The Covid-19 virus or Coronavirus has firmly gripped the world’s collective attention, in some cases holding entire economies hostage as governments close schools and factories and enact strict quarantines.
The disease, which had never before been seen in humans, has infected more than 80,000 and killed more than 3,000 people since it first arrived early this year. Our hearts go out to the individuals stricken by the disease and the families coping with the deaths of their loved ones.
While society’s collective goal is to contain the disease and limit its potentially fatal impact, there is an additional impact that we’re already seeing – an economic one. Over the course of seven days starting on February 20th, the stock market fell every day and in only five days of trading, dropped by 12% last week. The reason is simple as investors start to price in expected supply chain disruptions, shortages, and potential quarantines in the United States. While no one knows the full potential impact of the virus, we do know that Covid-19 is likely to spread throughout the United States (as many leading experts at the CDC and NIH have now indicated).
The impact on employers is already starting with Twitter telling its workforce of more than 4,500 to work at home starting this week, and Google has done the same in Ireland. What happens, though, when companies not necessarily built for remote-work find themselves in the same situation, urged or even compelled to keep employees home for public health? The Detroit News recently profiled what could happen to Michigan’s manufacturing industry, which comprises 14.2% of employment in the state. Already many of these companies have seen an impact from suppliers in China shuttering for several weeks in January and February. What then happens if similar closures or additional supply chain disruptions occur for companies in states like Michigan.
Let’s take a closer look at what an effective emergency remote-work plan looks like and how to act fast to implement one.
Increase Communication Speed and Reach
Weekly updates aren’t enough. The disease is spreading rapidly and events are reacting as quickly as they can. In mid-February, cases started to peak in China and it appeared the worst may be over. Only a few days later, cases exploded around the globe and we now have cases in several states, including the first deaths from the virus in the US. It’s important to have tools in place that allow you to communicate with all members of your team, wherever they happen to be, instantly.
A digital andon cord that connects everyone from the CEO to frontline workers can help achieve this with existing devices such as smartphones and tablets. At the same time, we live in a 24/7 news culture, fed by social media and cable news. Certain events are sensationalized, and others are reported without confirmation of the facts. Be nimble but also take the time to confirm new sources of information before acting. Knee jerk reactions can be costly if made without a complete picture of what’s happening.
Building a Plan to React
Now is not the time to think about a plan – it’s time to build and implement in parallel. A failure to plan is a plan to fail, but a plan implemented without considering all of the components of your business can create even greater problems. Some key issues to consider include:
- People Before Business Issues – Your most important resource is your workforce and they rely on you to make smart decisions in their best interest. It’s tempting to focus only on the bottom line when evaluating when to shut down and when to shift to remote operations, but before any of that, consider the impact of your decision on employees. How can you best support them in this time of crisis?
- Setup a Comprehensive Operations Center – Centralize management of the crisis. Select key stakeholders who will be responsible for taking in, processing, and disseminating crucial information to the organization, and make sure everyone is on the same page. The fastest way to create a panic is to have different sources of information coming from different corners of your business.
- Acknowledge the Possibility Your Workers Will Need to Work Remotely – It’s a very real possibility that, like China, entire organizations will be forced to shut down and limit unnecessary exposure through commutes and the workplace. In China, this means entire factories were shut down for weeks to ensure the safety and wellbeing of workers while keeping the virus from spreading. It’s likely something similar will happen here.
With these things in mind, it’s important to have a plan in place for how to address the worst-case scenario if it should come to pass.
Preparing for Remote Work Operations
With this in mind, it’s time to create a plan for how to handle remote work for your workforce. Here are six steps to follow to ensure you’re ready:
- Map out the jobs that could be affected.
- Audit and prepare software and hardware for remote operations.
- Setup a communication protocol.
- Gather data and evaluate quickly and constantly.
- Run outage scenarios and foresee impacts.
- Know all your suppliers and map vulnerabilities.
How long can you realistically last if the music stops? This is the first question on most executives’ minds. To realistically answer it, you need a clear plan in place for how to maintain operations to the fullest extent possible in the case of major disruptions due to the spread of Covid-19.
- Hope is not a strategy, failure to plan is a plan to fail
- Stay calm, cool and collected, don’t consume fake news
- Start with people first, keep them safe and make a plan to set up remote workers
- Plan to mitigate risk and impact on business continuity
- Be part of the solution, empathy and solidarity is needed to bring the best of us to prevail
Andonix works with companies around the globe and is already seeing the impact of the outbreak on employees in diverse industries. We want to help.
With decades of experience in the automotive industry, we understand just how disruptive this situation can be – especially for employees who will be hesitant to stay home if sick if it impacts their families. We are in a unique position to help, with a platform designed to implement organization-wide communication tools in just a couple of days. With such a massive potential impact, we want to do whatever we can to help front line workers through the crisis.
To do so, for a limited time Andonix will provide our platform free of charge to any business in order to help them run their teams remotely during the crisis. Learn more about this special offer from the link below or contact us here to discuss your options with a member of our team.