instructions for cleaning the equipment after each use, so that the users remain safe.
8. Limiting the People in a Room
If is necessary to ensure that a discussion or meeting remains confidential, the employer should consider the following options:
Discussions should be held in a room which is large enough, so that each person can maintain a distance of 6 feet from others.
Hold the meeting online using web conference to reduce direct exposure, even though participants may be in the same facility.
Check the size of each meeting room to determine the maximum number of people who can be accommodated and still maintain a safe distance. Update the room signs with this information, so that employees do not unintentionally make mistakes in arranging how many can attend the meeting.
9. Changing Work Schedules
Typically businesses were working from 8 am to 5 pm (or 9-5) daily, yet these timings may have to be adjusted to reduce interaction. Businesses with different work schedules may also have to change their working hours or work in shifts to minimize the number of workers in their facility at any one time.
If your organization is planning any of these steps, why not give Flexicrew a call to tap our experience in working with many companies, some tips we’ve learned and what might be suitable for your situation.
A version of this article originally published in March 2010 Issue of Harvard Business Review and curated here.
Most states are reopening and easing Coronavirus restrictions to various extents.
We trust that occurs only where suitable to stay protected and ensure a safer reopening so employees and employers can return to being productive and contributing to an economic rebound.
Yet, with about 40 million out of work, businesses and workers have been hammered and it will take time to recoup losses.
There will likely be a phased recovery cycle. It will not be like a miracle with the economy snapping back to normal. It will continue to require hard business choices along the way.
We have been discussing internally the best steps forward, studying what our peers are doing, and researching what was effective in past recessions.
There are some specific decisions you can take to improve the likelihood your organization will survive, hit the ground running and rebound strong when this pandemic eventually passes by.
In doing our homework, we came across an attention-grabbing study from Harvard Business Review that pretty much addresses the decisions to take now and shows effectively how to do it. Actual data, drawn from the study of 4,700 companies during recessions, highlights what business should be addressing now.
Harvard researchers were aware of the traditional “recession marketing advice,” but, they began a project to identify the strategies actual companies used in past recessions to come up with the most effective moves:
What is the best path forward for a business during and after a tough economy?
To answer that question, they embarked on a year-long project to analyze what different companies did during three global recessions, namely the major slowdowns that took place during these years:
1980 to 1982
1990 to 1991
2000 to 2002.
NB: their research began prior to the 2008/2009 recession, hence why that recession isn’t included in their HBR article. But, a more recent analysis by Bain and a third study by McKinsey using data from the 2008/2009 recession reinforced these earlier findings.
An overview of the Harvard Business Review article methodology was:
Harvard researchers studied 4,700 public companies
They analyzed their key financial metrics from 3 years before, during, and 3 years after the recessions they studied
They summarized their findings, and revealed strategies you can use effectively.
Caveat: the research project studied companies listed in S & P Compustat database which may not directly relate to your business, but the advice is nonetheless instructive of what strategies are effective in this downturn.
You should be interested in this research, to see how other companies survived 4 major recessions, and what they did, so your business can incorporate their successful actions.
Here were the statistics:
17% of the analyzed companies perished from the recession (closed, bankrupt, etc.)
80% didn’t regain their pre-recession growth rates (sales and profits) even 3 years after the recession ended
Only 9% GREW after the recessions, with better numbers after than before
Those same 9% outgrew their competitors by 10% annually in sales AND profit growth after-recession
Only 423 companies effectively managed an economic slowdown — while 4,277 companies mismanaged the recessions and shrunk or went out of business.
Before sharing from the HBR article what that 9% did, it’s important to know what NOT to do, so your company doesn’t follow the path the 17% of those businesses did.
Here are 2 FAILS from the study that you should avoid during a business downturn:
Avoid narrow-minded cost-cutting, like deep layoffs as your only tool
Don’t just spend brashly (overly opportunistic culture leads to denying the emergency at hand ) thinking as long as they spend that sales and profit will continue to improve
Firms which took a sharp knife to expenses quicker and more extreme than their competitors performed poorly overall. They became too hung up on just surviving in the moment. They had the lowest probability — 21% — of pulling ahead of the competition when the economy opened up and improved, their findings pointed out.
We’re not advocating that you don’t tighten finances right now. You must, of course.
But what you cut — and where you take those savings and where you then commit those resources — can mean the difference between surviving this recession and gaining market position.
OK, then what SHOULD you do? What do Harvard researchers recommend? What works based on the winners and losers in the three recessions?
There are 4 strategies that should position your organization in the best situation possible for growth and to get ahead of competition coming out of this meltdown.
