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Coronavirus – what businesses need to do to prepare for a lock down

Generally when we work with companies to introduce a remote or flexible work policy, we look at a timeline of circa 18 months, depending on the size and the extent of the project.

However, if Europe goes into forced lock down in a similar way to China and Italy, companies will not have this luxury of time to prepare for a switch to a remote policy.
My husband was in Shanghai three weeks ago during the lock down and was evacuated out of there by his company – a city of 25 million was brought to a grinding halt and people were forced to stay at home with all businesses prohibited from keeping their doors open. He saw first hand a city of 25 million was turned into a ghost town in a very short period of time (Same husband is home now and past the incubation period, thanks for asking!)

So, companies need to start putting in place some contingency plans in case of a similar situation in Ireland. If the government shuts down everything, how resilient is your business?

Top tips to prepare for Corona-virus lock down

The corona virus is getting very real now with cases confirmed here. Without wanting to be a doomsayer, companies need to start planning for the worst case scenario now. Larger organsiations may have crisis policies in place but smaller SMEs may not have this luxury. We need to start planning now for lockdown.

Communication of contingency plans:
Have open communication with all employees now and let them know what is the procedure and what is expected of them if the doors of businesses are forced to close. This should include travel plans/contingency work plans.

Communicate policy:
It is vital that employees concerns are being dealt with – consider setting up a task force to deal with queries – what are the procedures if someone travels back to the workplace from a corona virus hot spot – are they advised to stay at home for 14 days? Be clear and communicate all policy to alleviate fear and uncertainty within the organisation. Anyone with an underlying condition or employees with children or parents with underlying conditions will of course be starting to feel very vulnerable at this point

Hygiene education:
Communicate policy with all employees of procedure in the event of a co-worker contracting the virus and also encourage good hygienic practices in the office with hand sanitisers at every desk / entrance to every room – encourage people to wash hands properly etc. Also encourage employees to stay at home if they have any flu like symptoms – no-one wants a typhoid Mary in the office.

Plan for remote work:
Survey employees and see if they have the means to work from home if necessary – dedicated office space/ adequate broadband and connectivity.

Prepare for remote work:
Can your employees work from home? Are their duties something that can be done remotely? Do they have access to their work from their laptop at home and can they log in to the centralised system? If not, consider instating this now.

Training for remote work:
Is there some training required – consider engaging in some basic training at this point for employees in the event of a lock down so that they have the skills to work and be managed remotely – Managers will require these skills also. Consider trialling working from home at the moment and taking key learnings from this.

Get clear on short term goals and objectives:
With an uncertain near future, bring your senior team together and focus on objectives and priorities so that if we are forced into an emergency scenario, at least the senior team and management are focused together on the important stuff in order to lead their divisions as efficiently as possible.

Update everyone
Continuously update everyone in the organisation of plans to prepare for Corona virus – the media is melting down and everyone has information overload – some of it is frightening so ensure your messaging is clear and not alarmist yet keeping everyone in the loop so that the whole work population is aware of policy in the event of a lock down.

Keep calm and trust your staff
You may need to do things differently, but your staff are just as invested as you in the future of their jobs. Just because they are not in the office does not mean that productivity is going to suffer, indeed, studies have shown quite the opposite. Communication, as mentioned already, is key and ensuring that everyone is working together towards common goals and know what is expected of them.

It may be the makings of your teams and business and start a whole new way of working.