What if COVID Comes Back?

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The Landscape of Remote Work

In this interactive webinar, facilitators Manghisi and Mohr asked the live participants of this Receivables Management Association International webinar how their businesses have changed since COVID-19 became an international pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, approximately 90% of all businesses had less than 10% of their employees working remotely. In the current COVID-19 landscape, 65% of respondents had over 70% of their workforce working remotely, with the bulk of these businesses having 90% of their workforce working remotely. 

This data represents a huge shift in the structure and dynamics of our workplaces. The next logical question is to determine how many workplaces are planning on keeping these remote work dynamics in place. The majority of workplaces (45%) plan to return to normal when it’s possible, completely opening workplaces once COVID-19 no longer is affecting our day to day lives. Conversely, though, 35% of workplaces are planning to either slightly or significantly increase their remote workplaces into the future, regardless of whether COVID-19 continues to affect our society.

When participants were asked what their workplace environments would look like, 15% of respondents are completely unsure how their work will proceed, and ~8% said they will eliminate remote work as soon as possible in their workplaces. This high degree of variability speaks to how effectively and efficiently each business is navigating the transition to remote work, as well as the type of work conducted. Some work, such as sensitive collections operations is difficult for businesses to effectively monitor, ensure high quality, and maintain professionalism remotely.

Participants listed the most challenging issue for their businesses in this remote landscape to be ensuring internal safety processes. Stay tuned to this blog as the next installment will be highlighting digital safety and IT disaster plans in our remote workplaces, as well as highlighting the next biggest challenge of identity authentication and solutions integration that businesses are struggling with as we all navigate our remote workplaces. 

Questions to ask yourself in implementing secure remote work data and IT systems include: 

  • Do your employees have secure systems at home?
  • How will they securely connect to your computing systems? 
  • Where will data be stored moving forward?
  • Do you have cloud-based computing strategies? 
  • Will you offer a monthly provision to ensure a secure internet connection for employees? 

Employee Productivity

Interestingly, Mohr cited some businesses that have had increases in employee productivity during this transition to remote work. This is largely because poor performing employees were let go as businesses had to tighten their belts to adjust to the many changes COVID-19 brought to their businesses. While on an individual level this reduction in staff size is unfortunate, the increase in employee productivity was an unforeseen boon to some businesses during this transition.

To ensure employee productivity in the remote environment in the long-term, and not simply because individuals are perhaps afraid of losing their job, businesses must implement remote work standards and methodologies. For instance, telework standards and expectations must be clearly established and stated; communication channels need to be adapted and adjusted; formal review processes must be implemented; and, productivity metrics must be established.

Specifically focusing on communication, Mohr mentioned the effectiveness of employees’ information retention. He cited that people, on average, retain 25% of the information they read, 20% of the information they hear, and 70% of the information they experience. Ensuring communication retention through experience is a difficult hurdle to jump remotely, but ways around this include utilizing video communication tools as well as frequent communication and check-ins with employees. Developing a solid telework policy is also a crucial step in managing expectations and standards. Regarding productivity metrics, gathering as much information as possible equals better results. Businesses should be monitoring and recording relevant data on employee output frequently and adjusting as necessary. 

When remote work isn’t possible, previous blogs I’ve written speak to the implementation of workplace adjustments to ensure employee well-being and safety. Additional policies to define include staggered work schedules and monitoring employee workplace flow (e.g., are your cubicles effective to provide separating screens?; how will you handle employee lunch breaks to ensure appropriate distancing? etc.).

Keys to Success Moving Forward

Developing a business continuity plan, including clearly defined employee roles and expectations, adequate equipment and tools, secure IT platforms, and a clear communication network, is a crucial step to continued success regardless of how this continuing pandemic unfolds. Mohr cites the three most important keys to continued business success throughout this pandemic, regardless of how long it lasts, to be defining your business’s communication strategies, clearly outlining specific employee roles and expectations, and developing and maintaining effective IT systems. I’m learning so many ways to not only be compliant in my operations through my RMAI CRCP courses but also better and more efficient ways to operate my business. Reach out to me if I could help point you in a positive direction for your business!

Disclaimer 

This information is not legal advice and may not be used as legal advice. Information discussed or contained is not an explanation of the law and is presented for educational purposes only.

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