1. Combine BOTH Aggressive and Defensive Strategies in Response to Recession
So, what management strategies worked best for businesses facing recessions? This is a direct quote from evidence the researchers uncovered:
“According to our research, companies that master the delicate balance between cutting costs to survive today and investing to grow tomorrow do well after a recession. Within this group, a subset that deploys a specific combination of defensive and offensive moves has the highest probability—37%—of breaking away from the pack. These companies reduce costs selectively by focusing more on operational efficiency than their rivals do, even as they invest relatively comprehensively in the future by spending on marketing, R&D, and new assets.” HBR
The best approach – and this may sound obvious – is finding the right balance between using defensive and opportunistic strategies during this economic downturn.
And of course, you can also be TOO defensive or TOO aggressive — neither of which is ideal.
Example Too Aggressive Behavior
One example from the research is Hewlett-Packard (HP). At the height of the 2000 recession, HP’s then-CEO Carly Fiorina said this:
“In blackjack, you double down when you have an increasing probability of winning. We’re going to double down.”
HP unquestionably doubled down in 2000. They spent tons of money aggressively in many sorts of directions — they purchased Compaq, their computer rival, they expanded R&D spend, they entirely rebranded HP plus they spent seriously in developing new markets.
By 2004, HP’s EBITDA earnings (8.4%) fell behind IBM’s (16.8%) and Dell’s (9.3%). Why? They were stretched too thin by responding too aggressively to a decline in the economy and too many directions for executives to successfully manage them.
Of course, other companies were too dependent solely on defensive strategies.
Example Too Defensive Behavior
Sony, for example, in the 2000 slowdown only slashed heavily — they cut their workforce by 11%, their R&D by 12% and their capital expenditures by 23%. This may have helped their profit margins when times were tough, but once the economy picked up steam, they were caught flat-footed.
In the years prior to the 2000 recession, Sony’s sales had been growing by an average of 11% per year for the three prior years.
But In the years after the recession — and after their cuts — average sales growth contracted to a meager 1%. They were still under pressure for several years beyond this as well – falling behind competition because they had changed to a defensive-only strategy during recession. They surrendered their ability to continually innovate and develop new exciting products and lost their lead to competitors.
What’s a company facing economic slowdown to do? Find the right balance and you’ll be okay. Piece of cake… Right?
Clearly businesses realize it isn’t that simple.
So, there are a few initiatives your organization can adopt to reinforce your businesses now for the anticipated economic uptick whether that happens in the 4th quarter of this year or more gradual over some longer timeframe.
The winners who used a delicate balance of operational efficiencies, market development and asset investment were termed by the researchers as progressive companies. They were the leaders in sales and profits growth post-recession.
2. Improve efficiency instead of only cost-cutting for up to a 10X better return
Some layoffs are fairly inevitable in a slump.
The Harvard Business Review research explained that cutting workforce during an economic downturn only delivered a small probability — just 11% — of getting ahead after the recession.
Cutting workforce alone did not translate into better post-recession profits.
Firms that used layoffs less to cut costs and more to right-size and relied more on operational improvements came back from recession in the strongest shape.
The study showed that post-recession profits raised $600 million on average for the businesses that were excessively defensive-minded.
But for businesses that focused on efficiency vs. making cuts increased sales by an average of $6.6 billion — an improvement of 1,000%.
How to translate that into action…
Rather than cutting back to save capital right now, focus on creating new efficiencies to either save money, or even generate new reach for your business, whether now or in the future.
In terms of value, invest now in systems to streamline and organize processes, practices and procedures. Then continue to enhance them to generate savings in your operations today and even more in future.
No matter your business situation at this low economic point, there is some area in your operation that can be made more efficient, likely by adding some economical technology to give you enhanced performance at lower cost in the future.
3. Invest in strategies and assets that can bring in new business
According to the Harvard researchers, during a recession, establishments that kept their eyes open to new trends and persisted in adapting their services to those shifting customer needs perform better in the years following the slowdown than companies that didn’t change, but simply repeated their same pre-recession strategies.
Example of Sales Growth Strategies
Let’s take Target, Inc.that increased capital expenditures by 50% and focused on developing into emergent markets and increasing online virtual business.
As a consequence, sales grew by 40%, profits by 50% during a recession, and their profit margin even improved 1% in the years subsequent to the down economy.
Example of Not Tailoring Strategies to shifting Market Trends
However, TJX Companies (with brands TJ Maxx and Marshall’s) increased capital expenditures by nearly 100%, concentrated on expanding retail space because they could purchase empty or underutilized real estate inexpensively.
