#Coronacomms: How to be productive when everyone’s working remotely

How would your company function if the entire business had to work from home for an extended period of time? It’s a question more and more firms are asking as the threat from coronavirus continues to spread.

Everyone from Amazon and Twitter to Panasonic, Microsoft and NEC are encouraging or mandating home-working in some of their locations. And with the crisis showing no signs of relenting now is the time to prepare.

The situation is unprecedented in many respects. It’s certainly unlike anything we’ve seen in this age of social media and sophisticated digital communications.

For many businesses this will be the first time their communications will have been tested in this way, keeping large numbers of staff connected in multiple locations and over a potentially long timescale.

It’s unlikely to be straightforward, as Twitter’s HR boss Jennifer Christie recently acknowledged. And some roles, of course, simply can’t be done from home. But having a solid plan in place is something all businesses should now prioritise.

Preparing for all eventualities

At Formative, as part of our work for some key clients, we’ve been monitoring the situation and working on client comms around Covid-19 for some weeks.

We work with clients across the globe, which means we’re used to talking to contacts in many different locations. And lots of our staff do work from home on occasion. But we’ve never sent our entire team home at once.

Until this week, that is, when we decided to do just that to test our systems and approach.

We wanted to get ready for any disruption, ensure our people are protected and check our clients can rely on us to support them and their own communication needs as we move further into this unchartered territory.

Our plan included the following measures:

– Setting up a coronavirus response team, which meets daily to assess any impact on our business, teams and clients

– Developing a live document to keep our people informed of the news that will affect them and impact our response as each day brings changes

– Ensuring all of our comms are guided by official advice from the World Health Organization and Public Health England, and take an informed, measured tone. We don’t want to add to the misinformation that’s already developing into an ‘infodemic’

– Updating staff on practicalities in the run-up to the test, as well as on the general situation in our morning stand-up meetings, and making sure everyone was comfortable with and clear on the plan

– Making sure everyone has access to all of our platforms and technology and that passwords are shared securely

– Ensuring all team members had tested their own equipment and had everything they needed to do their job remotely

The right tools for the job

As a digital agency, we already have many web-based tools in place to share information and keep our business running smoothly. But these tools really came into their own in this ‘all staff at home’ scenario.

Based on our experience, these are some of the processes and systems you might need to adjust or review in the interests of smooth remote working en masse:

Creating, storing and managing documents

Microsoft has made its Microsoft Teams available for free for six months as a response to the coronavirus situation, allowing collaboration and connectivity to those working remotely. From March 10, the company is rolling out updates that will lift user restrictions and limits. For some of our work and document storage we use Google Drive, meaning all of our staff already have access to all of our files wherever they are. Migrating this access to the devices of those working from home was seamless 

Meetings

Face to face is always more simple, right? Well that’s not what we found in our recent test. A video communications tool – look Skype for Business, Webex, Zoom, BlueJeans and other systems – helps not just with calls but with meetings too. We held our whole-company morning meeting with clear sound quality and not a single hitch, keeping 50 or so people informed ahead of the day

Keeping in touch

Yes, there’s email, and we haven’t given up on that quite yet. But an intuitive business messaging tool like Slack can make all the difference when people need to make decisions quickly from multiple locations. Complement this with an instant messaging tool or an app like WhatsApp, which will allow you to contact all of your staff, and even clients, at speed wherever they are

Project management

Our project management software, Asana, is already the backbone of our business – it helps us manage the flow of work and staff members plan their days. Again, being web-based it was simple for staff to log on from home. Basecamp and other alternatives are available if you prefer 

Passwords

Data protection is paramount to our business, and this extends to passwords – especially important in a situation with so many people working off site. We use LastPass, allowing every member of staff secure access to all of the logins they need through their own, single password

Internal comms

Keeping staff informed is always important but crucial in a situation like this. While larger firms will have their own intranet systems or internal websites, you can use your Teams, collaborative workspace or a tool like Facebook Workplace to keep people informed

That might seem like a long list, but once everything’s up and running it’s surprisingly simple to track and manage all of these feeds. They’re vital to our day-to-day work. But in a scenario in which we would need to work remotely for weeks or even months they would be critical.

READ MORE: 

How best to show your company’s commitment to sustainability

How the right kind of content can help build trust in your brand

Communicating sustainability: 7 companies doing it well

 

If you would like to know more about how Formative Content has helped tell the brand stories of some of the world’s biggest B2B organisations, please email gay@formativecontent.com

About the author: Gay Flashman is the CEO and founder of Formative Content. Last year, she was named in Thrive Global’s Top Female Creatives of 2019 list. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Or if you would like to find out more about her recently published book ‘Powerful B2B Content – Using Brand Journalism to Create Compelling and Authentic Storytelling’ click here.

Gay Flashman - CEO, Formative Content
Author:Gay Flashman - CEO, Formative Content