Has COVID-19 changed the way you do business? From managing remote staff to pandemic-proof business contracts, here’s how to transition seamlessly.
Remember a time before COVID-19? Those claustrophobic morning commutes, crushed against fellow suits on the train. Animated chats around the coffee machine, flying in the face of social distancing. Round table meetings - in person! How times have changed. Perhaps forever.
If you’re one of the countless Australian businesses facing major workplace changes as a result of COVID-19 (such as a suddenly-remote workforce), we’re here to help you transition seamlessly. Our complete guide to the post COVID-19 workplace will help you:
✔ go remote with confidence
✔ manage remote employees
✔ satisfy your customers
✔ understand what a pandemic means for your business contracts
✔ know if and how your obligations as an employer have changed
Grab a cuppa, take a seat at your snazzy new home office, and get COVID-19 savvy.
How has COVID-19 affected Aussie businesses?
COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we do business.
Many workplaces have gone remote, with staff working from home indefinitely. There has been a dramatic increase in the provision of online services, and video-conferencing has replaced the face-to-face meeting. For some businesses, this represents a big step forward from their traditional service delivery methods. While no-one’s sure how long the government-enforced restrictions in relation to COVID-19 will stick around, one thing’s for certain: Business As Usual has changed forever.
Three steps to a thriving remote business
Who bought shares in Zoom? This easy peasy remote meeting platform has gone gangbusters in the age of COVID-19, along with technologies like GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, WebX and Skype. You, your staff and your customers need to be comfortable with these new digital tools and modes of delivery to keep doing business brilliantly.
Here are three steps to owning it.
1. Reassure clients and customers. Email is your friend. Reach out to your client base to let them know you’re still the same great provider - just online. Share exactly how you’ll be delivering your service now that COVD-19 is a thing, and encourage them to see these changes in a positive light.
2. Upskill your team. Whatever platform/s you’ve decided to use, make sure your team is up to speed. Dedicate time to tutorials, familiarisation exercises and group practice runs. The ability of your staff to problem solve and deliver the same excellent service depends on their confidence using new tools and technologies. Don’t cut corners.
3. Cheat sheet. Is video conferencing your new normal? Anticipate technological pitfalls and draft a cheat sheet. Outline the etiquette: to mute or not to mute? Should the host pause occasionally to give participants opportunities to engage? Is the host aware of features in the conferencing platform that allow members to interject? Remember that non-verbal cues that are apparent in face-to-face meetings may be harder to pick up on in the digital environment. There’s a lot to be learned, but a workplace Video Conferencing Cheat Sheet will help.
What about business contracts?
Global pandemic? Good enough excuse? Unfortunately COVID-19 doesn’t grant you or your suppliers permission to default on contractual obligations. What you need is a Force Majeure clause.
- Force Majeure clauses are a feature of any well-drafted contract, and set out what happens if something like a Global Pandemic of Prodigious Proportions should arise. We have an article entirely dedicated to Force Majeure clauses, so check it out here.
- If you don’t have a Force Majeure clause and are struggling to deliver on the terms of a contract, it’s time to pick up the phone. Commence discussions with the other party to find a mutually agreeable position. (We’ve noticed that in the current climate of global disruption, businesses are extremely open-minded when negotiating terms that work for everyone. Good old human kindness.)
- Go digital. With many businesses now operating on a contactless basis and services moving into the ether, it’s important to know that your contracts can go digital too. How do you ensure that an electronic contract is valid and binding? Find out here.
What are your new obligations as an employer?
There’s a misconception that working from home = lazy days spent in PJs curating memes. In fact, your remote team is likely far more motivated, content and productive now that they’re not battling traffic and making small talk by the fishtank.
Managing your obligations as an employer is key to capitalising on this newfound productivity. Yes, it’s a brand new workplace - but you have the same old obligations (plus a few new ones, too).
- Home office. Your obligations as an employer with respect to the workplace continue to apply to your employee’s home office. That includes workplace health and safety obligations and ensuring your staff have the right equipment to do the job.
- Employment contracts. Time to review them! Now that you your policies and procedures in place (including the ettiquette for conference calls), what do your employment contracts say about your workplace policies and procedures? Do they form part of the contract? What does your employment contract say about lending company property to staff so they can work remotely? Get clear on your current contracts and how they might need to adapt.
- HR. Develop a HR manual with policies and procedures that can be accessed remotely. Define clear expectations around working from home. We all know life can get in the way, so make sure expectations are clear and realistic.
- Assets. Keep a register of assets, giving each item a unique number and label. Have a register of who has taken what and ask staff to sign items back in when they are returned to the office. This way you won’t lose track of who has what.
Now that you’re all over the process of going remote, upgrading your business contracts and understanding your obligations, there’s nothing stopping you from grabbing this global challenge - and running with it.
Like all major disruptions, there exist opportunities for those who can be agile, flexible and proactive. For businesses to quickly adapt to life online, and see the beauty of a home-based team. As always, we’re here to help you navigate the transition, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you still have questions.
With confidence and optimism, the team at Metis Law at +61 2 8880 9383 or metis_at_metislaw.com.au