The Coronavirus is going to change the way we do business, at least in the near term. That is simply a reality.
Our prior post, Thinking About Having Staff Work From Home?, was based on an email we sent out last week. It described how NextAgency can support your staff working remotely. Our message was that providing staff with flexibility could be good for your business. And that NextAgency was an important part of making remote work effective.
That email went out before health organizations and local governments began recommending that businesses let employees work from home. What a difference seven days can make.
That post also promoted many of you to ask a couple questions: Do my employees need to work from home? And how do I help my staff work from home?
As for the first question ….
Do My Employees Need to Work from Home?
In some parts of the country (sorry Seattle and New York), absolutely. Elsewhere, maybe not. At least not yet. However, the odds are you eventually will. The virus is spreading exponentially. Which means if it’s not in your neck of the woods yet, it is probably arriving soon.
Our previous post noted how enabling staff to work remotely can increase productivity and morale. The Coronavirus epidemic provides another reason to consider this step: employees working from home makes it harder for the virus to spread.
To be clear, working from home will not prevent you or your colleagues from getting the disease. That is always a possibility. But it could delay you getting it. And that means more time for health professionals to understand the disease and develop treatments.
There’s another reality. In certain Coronavirus hotspots you may not have a choice. We may soon see local governments requiring companies to permit telecommuting. In New York, the Governor today created a containment area that closes locations where large groups of people gather. This may include office buildings.
Whether voluntary or not, your office may need to close. Which leads to the second question.
How Can You Help Your Staff Work from Home?
Enabling your staff to work from home takes some thought and planning. You can’t just send folks home and ask them to “get to work.”
Fortunately, remote work has become relatively common in 2020. That means there are best practices available. Finding them is just an online search away. To get you started, here is a Fast Company magazine article with some worthwhile ideas.
Enabling your staff to work from home just requires some common sense. And remembering you are an insurance agency.
- HIPAA still applies. Your employees will need to secure personal health information they have at home. They need to make sure screen savers are enabled.
- Computers are mandatory. It’s hard to work from home without a computer. And you probably don’t want to have people using their home computer to store files. Of course, if they’re using cloud-based platforms like NextAgency, that’s not an issue. The key is to avoid having business (and PHI) stored on home computers.
- Keep connections secure. Make sure your team uses a reputable VPN. These can be used to enable colleagues to access your office servers. But even if you’re entirely in the cloud, a VPN can assure that communications are more provide. NordVPN is a good option, but there are others.
- Keep in touch. You may be working in different places, but you’re still a team. You need to continue to act like one. Agree on a video conference tool you’ll all use (e.g., Zoom or Skype, both of which are easy to use and have free versions). Hold regular web staff meetings to stay connected. And use these tools to reach out whenever you’d otherwise drop by their office.
- Enable secure access to information. This is where a modern, cloud-based agency management system like NextAgency comes in. NextAgency keeps all your data and forms handy. They enable you to assign and monitor tasks and client activity. You can upload your commissions, run reports to analyze your business, and even launch marketing campaigns. All from your home.
Make Your Office Safer, Too
Maybe thinking about remote work is premature for your situation. That doesn’t mean you should ignore what’s happening. You’re probably washing your hands more often than you have before. Pay attention to workplace hygiene, too. The Centers for Disease Control provides advice on keeping your office safe.
In addition, be sure to regularly clean shared surfaces. This includes copy machines, scanners, fax machines, and even the microwave in your breakroom.
This Wired magazine article describes how to clean your cell phone. It covers how to safely clean your computer, too. These methods apply to other office machines as well.
Keep up to date on the Coronavirus. Don’t, however, succumb to despair or panic. The Coronavirus epidemic is not a hoax. It is also not the apocalypse. There are simple, common sense steps you can take to protect yourself, your colleagues and your family. Take them.
You will hear a lot of nonsense, but there are resources that can help you separate facts from myths, too. For example, this information from the World Health Organization.
As insurance agencies we’re used to thinking about risk. This, however, is usually in the context of risks faced by our clients. Now is the time to prepare against the risks your business faces as well.