Most of our businesses were not ready for this disruption. No one could predict that a CEO would have to stand up a remote workforce with no notice. Every company from large enterprises to startups is experiencing the strain of managing employees, customers and partners without seeing them. Yes, there is some comfort in knowing you are not alone in this experience. So, let’s delve into how to survive during this Covid-19 era.
Get your technology in order. As simple as it sounds, does everyone have a laptop or tablet, a mouse or keyboard or anything that is necessary at the personal level? Do you have desktops that employees may take home for the short term?
Do your employees and partners know how to access the apps and systems they need to operate your company? Do you have an enterprise system that requires training to access remotely? We need not assume that it is business as usual for employees to access company systems remotely. Take an assessment of where your employees are and how you can ensure they have the appropriate tools and technologies.
Take advantage of free virtual collaboration tools. Quite a few remote workers are leaning heavily on Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting. As a CEO you need to ensure your workforce and partners understand what tools you are using and how you are deploying them.
Marilyn Jackson, CEO, Undergrid Networks (LP2X 2018) compiled this list of resources:
Avaya Spaces – Free to K-12 community. Minimal fee for cloud-based collaboration for Small Businesses with larger staffs and meeting requirements. https://www.avaya.com/blogs/archives/2020/03/avaya_spaces_cv/ Microsoft Zoom – Free basic accounts with unlimited meetings with a 40 minute time limit on personal meetings. They offer graduated plans for small teams of no more than 100 to plans for large teams of up to one thousand participants. https://zoom.us/pricing Google Hangout for Business – Great if you’re already using Google G Suite. Basic accounts available, but you must have a Gmail account to sign up. They offer both Small Business and Enterprise pricing plans. Significant discounts are offered for non-profits. https://gsuite.google.com/pricing.html UberConference – Free basic ccount for phone conferences and minimal collaboration through web conferencing features. Upgradable to Pro Version for the full Enterprise experience. https://www.uberconference.com/pricing Slack – Free collaboration and project management tools suite. https://slack.com/pricing Microsoft Teams – Free Basic Account comparable to Slack. https://products.office.com/en-us/microsoft-teams/free
Make sure you have bandwidth. 90% of US homes have internet access and prior to the Covid-19 era roughly half of American workers were doing some kind of telework. That works in your favor. However, with the increase in online video conferencing, which is a network connection hog, connections can quickly become overtaxed. Audio calls can be substituted at times yet that kills the ability for you to see your team which may be why you chose video calls in the first place.
Remember also that kids are online. And it is not simply gaming and social media activities. In the past, we could set ground rules for the kids to be offline when business meetings from home required bandwidth. Remote learning with virtual classrooms is gearing up to replace school attendance. Your employees may be challenged with sharing connections with their kids and their schools. You may have to figure out dedicated times or stagger your virtual meetings to enable virtual school attendance for families with children. Again, CEOs cannot assume that everyone has top tier, robust internet connections. As a minimum, assess if this is an issue with any of your employees and families.
Contact Your Network Carrier. It is timely to work with your carrier on what you recognize as needs and requirements for your remote workforce. It is a business imperative that you stay connected to your employees and partners. The swing to remote workforces and virtual learning will push carrier networks to full capacity and maybe even beyond what they can accommodate. Work with your carriers for your needs. Marilyn Jackson, CEO, Undergrid Networks sees a “willingness among carriers to work with companies during challenging times and emergencies.” She adds, “Now is the time to negotiate with your carrier.”
Educate your workforce to stay secure. With remote workforces being stood up we are already seeking hacking and phishing attempts at an all time high. Emails from bad players can catch your employees off guard with familiar sounding messaging. Ensure that your workforce is always on alert . There are many on-line resources to educate yourself and your workforce. You can start with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpaLmeHTp3I.
All indications are that we are all going to work remotely for an extended period. CEOs can use this as an opportunity to step up with strong leadership not only survive this Covid-19 era, but also win over customers and employees and emerge even stronger. I urge you to remember your role as CEO. We’re not just playing here. We’re playing to win.
Bernie Dixon is Founder and Chairman of Launchpad2X, a founder-to-CEO accelerated training organization for women entrepreneurs based in Atlanta, GA. Find her on LinkedIn.