Coronavirus is top concern for many organizations right now, and it is making them think through — or rethink — their remote working policies. The outbreak, also known as COVID-19, has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend staying home or working remotely to prevent the spread of disease.
It is hard to anticipate what could happen next, as the news seems to change by the day, if not the hour, but organizations will need to evolve and evaluate their options daily for weeks — and possibly months — to come.
“Schools could be closed, mass public gatherings suspended, and businesses forced to have employees work remotely,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, was quoted as saying.
Even with a significant health issue affecting the world, businesses do not have to slow or halt their operations. They can protect their employees while maintaining productivity.
Many companies are cancelling or opting not to attend events, while others, such as Twitter, are urging their employees to work from home. Organizations cannot isolate themselves and await an improved situation so new strategies are being developed to continue business functions. Thanks to new technology, this fear can be reduced as there are immediate solutions to this problem.
Teams can use webcast and video conferencing technology to stay connected and maintain productivity. With the threat of Coronavirus, technology is allowing organizations to reduce travel and empower their employees to work remotely while maintaining collaboration with increased safety and peace of mind.
We’ve seen the need for socially distanced collaboration firsthand with GlobalMeet. Sign-ups for our free GlobalMeet offering increased 19 fold in countries affected by Coronavirus — China, Hong Kong, Japan and Italy. In the last week of February, we have seen a double-digit increase in usage with our GlobalMeet platform around the world. Meanwhile, the number of webcasts our service delivered is up 73% from January to February. That number is expected to continue to grow as additional travel restrictions are put in place.
“Thankfully we can stay connected and still be productive using GlobalMeet Collaboration,” Jessie Cheng, PGi’s Head of Marketing and Product APAC, said.
No Plans in Place
Some companies have a remote working plan in place, but a surprising number of global companies do not. A recent study from OWL Labs revealed 38% of employees work on-site with no remote working opportunities. Having an emergency remote working plan is critical to keep employees safe and keep a business operating with minimal disruptions.
Some companies are responding to the impending pandemic by promoting remote work and cancelling all business travel. Other organizations that previously did away with their remote working policies are now forced to rethink their decisions.
As The Washington Post noted, “IBM, which nearly three years ago ended remote work for some U.S. employees, said it had asked workers in coronavirus-affected areas to work from home ‘wherever possible.’”
The global spread of the virus is not surprising given the hyperconnected world of today, but it will reveal whether companies are equipped to respond rapidly to sudden workplace changes.
It’s Time to Act
Gartner predicts that by 2024, only 25% of meetings will take place in person, which is down from 60% today. Our response to Coronavirus could hasten this trend.
Businesses that do not have a plan in place for remote working should create one now because its importance is less about preparing for the current crisis and more about planning for the next one — which is likely to arise sooner than we might realize.
Working remotely can help alleviate anxieties and allow employees to reduce travel and work remotely, anytime, anywhere, while still maintaining productivity and assuring peace of mind for companies.
In order to achieve remote working options for employees, organizations need to take a critical look at their emergency plans to maintain business readiness in the face of a global crisis. It shouldn’t take a worldwide outbreak to make us prepare, but we can set ourselves up to be ready when the next outbreak hits by making adjustments and plans now.