The work-from-home situation brought about by COVID-19 has put a toll on every business. Regardless of size, location, or what type of industry the business belongs, every company is left scrambling to get their revenues up and keep their commerce alive.

The administrative teams of these companies have rushingly crafted strategies and policies needed to protect their employees, clients, and stakeholders amid an uncertain time. These strategies should furthermore mitigate the impact of the pandemic, including and especially the unstable and volatile market. 

This article assesses how the biggest enterprises respond to the worsening economic crisis that comes along with the pandemic situation. Read on to learn about these ways:

Forming Crisis Management Teams

A study led by Larry Edmond, managing director of analytics and advisory firm Gallup, enumerated the Coronavirus-related responses pursued by 100 major organizations. Consequently, these organizations are all members of the firm’s Chief Human Resources Officers (CHRO) roundtable. On average, the 100 enterprises in the study employ 80 000 workers and boast $27 billion in annual revenue. 

The study quoted: “Most organizations have created crisis management teams, task forces, or committees with a response tailored to specific geographic regions.” These crisis management groups convene regularly to discuss how the company could better alleviate the impact of future crises and contingencies.

Furthermore, a crisis management team is tasked to formulate policies and provide information to the executive officers and front-line workers on topics like awareness, prevention, and good hygiene. 

Alongside strategies intended for immediate use, the crisis management team also has its focus on management protocols for various future scenarios. The aim of crafting protocols for future use is centered around the continuity of the business. In other words, the crisis management team should analyze current actions to better forecast possible responses to future crises. More particularly, the protocols and plans should include the following: 

  • succession contingency plans for all major executives 
  • conducting business using virtual, video or audio capabilities 
  • plans on restricting travel and reducing this business-critical operations only 
  • moving critical operations to unaffected regions 
  • cross-training team members to perform critical functions in the event of an unexpected absence or quarantine of another team member 
  • documenting business-critical functions, processes or procedures in the event of an unexpected absence or quarantine of a team member 
  • distributing call center scripts and agent communications

Developing an Infrastructure for Remote Work

At the onset of COVID-19 which traces back to December 31, 2019, the Chinese social media was swamped with searches on the phrase “remote work”. Over a year later, remote work, otherwise known as telecommuting, work-from-home, or homeworking, has been the “new normal” setup for most, if not all of the world. 

Many Chinese companies were encouraged by their authorities to transition their work dynamics to a remote work setup from the traditional office work atmosphere. This transformation may not be as easy for jobs that require the worker to manufacture items (e.g. a job in a shirt printing business) as it is for workers that are already accustomed to telecommuting.

Obviously, many jobs, particularly those in manufacturing, cannot be transitioned to remote work. News from XinhuaNET report that only 33 percent of Chinese small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were able to continue normal work operations during the last week of February 2020. 

MITSloan Management Review uses the Chinese experience as a model from which managers can take steps to maximize the effectiveness of the remote work option during a crisis. These steps include the following: 

  • Allow your employees to telecommute. Transitioning to telecommuting will not only encourage business continuity for your company but it also helps your workers gain significant experience from the work-from-home dynamics. Companies that immediately transition their work setup to remote work will allow their employees to have the necessary tacit knowledge, planning, and infrastructure in place to quickly transition more operations if that becomes necessary in the future. 
  • Train your leaders. One of the biggest complaints from employees about remote work points to the lack of respect for normal working hours from their leaders, managers, employers, and even colleagues. Sending emails as late as 12 midnight is, in no way, a sign of respect for your subordinates. This implies the importance of sensible rules about when leaders should expect their workers to be available—and when they should not.
  • Train your employees. Training your employees will help you maintain business continuity not just for a short period of time, but long term. It is crucial to identify and invest in employees who are willing to do the dirty work for your business so your goals are accomplished. Some questions to ask about your employees are: Do they have the tools to work effectively from home if they have to? Will these employees help me run my business in the future? Do these employees hold a tall potential for growth? 
  • Develop a disaster scenario that incorporates telecommuting. How will your company be operating if the geographic locations at which your business operates are suddenly put on lock down? Scenario planning will help you generate ideas about how your company could defy the boundaries of remote work. This article will help you put together a scenario plan that should kickstart your brainstorming of ideas that will assist you in resuming your operations despite a limited form. 