Although TJX enjoyed increased sales in the midst of a down economy, it didn’t really innovate – so it didn’t improve their bottom line. In fact, bottom line growth was 9% lower in the years after a recession because they were saddled with assets that didn’t significantly boost returns.
Target and TJX are not like most companies, so how do we translate their experience to your strategy?
Essentially: Look Forward.
Continue engaging your customer base. Don’t stop communicating with them. They need you more than ever during the Covid-19 outbreak. They still want help through some of the challenges they’re going through. They would like to know what ideas you have now and plans for support after this is over — but they likely need a virtual option for the time being to connect with you.
The current quarantine has some companies using online video software so if you can meet customers virtually
Take the time to learn Zoom or Facetime, etc.
Maybe this is a perfect time to freshen up your website
A simple eblast out to your customer list can generate sales
Don’t forget the power of social media as an engagement tool
Take this time to invest in R&D and expand into a new area that your clients ask for.
4. Find new business opportunities by discovering what your customers need right now
For the time being, this pandemic has changed businesses, but what you may not see is that not all industries have been shut down, and thus:
You may have expansion possibilities which could bear much fruit when the pandemic ends.
Companies are still expanding, which is exactly what the Harvard study suggests you do.
Businesses that survive recessions and flourish afterward invest in:
Market research of what their customers/prospects need
Development of relevant solutions for now
Development of new solutions for future
Marketing more than their competition
Don’t stop communicating with your customers and prospects.
Reach out by email, social media, and direct mail to let them know you are still operational. Find out what they need so you can innovate to supply solutions that could make your business better than your competition.
You HAVE to let your customers know that you’re open again for business and market your business however you can. It’s the ONLY way your customers and prospects will know you’re open while some of your competitors may go down in this pandemic.
Plus, restrictions continue to lift, so you want to be ready and top of mind for your prospects.
If Flexicrew can assist you at all during this time, we’re still offering our free one-on-one workforce consultations 866.720.FLEX (3539).
First of all, when your business is ready to reopen, remember your communications plan should have a heavy dose of consideration and empathy. Different audiences (e.g. employees, suppliers, etc.) are bound to have unique worries and points of view. How your company takes care of each person, group or business and how it handles its reopening will become publicly accessible information and can leave an enduring impression positive or negative.
Three Solid Tips
Here are 3 tips that should work for any circumstance:
1. Confirm that workers are aware and free from anxiety about what actions you are taking to ensure safety. If employees don’t have faith in the steps you are taking, anyone they interface with will sense that doubt.
2. Inform your audiences at the start that back-to-work reopening will start with the facts and guidance that you have at the time and based on data public health officials provided. Let everyone know that plans will evolve as more is learned and your workforce gives feedback on effectiveness and comfort levels.
3. Make clear direction available such as signs, actions of senior management that illustrate good examples (social distancing, face masks, work from home when possible) and direction from supervisors to emphasize behaviors your company wants to establish.
Grounded in Safety and Care
If your firm’s reopening communications plan exhibits these elements, and are grounded in safety and care, then you should achieve smooth reopening with limited issues. Keep in mind that conditions change so you must keep an eye on the business and react to changes in medical, political and economic conditions.
Need Assistance with Reopening Communications Plan
If you need some assistance in organizing a Reopening Communications Plan in this uncertain labor market, contact Flexicrew today.
All 50 states have begun to reopen! The last state, Connecticut, started to reopen Wednesday May 20.
If your company hasn’t started to create a reopening plan, and you’re not really certain how to even start your particular company plan, the following are a few helpful links to various guidelines and resources:
Check out the 10 actions every business should take to reopen safely by the National Safety Council
Review the employer portion of the White House and CDC guidelines for reopening — which we included directly below.
The Administration and CDC released their official Guidelines for Opening Up America Again. It is a three-phased approach based on the advice of public health experts to help state and local officials reopen their economies successfully and get people back to work.
The proposed approach is:
Based on the most up-to-date data available
Curbs the risk of COVID resurgence
Protects our most vulnerable citizens
Adoptable on a statewide or county-by-county basis
The White House and CDC suggests that states meet the following criteria before implementing a phased reopening:
A 14-day downward trajectory in COVID-like symptoms
A 14-day downward trajectory of influenza-like reported illnesses
A 14-day downward trajectory of documented cases OR a downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period
Hospitals are capable of treating all patients without crisis care
There is robust testing in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing
Once states meet all of the above, it is considered safe to move forward with the government’s three-phase reopening plan.
For employers, the CDC and Administration recommends that you implement these guidelines when reopening:
Implement best practice policies with regards to: social distancing and protective equipment, temperature checks, sanitation, use/disinfection of common and high-traffic areas and business travel
Monitor your workforce for indicative symptoms.
