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on March 17, 2020

COVID-19 and the Changing Work Environment

Questions CFOs should ask themselves when “Working from Home” is the New Norm

Unless you have been living under a rock, you are probably aware that there is disease spreading rapidly across the entire world knows as Coronavirus.  COVID-19, which is the particular strand of Coronavirus causing all of the recent concern, was declared a pandemic by WHO (World Health Organization) on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.  On Sunday, March 15, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) announced that throughout the United States, any event of 50 or more people should be avoided.  On Monday, March 16, the President of the United States urged citizens to avoid crowds of 10 or more people.  There have also been several instructions on “social distancing”, such as leaving six feet between you and others, if you are to interact.

What does all of this mean for corporate America?  While there are a number of articles out there focusing on the extreme negative effects of Coronavirus, I wanted to take a moment and talk about another outcome: increased amount of time employees are now working from home.  Several corporations, including big names like Twitter and Google, are being forced to allow their personnel to work from home, versus the alternative of shutting down completely to assist in fighting the virus.  As a traveling consultant, I was pretty shocked to receive the following statement in a real email last week from our CFO:

“Given the recent announcements on COVID-19 (i.e. the Coronavirus) from the World Health Organization and out of an abundance of caution, the Senior Leadership Team is directing all ArganoInterRel employees to stop all future travel bookings until further notice.”

Whether your corporation is small, medium, or large, you need to start considering the feasibility for your employees to work remotely (if you have not already).  While this may not currently be mandated in your location, it is possible it could be in the near future.  If directed by the government, like some parts of the world, corporations may be forced to either come to a complete halt or let some or all of their employees continue to be productive outside of the office.  Below are a few questions that company leaders should start asking themselves:

  1. Can any of the company employees work from home?

In some cases, such as manual labor, employees may need to be physically there to get the job done, and that’s ok.  Is there any part of the corporation can work remotely with no issues?

  1. Are employees equipped with what they need to work from home?

It’s possible you might want to invest in company laptops for individuals that don’t currently have one, but possess skills and knowledge that could be beneficial to keeping the company operable outside of the office walls.

  1. Do I want to consider paying telephone bills for the next two months? What about internet bills? 

This one may seem extreme, but you might get some push-back if your employees have limited talk time on their cell phones and no home phone.  You also might encounter employees that simply don’t have internet outside of work.

  1. For virtual meetings, what can be done to keep all individuals engaged?

Personally, I have co-workers and clients across the globe, and therefore frequently attend virtual meetings.  I can attest to the fact that most attendees choose to not show their video camera (myself included).  However, with no face time for the next few weeks, your corporation might want to consider encouraging use of the laptop camera during meetings in this interim social distancing state.  There are also a number of interactive tools, such as polling your audience throughout the meeting.  One that I have found to be particularly helpful is “poll everywhere”.  Located here is a great article posted by the Harvard Business Review that gives a few more tips on keeping the audience engaged in virtual meetings.

While the list could go on and on for how to prepare for the new working environment COVID-19 has forced us to live in, I wanted to close with a possible (in my opinion) positive long-term outcome this might bring.  This situation has forced an out of office productive setting that otherwise might not have been allowed.  What if productivity remains the same, or even increases due to lack of distractions?  What if less travel time means more time to complete tasks or enhance deliverable outputs?  Is this increase in tolerance for working from home going to continue once the Coronavirus pandemic calms down?  My vote is yes.

References:
StatNews.com
WashingtonPost.com
HuffingtonPost.com
CNBC.com
BBC.com/news/technology
BBC.com/news/business
Sarah Cahill
Senior Consultant
ArganoInterRel Consulting
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