As businesses continue to react and adapt to the curveball being thrown at them in the form of COVID-19, there are practical lessons to be learned that should prove beneficial in the future.
Whether it’s an organization’s nonexistent leave policy, or their lack of work flexibility,
the new coronavirus is shining a bright light on any vulnerabilities an organization might have. While this can be difficult to sift through, it will force organizations to reexamine what policies and practices they have in place and whether they should adjust.
One thing has become clear during what has now been declared a “national emergency” by President Trump: If your organization isn’t technologically equipped to operate with a mostly-remote staff, it’s at a severe disadvantage — now and in the future.
“Organizations, if they haven’t already, will need to have a much more centralized way to collaborate on work together because those digital needs will become so much more important,” said Laura Butler, senior vice president of people and culture at Workfront.
In the interim, Butler said she believes organizations that have been forced into having the majority or all of their employees work remotely can leverage this as a new way to evaluate employees while also learning how to better connect the remote workforce going forward.
“This has the potential to have more organizations hiring people in different locations and seeing that they’re still productive,” Butler said. “If we harness this opportunity, that’s what could happen. There’s also tremendous potential in putting everyone on an equal playing field in terms of getting work done and collaborating and also driving the accountability of work.”
Another factor that plays into handling a crisis like the coronavirus is instilling a strong culture. Organizations that already have one in place can take these situations in stride. Part of that strong culture includes a willingness to allow remote work, paid leave options and an overall community that supports employees in tough times.
“It’s important that you’re checking in with people as human beings and understand what’s going on in their life, particularly in such a stressful event,” Butler said. “We are going to have to create new ways of establishing that sense of community and doing that online. Not everyone has the tools or the skills to manage that effectively virtually. We’re even looking at some of the things on LinkedIn Learning that are helping with virtual learning, such as best tips for working remotely effectively and a lot of those are culture items
Ultimately, Butler said she feels the situation will accelerate the future of work and, as a result, it will likely open up the possibility of a more global workforce for organizations that might have been reluctant to have one based on productivity concerns.
“It’s forcing people to get competent in how to manage virtual people quickly and sometimes that’s a barrier,” Butler said. “This is going to force them to develop that competency and challenge the status quo.”
Google (from) Home
A week ago, Google sent a memo to staff recommending that employees in Washington work from home. It has now expanded that request to all of its nearly 100,000 workers in North America, reports CNN. Google has also said it is developing a fund to provide sick leave pay to non-full time employees who currently don’t have the benefit and are affected by coronavirus.
Amazon Won’t Dock for Absences
Amazon is relaxing its attendance policy for warehouse workers and other employees due to the continued spread of the coronavirus, reports CNBC. Annie Palmer writes that the company informed employees that it will not count any unpaid time off should they need to take it during the month of March. Amazon made the change to ensure there are no repercussions for needing to stay home due to illness.
Microsoft Not Powering Down
Microsoft has committed to paying normal hourly wages to non-employees providing services to Microsoft workers, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers, even if they spend less time on the clock because of coronavirus, writes Jordan Novet of CNBC. The reason for this decision, CNBC reported, is that many full-time Microsoft employees will be working remotely during the next few weeks, thus it will likely result in less hours for hourly employees.
The Chinese Response
Given that China was the starting point for coronavirus, businesses there are in the recovery phase. Harvard Business Review has provided a list of 12 lessons for leaders elsewhere to extract from how Chinese organizations handled the outbreak so they can apply it to their business.
About the Author
Brett Christie is the managing editor of Workspan Daily.