Do not allow people to physically return to work while symptomatic.
Implement a policy for contract tracing should someone in your workforce test positive for COVID-19.
Once a location is considered safe to reopen, the official Guidelines for Opening Up America Again recommend that employers adhere to these recommendations during PHASE 1:
Continue to encourage remote working when possible.
If you can, return employees to work in phases.
Close common areas where staff are likely to congregate OR enforce social distancing within those areas.
Minimize nonessential travel or follow CDC guidelines regarding isolation following travel.
Strongly consider special accommodations for especially vulnerable staff.
During Phase 1, schools and organized children activities, bars and night clubs should remain closed. However, gyms and venue-based businesses (like restaurants, cinemas, churches, etc.) can operate while observing severe distancing protocols. Elective surgeries and dentists may also resume practicing on an out-patient basis.
Once your area moves to PHASE 2, these guidelines are provided for employers:
Continue to encourage remote working when possible.
Close common areas where staff are likely to congregate OR enforce social distancing within those areas.
Strongly consider special accommodations for especially vulnerable staff.
During Phase 2, schools and organized children activities can reopen. Bars and night clubs may operate with diminished standing room occupancy where applicable. Gyms and venue-based businesses (like restaurants, cinemas, churches, etc.) can operate while observing moderate distancing protocols. Elective surgeries may also resume on an out-patient and in-patient basis.
Once your area moves to PHASE 3, these guidelines are provided for employers:
You should resume unrestricted staffing of worksites.
During Phase 3, life will be close to normal. Gyms and venue-based businesses (like restaurants, cinemas, churches, etc.) can operate while observing limited distancing protocols.
Less National Safety Council, in coordination with the SAFER task force, releases comprehensive guidance and recommendations for employers to prioritize workplace safety post-quarantine
As a service to Flexicrew clients we are reprinting this news provided by National Safety Council and originally released by PRNewswire May 19, 2020
CHATTANOOGA, TN, (MAY 20, 2020) – Reopening businesses and returning employees to traditional work environments post-quarantine will be the most nuanced and complex actions American employers will undertake in the coming months. To help them prioritize safety during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Safety Council – based on recommendations from the SAFER task force – identified the 10 universal actions every employer must consider before reopening, and released a series of playbooks with in-depth recommendations for doing so safely.
SAFER – a group of experts from companies of all sizes, leading safety organizations, nonprofits, government agencies and public health organizations – is the first national task force focused on worker safety. The 10 universal actions every employer must take are:
Phasing – Create a phased transition to return to work aligned with risk and exposure levels
Sanitize – Before employees return, disinfect the workplace and make any physical alterations needed for physical distancing
Screenings – Develop a health status screening process for all employees
Hygiene – Create a plan to handle sick employees, and encourage safe behaviors for good hygiene and infection control
Tracing – Follow proper contact tracing steps if workers get sick to curb the spread of COVID-19
Mental Health – Commit to supporting the mental and emotional health of your workers by sharing support resources and policies
Training – Train leaders and supervisors not only on the fundamentals of safety such as risk assessment and hazard recognition, but also on the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health and wellbeing, as employees will feel the effects of the pandemic long after it is over
Engagement Plan – Notify employees in advance of the return to work, and consider categorizing workers into different groups based on job roles – bringing groups back one at a time
Communication – Develop a communications plan to be open and transparent with workers on your return to work process
Assessment – Outline the main factors your organization is using as guidance to provide a simplistic structure to the extremely complex return to work decision
“Protecting our workers means coalescing around sets of safety principles and ensuring those principles guide our decisions,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Employers are asking for help, and we’ve brought together leading safety experts to deliver in this time of need. We hope these universal actions, the detailed playbooks and the recommendations within them will help employers safely navigate reopening operations while prioritizing employees’ rights to safe work environments.”
On May 7, NSC and the SAFER task force released a framework from which employers should develop reopening action plans. The framework breaks down considerations within six key areas: physical environments, medical issues, mental health, communication needs, external considerations and employment and human resources. From the framework, NSC researchers created playbooks with detailed recommendations for each of the six key areas, as well as guidance for four specific environments: Office spaces, closed industrial settings, open industrial settings and public spaces.
For up-to-date information about the NSC response to COVID-19 and the task force’s activities, please visit nsc.org/safer.
About the National Safety Council The National Safety Council (nsc.org) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact.
