How Well Is Your Organization Supporting Its Remote Workers During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
As employees continue working from home in line with social distancing measures, some companies’ business continuity plans (BCP) are being put to the test.
In the week that the coronavirus was officially declared a pandemic, software company AvidXchange published a survey of American organizations that found 60% had what they claimed to be a solid business continuity plan in place. Yet, just 37% of companies surveyed said they have the right technology in place to allow their total workforce to work from home and 19% said that none of their employees had the right technology to facilitate home working.
However, due to the unique threat COVID-19 presents (not just to individual enterprises but to the economy and the U.S. way of life), every business that could realign jobs and processes to remote working has had no choice but to find a way to make the transition.
A challenging transition
Gartner, who describes the current situation as being forced to participate in the world’s largest-ever work-at-home experiment, has been surveying U.S. HR leaders. In early April, the research firm published data that underlines the sheer scale of the transition involved – 50% of businesses have moved over 81% of their employees to work from home and 15% have moved between 61% and 80% of the workforce to remote working.
Of course, this transition has neither been smooth nor easy – an April study from Thrive Global found 85% of American adults wanted more support from their employers to help them adapt to working from home while data from GlobalWebInsights (GWI) shows just 22% of Americans were already accustomed to regular home working before coronavirus-related movement restrictions were imposed.
Now that remote working is widespread, physical and material issues are abundant. Nine in 10 Americans are experiencing logistical issues such as being able to access the right files and software applications, get IT support or succeed in creating a home-working set up that meets their needs.
For instance, in March webcam sales spiked by 458% according to Criteo data and by the end of April, sales of desks (up 97%) and audio and video adapter cables (up 336%) were also surging.
Likewise, this unprecedented situation has highlighted gaps in training and wider policy. One quarter of people currently working remotely polled by GWI revealed that their employer had no clear approach to home working and no training in place before the coronavirus hit.
This is understandable. The absolute need to protect employees’ safety and well-being while continuing to deliver business-critical operations means many organizations have had to move fast and break things, learning and adjusting as they go.
The same is true for employees themselves who as well as adjusting to working away from the office are, in many cases, also juggling child care and other activities while attempting to remain productive and meet deadlines.
Even with such a major disruption to their lives, 22% of those polled by GWI said their initial experience of working from home during the pandemic has convinced them to work from home more often.
Remote working brings benefits
The most recent representative study relating to the benefits of home working – the OWL Labs’ State of Work 2019 report (published in October 2019) – highlights that people allowed to work remotely feel happier, more trusted and less stressed than their on-site peers. More importantly, from an employer’s perspective, remote working increases loyalty – those working from home are 13% more likely to stay with their current employer for the next five years than those that never work from home; 34% of all employees surveyed for the study said they would be prepared to take a pay cut in order to be able to work remotely.
Therefore, now that the initial transition – for employers and employees – is over, businesses need to start focusing on developing the policies and training around remote working that will address short-term issues and feed into a long-term operations strategy.
As our own Sitel at Home solution proves, being able to seamlessly transition staff around the country to remote working does more than simply ensure continuity of customer service or back-office operations, it also equips organizations with a greater business resiliency.
Improve business continuity planning
And this is critical. Unlike in other countries, rules in the U.S. regarding social distancing and the suspension of non-essential business activities differ from state to state. When AvidXchange surveyed U.S. businesses about business continuity, it found that 45% of organizations had a business continuity plan in place that was geared up to support disruptions across multiple geographies and just 22% of organizations polled had a plan designed to function over months rather than weeks.
By developing training now that can be delivered through digital channels to help onboard employees who are struggling to work from home and which provides systems and processes for colleague and team communication and task management, you are empowering your workforce and strengthening your business to keep moving towards business as usual as the pandemic continues.
Ready for the next wave
Even as social distancing restrictions start being lifted, the latest guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that further need for quarantine and lockdowns will be inevitable for the foreseeable future, until a vaccine can be developed, tested and commercialized.
Focusing on training and support measures now will mean your organization will be ready to weather the next potential wave of coronavirus and will be more resistant to any potential type of business disruption. What’s more, with a clear work from home strategy complete with the right tools and infrastructure, your organization will be increasing employee retention while making itself a more attractive potential employer in the future.