As companies across America consider reopening their workplaces in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, they face many new concerns: Most of those concerns are fear of the unknown. For centuries we have gone to merchants to buy our goods and services. COVID-19 may have flipped that business model upside down.
Below are some of the questions that as an accountant and a small business owner I have asked myself. I hear a lot of employers do not like the remote working model. After much debate with colleagues, this is what we came up with against typical arguments against like the remote working model.
- Staff communications suffer
A lot of the communication in the office is non-work related. So if communication is limited to phone, email, Zoom and the use of other modern tools, I think communication will be more business focused.
- Remote work policies are hard to enforce
My old boss Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, and Republican Presidential contender against Trump in 2016 used to say, “Bad incentives drive bad behavior”. Develop policies that help employees thrive, and in turn, so will the company.
- Oversight of Employee Performance
Another one of my favorite quotes from Mrs. Fiorina was “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”. Employers ask themselves; how can we be sure employees are doing their jobs. Not as hard as it sounds. Create policies that are not subjective and flexible. An example for me as an accountant might be to say, “I need 20 tax returns done by Friday”. It does not matter to me if you prepare them between the hours of 9am to 5pm or 7:30pm and 3am. The twenty tax returns are a “measurable” metric both employee and employer understand, 20 = 20, not 14.
- Will visitors be allowed in the office? If so, what will the protocols be for each type of visitors allowed?
There will not be an office, so no need for visitors. In those rare occasions a face to face is necessary, you can rent a conference room for less than $50 an hour from companies like WeWork or Regus. They can worry, and implement, those protocols that will most likely be handed down to us by some government agency.
- What are the circumstances under which employee travel or visiting clients’ offices is allowed?
If employees will travel or visit clients, they will need to adhere to guidelines that will ensure their safety and address the firm’s liability if they or a client gets sick? Again, these protocols most likely be handed down to us by some government agency.
The following are policies being implemented daily by all types and size of business. I am all for safety, and I would not like to see not even one person contract the disease, or worse. But these policies below all say the same thing to me “Stay Home…close the Office”
- Creating capacity limits for the office and gathering places.
- Closing of coffee bars, lunchrooms, and other gathering places.
- Reconfiguring workspaces to allow for social distancing.
- Installing safety panels between desks.
- Wearing masks.
- Avoiding handshakes.
- Instituting one-way traffic patterns.
- Limiting capacity in elevators.
- Making hand sanitizer available and requiring its use; and
- Monitoring employees’ temperatures.
- For clients, such protocols can include contactless pickup or drop-off or digital delivery of documents.
I realize that not all businesses cannot operate remotely. And those that cannot, need to take this pandemic and the predicted second wave very seriously. What I am saying is do not be scared to try something new because its never been done before. People adapt quickly, and COVID-19 has forced very rapid change, like it or not. This is your chance to try something new.