About Flexicrew Staffing
Founded in 2008 in Mobile, Alabama, and currently headquartered in Chattanooga, TN, Flexicrew makes use of technology and industry best practices to deliver the most talented and qualified industrial – skilled and unskilled, technical, and clerical professionals to clients within most major industries. Flexicrew has a presence in over 25 markets across North America with more than 1,000 contractors currently placed in companies throughout the U.S. To learn more, visit www.flexicrew.com.
With so much conflicting and sometimes vague guidance on when to bring people back to work as part of the Great Reboot of your enterprise, how do you make the decision for your own team? What’s needed is a rigorous way to disentangle issues and address each one in an orderly way. Through analysis with the IT consulting firm Pariveda, we’ve distilled four key issues to sort through as you determine the right policies for your circumstances, covering not only when to come back but also how to conduct that work when it resumes.
3 Recovery Scenarios
To begin, we need to recognize that we can’t predict the future with certainty, and so you should consider the major issues as they appear in three distinct scenarios:
Scenario 1 – W-shaped Recovery: We expect that the return to more normal conditions will be sporadic and non-linear, with advances followed by renewed outbreaks and contraction. Already, we have seen this scenario play out in countries such as a Singapore. The greatest certainty will be flux.
Scenario 2 – Effective Treatment Emerges: In this scenario, we see the early beginnings of effective treatment, as with remdesivir, built upon over time to become increasingly impactful. The consequences of developing COVID thereby become less dire. There will still be risks, but for certain individuals they may be more tolerable.
Scenario 3 – Broadening Immunity: In some major cities such as Boston, we are already seeing over 10% of randomly-tested inhabitants displaying coronavirus antibodies. As more and more people develop these antibodies, and if they prove both long-lasting and effective at preventing future infection, a significant population of at least somewhat immune individuals will emerge. This scenario would also potentially apply if an early vaccine proves safe but not entirely effective.
4 Key Issues
Then, consider how to address four key issues. We’ll see in a moment how the scenarios, and your distinct circumstances, might affect your answers:
Issue 1 – How Fast to Return? This is the question which seems to get the most attention these days, but it’s far from settled. For your particular workplace, how quickly should which people come back to work? Should they come in distinct shifts to minimize cross-exposure? Should there be different policies for the most vulnerable employees?
Issue 2—How Much to Re-Engineer the Workplace? Employers have been trying to re-arrange workplaces to various degrees, from marking off personal space to Boeing giving staff red cards to anonymously call attention to safety violations. With the duration of the pandemic unknown, and with some aggregation points like hallways and restrooms possibly unavoidable, the right decisions vary on both scenarios for the pandemic and the circumstances laid out below.
Issue 3 – How Much to Transform Work? This topic covers not just workplace safety, but resiliency issues such as how much to diversify your supplier base, cross-train employees, and otherwise reduce the ways that COVID can quickly devastate your business.
Issue 4 – How Intrusive to Be? Are you willing to take employees’ temperatures as they report to work? If antibodies prove to be effective in stopping disease, are you willing to check their antibody status (where the law allows)? What unintended consequences might emerge, like people intentionally exposing themselves to the coronavirus so they can develop antibodies and eventually come back to work early?
When and How to Bring Employees Back to Work
Choosing your right response within each cell of this grid depends upon your circumstances, of course. Some key contexts to think through are:
How critical is it for your employees to be at work? How viable is continued remote work? What are some of the knock-on effects, like impeding hiring because it’s harder to onboard staff remotely? How does this vary among staff types, and is it possible to have different policies for different roles in the organization?
Does the workplace contain unavoidable risks of contact, like in-person services or places where people will inevitably be in close quarters?
Is your workplace relatively easy to reconfigure?
Are your customers insisting on knowing your workplace safety? Is there any way to certify that you’re doing all you can to keep your employees and customers safe?
How willing are you to be intrusive? We are already taking steps that would be unconscionable in years past, such as insisting on knowing about customers’ and employees’ health status. How far are you willing to go?
What are your employees’ and customers’ attitudes toward risk? Do you need to eliminate all risk, or are your best efforts good enough?
Knowing the answers to these questions provides a compass heading which makes addressing the issues in the grid more straightforward. These times confront us with tough challenges on many fronts, but this sort of rigorous approach enables detailed reasoning through distinct issues given specific circumstances. It makes a logical response both more possible and sustainable.
Seeking advice when to come back to work and also how to conduct that work when it resumes, consider contacting one of our workforce professionals online.
