In life and in business, we often face uncertainty. However it is rare that we all face the same level of uncertainty at the same time. The last time the world collectively faced a common threat of this scale was the global financial crisis (GFC) of 2007-2008. Since then, we have taken many steps to ensure we have a comprehensive Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in place to enable us to continue operating effectively during crisis periods.
We have been contacted by several people and companies about how we are planning to respond if there is a need to reduce face-to-face contact. For many industries such as retail, manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality and others, it is not as simple as asking people to work from home. For many companies, it is simply not possible. If you are able to, then we have some suggestions below that may help.
We have designed our entire company and systems to allow our team to work from anywhere. We have video available for all meetings. Most of our team members simply need a laptop and an internet connection. There will be little to no disruption for most of our team members in their ability to continue working.
The World Health Organisation suggests some low-cost measures in this document that will help prevent the spread of infections in your workplace and protect your customers, contractors and employees.
In the event of a major escalation, all team members will be able to work remotely. In-person meetings and events will be limited. Our phone system can be diverted and answered.
We have been working as a distributed team for many years, with offices across Australia and Bali, and we’ve developed many strategies to support people across those locations. If we need to close one or more of our offices, we are confident that we can continue to operate as normal.
Tips for working as a distributed team
- Release your procedure to the team ahead of time, indicating that it will only be used in an emergency.
- Ask people to prepare a workspace in advance. Desk, chair, internet connection, headphones and space to work. This setup is important. You may need to support some team members with this. Organise it now.
- Call it what it is, a Distributed Team, rather than ‘we are working from home’. It is a team operating and functioning as normal, just from different locations.
- Provide a Google Meet, Skype, Zoom or Conference call number for every meeting. Every team member needs to be able to participate in the call/meeting.
- Invite clients to these meetings and share the link with them in advance. Remember, they may not have the same tech as you. Test it with one of the team members.
- Check that your files are accessible from out of the office.
- Test whether your phones can easily be diverted and write down the procedure.
- Ask team members to list what they are doing at the start of the day and ask them to share what they achieved at the end of the day. This is a critical part of allowing people to feel accomplished.
- Send an update to all team members every day providing updates about what people are doing and sharing information. This is especially important if you only have one office and this is the first time they have worked as part of a distributed team. In time, you may end up doing this as standard.
- Assess your team for any key-person risk (the risk that losing a certain individual due to sickness would cripple your organisation), and ensure you have a plan to address the worst-case situation where multiple people become sick and you are unable to carry out mission critical work. At Luminary, we’ve addressed this through our multi-location approach and ensuring we have coverage across key roles and functions.
The spread of fear creates panic (e.g. #toiletpapergate) which is likely to have a greater impact on the lives and livelihoods of people than the virus itself (in terms of society as a whole), for example through economic downturn. Provide people with accurate information and actively reduce the drama in your company. And do offer external support to people who are experiencing difficulties dealing with the situation. Remember, this can be done via phone or video, it does not have to be in person.
During the GFC our cash flow dried up and we nearly went out of business. We believe that cash flow is critical and as such we have been building an emergency fund for many years.
We have undertaken these commitments to support our community:
We commit to continuing to pay suppliers on time or ahead of time.
We commit to continuing to pay our team members on time.
We commit to continuing to buy from small businesses.
We commit to continuing to provide accurate information.
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