Remote Working Challenges May Impact Companies During Coronavirus Outbreak

COVID-19 will affect business operations, say 65% of employees surveyed
Empty office cubicles

Many companies are addressing the health risks from the outbreak of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, by asking employees to work remotely. However, a new survey suggests that telecommuting may pose some challenges in and of itself.

In a bid to track the impact of the flu-like illness sweeping across the globe, leadership training company VitalSmarts surveyed 1,097 adults in March to learn about how their workplaces are handling the situation.

While a substantial percentage of respondents said their employers have come up with some type of strategy to ensure the workplace sees as few interruptions as possible, many believe those plans are likely to run into problems.

Companies rise to the coronavirus challenge

Since the coronavirus has started spreading in the United States, workplaces have been a focal point of concern. According to the VitalSmarts survey, one-third of respondents reported that their employer had a plan “they are confident about” to deal with the virus.

A higher percentage — 43% — said their employer at least has a basic plan ready, though it may have been “hastily assembled.”

In most cases, those plans centered around either reducing travel or increasing social distancing, a public health practice that aims to keep people from interacting closely to reduce the risk of transmission.

When asked to describe what plans their employer had in place:

  • 43% said their employers had changed their travel policy
  • 33% said their employers will hold more of their meeting online
  • 28% said their employers had changed their work-from-home policy
  • 17% said their employers would be instituting more video-based meetings and sales calls

Employees expect bumps in the road

The actions employers are taking may help to alleviate some of the concerns employees have by giving them a sense of direction in the face of the unknown. However, some respondents said the sudden dependency on remote working hurt the company’s productivity in the long run.

A little more than one-fifth of respondents — just over 21% — said they didn’t believe the members on their team have “good enough collaboration habits to work effectively from home.”

Likewise, a similar number of respondents said they don’t think their managers have the necessary skills to handle the coronavirus-inspired changes. In fact, 20% said their leaders are either “very unprepared” or “unprepared” to manage remote teams.

A majority of respondents (65%) said COVID-19 will have an impact on their company’s operations.

As the coronavirus spreads further across the U.S. it is leaving a mark on many aspects of work and personal life. While there may be some communications challenges as companies adapt to a new normal, some of the initial wrinkles will likely need to be ironed out over time.

If your company is not used to having employers work remotely, it could take even more time to get everyone up to speed with this new way of collaboration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidance to workplaces on how they can best protect employees from the threat of the coronavirus while maintaining business operations as much as possible.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.