Stay-at-home orders prompted by COVID-19 are creating a challenge for managers—including those in HR—at a time when many companies are implementing telework policies for the first time. Nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of employers are finding it difficult to adapt to telework as a way of doing business, according to recent research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
“If this is the first time that managers are in charge of managing remote employees, it can be scary to navigate and ensure employees are productive, engaged and thriving,” said Paul Pellman, CEO of Kazoo, a computer software company in Austin, Texas. “The transition to remote communication removes the personal context that helps us interact with each other.”
It’s not just a matter of providing remote workers with a new video communication platform and assuming it will be business as usual, said Jane Sparrow. She is a business culture and remote work expert and the founder and director of The Culture Builders, a United Kingdom-based consultancy.
Managers need to be aware of how remote work may create feelings of isolation among team members.
“If you’re used to seeing your colleagues or customers every day, feelings of isolation can creep in remarkably quickly,” Sparrow said in a news release. “This new remote working environment can also affect focus, a sense of team and creativity. It’s not something that is often talked about, but if we are to help our teams stay healthy, happy and ultimately productive, we have to recognize and manage the high-stress environment that remote working can create for many people.”
SHRM Online has collected the following 10 tips from Pellman, Sparrow and others to help managers who work with remote employees.
Set expectations early and often.
“Providing guidelines, setting boundaries and reviewing the basics are among the most important steps to take when setting out on your project,” said Scott Bales, vice president of delivery and solution engineering at Replicon, a time management system provider based in the San Francisco Bay area. “There will be questions; be accessible and provide clarity on priorities, milestones, performance goals and more. Outline each team member’s availability and ensure you can reach them when needed.”
And just as in the workplace, managers should keep workers up-to-date on policy and staffing changes, company successes and tips for working at home, Pellman said.
They also should model behavior around the hours employees work, such as establishing expectations around responding to any after-hours work e-mail and texts.
“This helps employees maintain a healthy work/life balance,” Pellman said, “and prevents them from burning out—which, without the physical separation between home and the office, can be more common when working from home.”
Be organized and flexible.
“When it comes to working with remote teams, the key is to allow flexible hours to maintain consistency,” said certified business leadership coach Angela Civitella. “Although a concrete plan is a must, you should be open to adjusting strategies as needed. Whether your employees choose to put in their hours in the morning or evening shouldn’t matter, as long as the work gets completed and is of high quality.”
Adapt the length of your meetings.
“What works in the office may not [work] remotely,” Sparrow pointed out. “Instead of lengthy meetings, have short virtual huddles. …. Apply this thinking to team resourcing, scheduling and action planning.”
Track your workers’ progress.
“Have your employees give you a work schedule, along with tasks they are expected to accomplish within a given time,” Civitella suggested. “This will calm your fears and give your team the structure they need to fulfill their role. Remember, just because you can’t see them working at their cubicle doesn’t mean work isn’t getting done. Trust the process.”
It’s crucial that managers communicate with their remote staff, Pellman said, because it keeps workers apprised of deadlines, available resources, work-related challenges and managers’ expectations, including work schedules.
Also, consider which communication tool best fits the team’s culture—e-mail, texts, phone calls, video chats, an intranet channel—and find that delicate balance between constantly pinging employees with texts and e-mail and radio silence. The frequency of communication may differ among employees.
“The best method is to ask employees how they want to be managed while working remotely,” Pellman said. “That way, managers can keep a pulse on what each employee needs to be productive while working from home.”
And while it’s important that managers track metrics that matter to their organization and check in with employees, “too much oversight can show employees signs of mistrust,” he said. “If your employees are communicating clearly and meeting goals and deadlines, what’s not to trust?”
Remember to listen.
“The most successful managers are good listeners, communicate trust and respect, inquire about workload and progress without micromanaging, and err on the side of over-communicating,” said Justin Hale. He is a training designer and researcher at VitalSmarts, a leadership training company in Provo, Utah.
Surveys are an often-underutilized tool, according to Pellman. A monthly or quarterly employee net promoter score, for example, can be useful, along with pulse surveys for a deeper dive into employee sentiments. The net promoter score, according to HR Technologist, is an indicator of how likely an employee would be to promote his or her organization to other job seekers.
“Just remember,” he added, “if you’re asking for feedback from our employees, you need to do something about it.”
Build connections and be available to your team.
Many workers feel isolated and disoriented in this new work reality. That’s why it’s important to build connections with employees, said Bales, the Replicon VP.
“Share positive feedback, open a fun chat channel, or try and ‘grab coffee’ together—whatever helps maintain a sense of normality [and] solidarity and reminds everyone they’re not an island working alone,” he suggested.
Sparrow suggests thinking about different ways of creating connections with remote workers. She started a video blog “to have an emotional and direct connection with every one of my people. [It] has had a huge positive impact.”