Imposing Travel Requirements

Most major companies have imposed travel restrictions that limit personal and professional travel among the employees in a company. Some companies even warned that if their workers travel without authorization from their superiors, they could be penalized and pressed with significant sanctions. Generally, these regulations are considered “soft bans'', which are only partial travel restrictions and could help avoid air travel, public transportation and large gatherings. A worker also has to be quarantined for 14 days following travel to COVID-19 hotspots. 

There are also companies that impose “hard bans,” especially those in areas most susceptible to the virus. Travel to China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan have also been prohibited by a good number of top-ranking companies. Indeed, most intercontinental travel—and, more recently, even travel in general—have stopped for the time being, unless these are mission-critical.

Analyzing Business Impact

Senior leaders in major companies are holding supplementary meetings that aim to monitor the business impact brought about by the pandemic condition. One byproduct of these meetings is the protection and sustainability of the business functions of these companies. The points of focus of these company conferences include the closing down of facilities in areas with high incidences of COVID-19, and the transferring of some business disciplines to locations that are not as susceptible to the Coronavirus.  

Additionally, the Chief Human Resource Officers of these companies perform the following:

  • analyzing/forecasting the prospective impact of COVID-19 going forwards;
  • monitoring supply chains and providers for potential challenges;
  • assessing supply chain and operational risk on an on-going basis;
  • looking for alternative suppliers;
  • supplying additional resources for staff or paid leave;
  • trimming or suspending bonuses at senior levels.

Communicating Remotely 

Companies today are encouraging video and audio-conferencing meetings through platforms such as Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet. In fact, even phone calls are preferred as a medium of communication instead of face-to-face meetings. Simultaneously, collaborative projects are being done online through software like Google Docs, Slack, Discord, and other online channels. 

Frequent and meaningful communication are necessary in effective corporate leadership. To address concerns in an organization’s COVID-19 response, policies, advice, and protocols, companies are looking at the importance of communication in reporting necessary information among its employees. A good number of organizations are issuing Frequently-Asked-Questions (FAQ) guides from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), Johns Hopkins University, and local governments to help inform their subordinates about what things they should know vis-à-vis the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It may also be significant that, along with expert advice, messages are coupled with genuine thoughts such as reminding workers to get information from credible organizations, assuring them that none of their fellow employees have tested positive for the virus (where applicable), urging employees not to panic or spread rumors, and ensuring the message has an inspirational and strategic narrative. Additionally, encouraging your employees to obtain enough food, water, medicines, and other essentials for their families in case of quarantine or scarcity will be greatly appreciated. 

Your People’s Wellbeing

Your people are your most important asset. They determine the success or failure of your business. Regardless of your intelligence as manager, it is your people that ultimately hold the fate of your enterprise. 

Amid an extremely uncertain time, letting your subordinates know that they are valued and appreciated in your company will not only breed positive performance, but it will inspire them to be loyal to your organization in the long run. Among the ways to do this in a remote setup include: 

  • Providing your employees with paid and unpaid leave; 
  • Imposing a rewards program for your employees to encourage productivity; 
  • Offering your employees working space and technology supplies; and 
  • Providing your employees with health and wellness allowances. 

(READ: What Benefits Should You Offer Your Remote Team?)

The workplace should always be a team business. Your employees perform their roles and you take good care of them. The mentioned benefits and privileges are just material possessions. These may cost your company a small amount of money, but the impact it has on your employees goes beyond just cultivating loyalty. These help assure them that their company is always on the lookout for their wellbeing, even in the middle of a pandemic. 

Final Thoughts

The remote work setup did bring about a crisis no one ever imagined was even possible to transpire. Companies scrambled to get their revenues up. Employees have been retrenched. Workers have lost morale and productivity. Small enterprises have been put to a halt. Nonetheless, it always pays to learn about what measures you should take to have your business continue its operations amid the pandemic. 

Contact us at Rivermate and let us talk about how we can help you!