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Expert warns: Working from home can create new issues

  • Written by Tess Sanders Lazarus

As numbers of those infected by the coronavirus continue to increase it is inevitable that businesses of all sizes across Australia will have to make adaptions to help reduce the spread of the virus.


According to Christian Pistauer, workplace strategy director of the Meta5 Group, every office should have a business continuity plan in preparation for a potential crisis like a mass COVID-19 outbreak.


“Having a continuity plan shouldn’t be something you think about when you start to need a continuity plan. You should be thinking about risks and continuity plans throughout the year, rather than at the start of a crisis,” Pistauer said.


“Continuity plans are not just about how you arrange for people to work from home, they should also cover important issues such as how do you maintain brand reputation and compliance in a remote environment.   If these issues are not well managed, they can cause a business greater harm.


Helping businesses prepare for such worst-case scenarios is one aspect of the work that Workplace Strategy Consultants Meta5 Group does on a regular basis.   To help businesses deal with the coronavirus pandemic, they have prepared a simple plan to help businesses form a strategy for responding to COVID-19.


“While this is an extremely rare situation, companies should have measures in place so that if a crisis like this emerges, they have a set of guidelines to act upon,” Pistauer said.


“Our aim with this plan was to set out some simple steps that companies can follow – a checklist to make sure businesses haven’t overlooked anything simple”.


  • Take immediate action to minimise risk

Include all staff in the communication process

Lead by example – leaders should demonstrate the behaviour they want to encourage

Implement higher cleaning cycles, focus on ‘high touch’ surfaces like door handles, etc

Encourage everyone to stay at home if they feel sick

Provide sanitisers and other forms of disinfectant


  • Develop a continuity strategy

Audit your Covid-19 readiness – what happens if there is a complete shutdown and no one can come to the office

Audit your staff, who can work from home easily and who can’t

Ask the hard questions to identify possible gaps. Is your technology ready? Does your team know how to communicate remotely? Who takes over business-critical parts of the business, if someone falls ill? Do we have flexible working policies in place?


  • Prepare for flexible working

Review or establish work from home policies and flexible working arrangements, consult with an expert in case you are unsure

Consider allowing staff taking work tools home (e.g. desktop computer, monitor, office chair)

Close business-critical gaps as soon possible


  • Prepare your brand for remote visibility

Ensure rules are developed for interactions with clients/customers in remote locations

Identify what type of branding is required

Think about a work from home dress code, don’t work in your pyjamas

Develop rules for engagement


  • Test the strategy and refine

Do a work-from-home test day for all staff and analyse how it goes

There might be issues you are not even aware

Evaluate the test


  • Develop a long-term strategy

Develop a holistic workplace strategy that aligns the all aspects workplace (HR, IT, Office Design, Property) with the overall business strategy

Your business continuity and disaster recovery strategy should be a key part


“The ongoing trend towards more flexible working has proved an advantage in the current situation,” Pistauer said.


“Businesses are actually more able to cope with this situation than ever before. If this had happened 30 years ago we would have been looking at a near shutdown of the economy, as the speed at which the pandemic has escalated has given most businesses little time to prepare.


“For many businesses, this is just an opportunity to use the technology such as cloud systems and communications platforms that they already have in place.


“If anything good is going to come out of the coronavirus pandemic it will be a greater and faster shift towards remote work and non-central working arrangements – which ultimately is more family friendly and a more agile way of working.


“While remote working arrangements are not suitable for all businesses, Meta5’s checklist will prove helpful for many.”


Meta5 is a tenant advisory and workplace strategy consultancy working across Australia and New Zealand.


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