Hale noted that good managers make themselves available to team members.
“They go above and beyond to maintain an open-door policy for remote employees, making themselves available across multiple time zones and through multiple means of technology,” he said. “Remote employees can always count on their manager to respond to pressing concerns.”
Provide a way to collaborate.
Providing a shared document that tracks work activities is one way managers can stay apprised of what their teams are doing. “It’s a good exercise, even when teams are in the office,” Pellman said, “and it will help managers refine their expectations and responsibilities of employees in this uncertain period.”
Also, agree as a team on acceptable behavior for virtual collaboration, Sparrow said, such as how quickly to respond to messages from colleagues. Is it OK, for example, to send a quick message to say “I’ll call you back” if you are focused deeply on something else when a co-worker reaches out?
Resist the urge to micromanage.
“You shouldn’t have to be looking over your team’s shoulders while they’re in the office, so you shouldn’t have to do it when they’re remote, either,” Pellman said. “Regular one-on-one check-ins help managers avoid micromanaging, while still enabling them to keep a pulse on employees and provide them with an opportunity to ensure feedback goes both ways.”
Trust that if they’re communicating clearly and meeting goals and deadlines, your employees are being productive and doing their jobs effectively.
“Managers should also look for opportunities to celebrate the same work milestones that would be celebrated in the office,” Pellman advised. “Employees just might have to switch out their high-five for a virtual elbow bump for the time being.”
Abruptly Recognize and Respond to the Core Of This Pandemic Crisis
Just weeks ago we were all going about our lives, but in a flash everything turned decidedly worse. We had to quickly recognize the core of this crisis as it pertains to our unique business circumstances. And try to figure out how to respond in a few short days that business usually have months to prepare for. Most businesses experienced or are experiencing:
and most important – insufficient cash
More symptoms seemed to develop weekly, if not daily, as we were faced with
changing medical guidelines and political directives.
Leadership Tips During the Coronavirus
With that said, here are 10 Quick Tips To Manage During the Coronavirus Pandemic and survive with businesses intact:
Rapidly Grasp the Problem and Focus on Real Solutions
How did companies cope? The select few leaders quickly acknowledged the problem, understood what’s driving it and identified solutions.
Poor managers procrastinated or froze up – postponing tough decisions. Those decisions tend to get harder the longer they are delayed in such uncertain times.
Making Top-Down Personnel Changes, Starting With Management
The attitude needed to lead in crisis is different and some managers just won’t have ‘it.’ They may be fine in business-as-usual circumstances but in this across-the-board disaster we are experiencing, they will not succeed or pull their weight and contribute the way they must. There’s too much at stake so, bottom-line, replacing, some senior managers of their positions could improve the chances of success. This gives a heads-up to all employees how grave the situation is and that the leadership will act decisively for business survival.
Delegate Critical Decisions Quickly to Internal Talent
This goes with the previous tip by placing the best talent in charge. Milk rises to the surface. Understanding how the organization works really provides value in a crisis. This ‘take-charge’ mind-set can exist in employees who were previously under-valued but can now contribute much more. There also may be individuals who see the situation as an opportunity to develop their careers, be part of something sweeping and make a significant difference. They are the minority while most people worry about job security. But retaining them and positioning them to lead could be a key to survival. Give them praise in public will further give them self-assurance to continue to excel. Allow them to make mistakes and advise them what went wrong. They will surely recognize this as the opportunity of career advancement as will others and motivate workers to perform their best.
Ideally, executives will look critically at their own performance, the performance of their peers and the plans ready to make a quick and forceful change. Defining interim targets is an important in the game plan, for example, “if we don’t hit XXX in sales by the third quarter we will completely re- assess our strategy”. Generally, the availability of cash is one of the most important checkpoints.
Cash Flow Paramount
No one can accurately forecast when demand will approach normal levels. We’ve all heard the expression, ‘cash is king’ and it’s especially so in a crisis. will the business generate enough cash until demand returns and bills are paid? This requires not only understanding the current cash position, but accurate cash forecasting is vital. Not just the business as a whole, but which parts of the business contribute positive cash flow. These must be prioritized over cash draining functions.
This should drive your organization to cut costs and eliminate ‘nice-to-haves’ in favor of ‘must-haves.’ This will drive a company to uncover cash-leaks and take a tough stand on business-as-usual and focus on zero-based budgeting.
Business Coaches, Mentors and External Advisors
The relationship between company owners and management will vary depending on number of employees, demand breakdown, business locations, the regulatory impact, and medical factors. Regardless, there is considerable merit when leaders can gain insight from talented professionals who are away from the day-to-day functions and see the ‘big picture’ or have insight into the actions of other similar businesses are dealing with many of the same issues.. Outside advisors can present a useful viewpoint on business risk and they should help build turnaround plans. Skillful leaders know how to take advantage of this.
