Forced Change

While much work must be done at a certain place (construction, brick and mortar retail, barber service), Covid-19 is forcing many organizations to face the reality of letting employees work from home if the work can be performed away from the office. In our profession, the fact is that almost everything can be done without going into the office. So, across the country, organizations are implementing, sometimes under duress, telecommuting for their employees on a full-time basis. Organizations that already embraced telecommuting, even on a part-time basis, are making the transition with relative ease.

Those organizations already had the basic infrastructure set up; VPNs and security tokens were in place. Employees already practiced connecting in from home and were used to forwarding calls or using a cell phone as their primary number. If organizations are new to telecommuting, they need to think through how remote access will work. How will data be secured? Does the computer in the office need to be turned on to access it remotely or does everyone have access? Do people know how to get into servers, systems and data? Do clients know how to contact you if you’re not in the office?

Numerous articles are being published that cover all sorts of aspects about remote/from home working. I won’t try to cover all those issues here, but I want to mention one thing not to forget. Even after you work through all the technical issues, you still have at the core people in your organization you’re responsible for leading and interacting with. Out of sight, out of mind will not work in this environment. At first, you might need to be deliberate about your interactions. Set up time to talk to each other. Those hallway conversations aren’t taking place and people will be starved for information. Make sure you’re asking how they’re doing, what problems they’re facing and how do they suggest resolving them. (Yes, make them take ownership of the resolution.)

If done right, this forced experiment may result in a realization that telecommuting, even if only on a part-time basis, works and that employees are happy you’re willing to work with them and help them adapt during this tumultuous time. If not handled well, your employees may come out the other end looking for opportunities at organizations their friends tell them handled the situation with flying colors.

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