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Think IT Workshop: Preparing Workplaces for a Pandemic

On Wednesday, we held a Think IT Workshop, where we discussed the unprecedented outbreak of the Coronavirus. As leaders, we must follow the age-old saying, “hope for the best, prepare for the worst and expect everything in-between.”

Just yesterday, the WHO officially declared this outbreak a pandemic. We discussed how many companies don’t have a specific policy in place for such a thing. Business Continuity plans are being tested and updated during this time as most companies are figuring out if their WFH capabilities can be pushed to 100%.

Below are some of the topic points and suggestions from the group:

Work from Home:

The group found that many organizations have put new licensing agreements in place to increase bandwidth, and several of the leaders said that there have been a couple of events (i.e. Polar Vortex of 2019) that have helped to test WFH capabilities.  A few employees will have to increase their at-home digital capabilities, and that could end up costing companies more than expected. This then led to the conversation about reimbursement and how companies need to prepare, and expect, to reimburse their employees for their internet and phones. The other issue facing many companies right now is getting ahold of personal laptops- There’s a massive demand for them right now, and if you have yet to purchase them for your employees you may not find one in time. Current estimates have gone from 1 week up to a month to receive a new laptop.

Leading Remote Teams:

The subject of working from home also sparked a conversation about leading a remote team and how they will communicate with management.  Web conferencing (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.) will be a big factor in leading and connecting with your teams. We discussed how you will have to have trust in your employees, trust that they will continue to be productive, and performance levels will not fall. But it was brought to everyone’s attention that if you are home with your entire family (husband, kids, and possibly parents), productivity may dip for a while. Everyone agreed that this could be good for companies that don’t have a work from home policy. It would allow those organizations to test it out, and hopefully, this could lead to more people working remotely, broadening areas for hiring saving money.

Hiring and Onboarding

The need to interview, hire, and onboard was discussed as most organizations are still relying on a face to face interview to make a hiring decision. While the group agreed that was still the best option, a couple of members stated that Web interviews will increase and that onboarding will be done remotely. Onboarding “kits” can be created and sent to the new employees’ homes, so there is no delay in the hiring process. Again, the demand for laptops has increased, so if an employee doesn’t have their own device, it might delay the process.

Projects and Funding:

Surprisingly no one stated that they had been informed any of their projects had lost funding. As we continue to watch the market, this has the potential to change. It did appear though that most companies are better prepared than they were in 2008 for a potential downturn in the economy.

If you were unable to attend, you can find the slide deck here.