August 25, 2009
Swine flu revisited: Time to make a fall telework plan?
Ah, back-to-school season. Parents scramble to pick up last-minute school supplies. Teachers pull together their September lesson plans. Summer revelers squeeze in those last few barbecues and beach getaways. And the government tells us that swine flu could infect half the U.S. population by winter.
Regardless of whether you believe the hype, it's not a bad idea for managers to take stock of their company's telework policy -- today. Because if the porcine poo does hit the fan and a sizable chunk of your staff (or your staff's kids) gets sick, you'll want to avoid business screeching to a grinding halt.
Christine Durst, co-author with Michael Haaren of "The 2-Second Commute" and the forthcoming "Work at Home Now," offers these suggestions for managers who have yet to implement an emergency telework plan:
Set up remote collaboration tools. If staff members are well enough to work, there's no reason they can't attend virtual meetings (phone and web) or collaborate online. Durst recommends Citrix applications like GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, and GoToMyPC. (Readers, feel free to weigh in with your choices in the comments.)
Determine priorities now. That way you won't have to triage under fire if half your staff is suddenly out of the office. "Decide which projects or initiatives cannot be put off until a return to the office," Durst says. She also recommends assigning top priority projects to those most capable of working unsupervised.
Pick an on-site skeleton crew. Choose a handful of reliable workers to hold down the fort -- answering phones, managing critical office functions, and accessing onsite-only data and materials -- should a majority of your staff be forced to work from home.
Commit your plan to writing. The swine flu scare may turn out to be another Y2K, but at least you'll have a telework policy on the books should half your staff get snowed out of the office this December. Once you've written up your telework plan, have workers sign an agreement that addresses expectations and reporting systems, Durst says.
Durst also suggests setting up a communication process for notifying employees when the plan is in effect. In addition, she recommends requiring all staff to start working off-site at least twice a month as soon as possible (not all on the same day, of course). "This will help the team work seamlessly in the event of an emergency," she explains.
"Far too many employers have no such plan -- leaving them to be reactive rather than proactive," Durst says. If this sounds familiar, maybe it's time you remedied that.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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