External advisors can review your business Free, like SCORE )ancillary arm of U.S. Small Business Administration or SBDC, which offers free advise which work through universities to offer insight from retired business professionals.
This is aimed not just at employees, but also customers, suppliers, bankers and others. .Management must credibly highlight company direction and focus plus answer some important questions:
Why is our set of objectives and interim goals?
How will we achieve them?
Who will be responsible?
What are the target dates?
What happens if we don’t achieve the targets or are late getting there – some implications
What is Plan B if needed?
You need to create and distribute a script that all can see a fundamental, core narrative of the leader’s vision and action plan and how that trickles down to subordinates.
Focus on Quick Hits
Even small achievements are worthwhile when managing through a crisis. We daresay that even almost-wins are important and should be celebrated. Obviously, there has to be ultimate, longer-term direction, but getting through immediate challenges day-by-day helps build confidence and motivation and becomes the foundation on how to get there and provides motivation and buy-in along the way.
. So, play some ‘small-ball’ directing attention on hitting today’s production number or picking up a new prospect or one team member’s short-term progress renegotiating a supplier contract, etc. While these ‘wins’ won’t deliver the turnaround of the business, they play a part in getting there and make possible continued business existence and the eventual achievement of long term business survival.
Focus Incentives on Turnaround
Your company and the environment is uncertain. An organization facing hardship needs distinctive rewards than a stable one. In a crisis, incentives should relate directly to the turnaround of the business for which clear metrics are set. Perhaps these metrics could relate to cash levels, new leads, new sales or a return to profitability. They should be succinct, relatively short-term and reviewed frequently as the business changes. An inspired workforce with shared goals is precisely what your company needs to get everyone pulling in the same direction to get beyond the wreckage of Coronavirus and its devastating impact on business.
Convert Good Crisis Business Practices into Normal Behavior
Post-pandemic, the first 9 good business practices we listed should become established components of your business playbook and an employee-accepted part of the structure of your organization. Who knows, maybe as the pandemic comes to an end, you’ll have learned a few new habits to reinvent your business that you can put to work as you begin to really focus on your recovery journey.
Managers ‘tested-under-fire’ must quickly become leaders that bring a sense of ‘crisis-urgency’ and best practices to their organization even in times of stability.
Flexicrew is supporting many clients as they deal with these challenges. We are here for you. Please get in touch if you need helpworkforce planning, recruiting, safe employee temperature screening or contact tracing in this uncertain period.
Entrepreneur.com is hosting a crisis management webinar series that will delve into new challenges business owners face as a result of COVID-19. They plan to run the webinars through the whole Coronavirus pandemic — essentially, while it persists in affecting the U.S. and our economy. Entrepreneur pledges to include all portions of business function during the COVID-19 hardship. Areas that will be touched on comprise:
Work From Home Best Practices
Health and Wellness Advice
Crisis Communication Plans
Business Planning and Operations
Finding New Revenue Streams
Tax and Legal Support
401K and Retirement Strategies
Virtual Networking Tips
Creative Marketing Ideas
And at this time there are just a few specific webinars you can watch on-demand now that may be relevant to your organization:
You can review Entrepreneur’s future webinars and register here. Check out their latest listings and upcoming dates.
Remain sharp, alert and flexible, and you’ll walk away with tools to help your business survive and thrive going forward. Making sure your company has a strong foundation will be the key to rebuilding better and bigger than before.
Flexicrew is open-for-business and helping clients recruit quality workers. If you need any support, contact us.
As of April 16, small business relief funds offered through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) had been depleted.
On April 27, PPP officially reopened at 10:30am EDT. The program was refunded with another $310 billion available to small business owners. If you haven’t already, contact your bank or preferred lender! If you need more help and clarification on what PPP is, if you qualify and how to ensure your loan is forgiven, keep reading…
The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on Friday, March 27.
The legislation includes a number of business-boosting relief programs, the largest of which is the Small Business Association’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program or PPP.
As of Wednesday night (April 15), the SBA is reporting that 1,562,000 PPP applications have been approved, totaling over $329 billion.
The good news is that loan applications have officially been approved by the SBA, and money should be in the accounts of more than 1.5 million small business owners shortly.
One PPP loan tracker puts the total estimated loan disbursement figure at $16.4 billion as of Wednesday night.
If you’d like more on these loans and other relief available through the $2 trillion CARES Act, continue reading…