Coronavirus: How can HR manage remote staff?

Visibility is possible even from behind a mask – work doesn’t have to be a stressful process

Coronavirus: How can HR manage remote staff?

Tracking the rapid outbreak of the COVID-19 in real time is not the only thing we have technology to thank for.

Time Magazine called coronavirus the “World’s Largest Work-From-Home Experiment” and that is what it is shaping up to be. This is the time to put the concept of a mobile workforce to the test – we have the technology available, now how are we going to use it to its fullest potential?

READ MORE: Coronavirus forces world's largest work-from-home experiment

For businesses that do not already practice flexible schedules and remote working, this does not have to be a stressful process. Here are four quick tips to get you started:

1. Work remotely, but openly
Do not let physical barriers keep you from engaging with employees, especially in a time when they look to you to keep them informed on business priorities and updates. First, communicate to your employees on what measures you have taken to keep them as safe as possible. They might also have questions, such as what they should be saying to customers or suppliers, update the standard operating procedures (SOPs), and clarify who they can go to for more information.

Appoint a person-in-charge or create an email address where employees can reach someone if they need more information and have any concerns. Start compiling information on China and other affected countries’ operations (e.g., employee strength, contact/visits to Singapore) and backup plans should new restrictions kick in. Publicise official sources of information, including the Ministry of Health and World Health Organization, so that your employees can distinguish the truth from fake news.

READ MORE: Indeed shuts down offices over coronavirus suspicion

2. Make sure your software is not at risk of being quarantined
With the rise of video calls and shared folders like Dropbox, it is now easier to share information and stay in touch with other people – but you need to ensure your software is available. While some applications are cloud-native and easily enable working from home, test remote access to on-premise solutions such that your employees continue to have unhindered access away from the office. Ensure that your software is running at peak productivity in order to continue transactional efficiency as well as giving you the insights required to manage your business, the finances and your people.

READ MORE: Deadly Wuhan virus: What HR needs to know

3. Visibility is possible, even from behind a mask
Do not forget about engaging with your employees just because you do not see them face-to-face. Keep communication flowing via multiple channels. This can be done by phone, email, video or other online communication tools that your organization may be using like Teams or Skype – whatever works for you and your team. Collaborate better on projects by creating trackers on tools like Slack or Google Sheets to have a ‘live’ view on progress and status updates.

In an outbreak where time is of the essence, visibility also means having your data ready on hand to account for your employees at any point in time. Take note of those that have been on sick leave or holidays recently. HR should be prepared with all necessary information should a contact tracing exercise be required. Leverage your employee self-service portal to allow staff to update their contacts or apply for leave of absence and manage their own time off.

4. Volatility calls for continual assessment
With the situation evolving every day, do not wait to find out how the outbreak will affect your company’s financial performance. A real-time and forecast view of your P&L and cashflow is more imperative now than ever to ensure business continuity. While you can take precautions and set up contingency plans for several unforeseen circumstances, a real-time business view can help you best decide when to enact them.

Businesses face adversities all the time. Successful businesses overcome and even thrive in times of challenge. Tap on mobile technology to manage your money and people. Select digital tools that offer live information so that you can make fast, informed decisions anytime, anywhere in the world.  

Arlene Wherrett is vice president and managing director at Sage Asia.

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