The general confinement and following curfew prompted by the outbreak of the Covid 19 disease will no wonder go down in history as a purely new experience for everyone in our small island. Particularly for the workforce, the majority of which is used to commute to and back from their workplace during weekdays.
The two-week lockdown brought about a completely new scenery witnessed across all corners of the country, as businesses shuttered down to allow most of us to carry out our office-based tasks at home as much as we can. The same applied to most public service officers while only the essential service providers such as health service providers, police and fire officers as well as workers in the distribution channels among others were allowed to move out and around.
This new experience of working from home brings along a whole new way of professional tasking that we have not really been exposed to, though we might have worked for a day or two a couple of times during the year or coordinating our works in the thick of a week-long overseas mission or vacation.
What makes this present experience of working remotely quite particular is that we are in a lock-down period, which is different from a normal work day. And the challenge that comes with it is also quite particular: that of dealing with a crisis inside when everything is closed outside. So how do we go about when it comes to managing a crisis in the mid of such an unconventional period?
Mr. Kalyan Ganesh, a former top-gun at IBM India invited recently by the National Productivity and Competitiveness Council (NPCC) to monitor the implementation of the SCORE project, an ILO initiative, shared some highly thought-provoking points on our preparedness levels and how to take the bulls by the horns when a crisis hits.
“No matter from where we are working and even if the whole world around us closes down, the customer remains our priority and should be serviced as much as we can. He should not be having any clue that we are being shaken by any crisis inside during lockdowns or any other catastrophes outside. But there is a whole lot of planning behind that,” he says.
1. Ever heard about a “Pandemic Planning”? This is actually the first of all the things to begin with. It is built on general principles that guide preparedness planning for any acute threat to public health. Besides health, it is also used during calamities. Pandemic plans are a combination of preventative measures and active response measures. The internet in fact abounds with a great deal of Pandemic Planning templates.
2. As the crisis takes over, most offices post their staff at home, while a skeletal staff is retained with the necessary protection and safety arrangements. The pandemic plan should however already flag those whose presence are most critical at the office very much in advance.
3. Information Technology (IT) is what will drive the whole thing during the crisis. It should be ensured that the server is remotely accessible but with proper permissions to designated areas for each staff. Companies operating an Intranet should also make sure the system is securely accessed and properly monitored from outside the premises.
4. Before the crisis hits amid all the conundrums outside, a proper networking system should be designed to keep in touch on a daily basis. Heads of Departments should take up the task of coordinating with their respective subordinates through line meetings and report upwards.
5. A proper way of coordinating with staff is a two-time meeting per day, preferably one in the morning to set out the tasks of the day and the second in the afternoon to take stock of the achievements. Virtual channels such as emails, chats and phones should be kept open for prompt responses. Staff should also be requested to stay on alert regarding any urgent meetings.
6. Another challenge always faced is the attendance and hours clocked in by a virtual team. Human Resources could make use of software that record number of hours worked and idle time.
7. Communication is of utmost importance during such times. Whatever important issue crops up should be shared promptly and ensured that each and everyone gets the message right. Regular motivating communication to boost up morale and strengthen team spirit should also be practiced during such moments.
8. Remember well that the utmost priority of the organisation should be to respond to the customer as much as possible without making him feel about the slightest hassles inside. Keeping everyone in the circle knit together is really important, especially during that particular crisis.
No matter what, a crisis situation could be a chance to find solutions that could perhaps not be found otherwise in the office at times. The pandemic planning thus comes as the answer, as it is all about a good planning well in advance to respond to critical situations.