April 8, 2020 0

Leading in a crisis from 12,000 miles away

Posted by:Darren Whitaker-Barnett onApril 8, 2020

As WhosOnLocation CEO it is my responsibility to ensure the safety of those in my duty of care. Like many organizations today we are a global team. Split across three different continents and three offices.

I am currently based in London, my closest team members are 5,500 miles away, the furthest 12,000 miles. Our use of video conferencing tools, Slack chats, and email has been crucial in managing a remote workforce 24×7.

Globally we are all facing the challenge of how we navigate our business in this new “norm” we are working and living in. Until a few weeks ago I had three locations and the people within them to ensure they were safe while in my duty of care.

Now we are all faced with working from our home offices, and while I’ve got more ‘virtual’ offices to manage than I would have ever imagined in my wildest dreams, my obligations to my employees regarding their health and safety did not disappear behind a mask. While this may seem daunting it’s actually not. As a SaaS company we operate in the cloud, this works to our advantage, particularly in this situation.

I’d like to share my learnings over the past few weeks managing and fulfilling my requirement to keep the team safe and secure while distributed across the globe.

Act fast, be decisive; a crisis is not always a crisis when well managed

Right from the onset of Covid-19 and before the lockouts imposed by most countries we made changes to our practices to keep the team safe and secure. While some were general hygiene reminders others were to ensure that office-based teams weren’t exposed to anyone who had recently traveled overseas or wasn’t feeling well. We did this by updating our kiosks to:

    • Notify all visitors to our office procedure changes. These included:
      • Updating our welcome greeting to include mandatory use of hand sanitizer before entry
      • Pre-registering guest and sending a WolPass notifying them of the procedures we were taking on site
      • Red flag alerts, if anyone acknowledged they were not feeling well or had recently traveled overseas

Communication is king

This one seems pretty simple, communicate with your people. However, in a time of uncertainty, it is even more important to keep clear, consistent and frequent communication. While working remotely, a great tip is to over-communicate without effectively crossing that boundary of ‘spamming’ your team. You should be making more calls and sending more messages than you normally would, to bridge the physical gap.

In times of crisis, it is a known fact that we may not respond as we normally would. Research shows we fit into one of three coping styles; task orientated, emotion orientated and avoidance orientated.

I fit firmly in task-orientated, looking to see what I and WhosOnLocation can do to help our employees and customers. It’s sometimes hard to know what your employees are going through; however, with open communication and regular meetings, it’s easy to identify those who are not themselves and be able to address the situation directly one-on-one. I have found taking a few minutes at the beginning or end of meetings to ask how everyone is feeling or check on motivation levels has been cathartic for all parties.

On a personal note, I believe decisive leadership is key in a crisis. Leadership, and CEO’s especially, earn their stripes in adversity, not when the sun is always shining. Set expectations, and be clear and concise on strategy and direction.

Wellness check and best practice

Working in an office environment, we are often reminded about best practices for things like posture and taking breaks, we even have a notice above our office coffee machine to remind staff. However, when working from home offices or dining tables, best practice is often the furthest thing from our minds.

Using WhosOnLocation, we have set up a series of reminders using the Triggers feature. These triggers are automatically emailed to staff at predefined times each week reminding the team of best practice while working at home, such as remembering to take microbreaks. No one has to remember to keep sending the reminder out. It just goes out at scheduled times until we deactivate them.

Office and Facility security

We used the Triggers feature again to set up alerts notifying us if any employee re-enters our offices when they are in lockout. Why? Well as CEO I know anyone on-site alone and/or without supervision is a risk to themselves. As I stated earlier, our company’s duty of care to our employees does not get excused in the face of a breach just because of the current crisis.

A culture of trust really pays off in a crisis

Trust is the foundation to all positive relationships. ‘Deliver on what you say’, ‘Play as a Team’, ‘Participate’, and ‘Be Authentic’ are core principles here at WhosOnLocation and they form the foundation of our trusting culture.

Trust allows us to operate a flexible working environment. We do this by giving parents the flexibility to work around their children, working from home when you need to, and flexible breaks so staff can exercise (read more about it here). When the government mandated lockdown came into effect, our flexible standard operating procedures and our ISO27001 BCP training meant the transition from office-based workspaces to the home office was fairly seamless.

That said; moving from a regular office routine and working remotely intermittently to working remotely full-time can take some adjustments. We gave our employees the time they needed to get into a routine. For some it took a day or two and for others a week. We have not had any drop off in SLA’s or delivery on projects. Customer satisfaction, the adoption of new Covid-19 centric features, and employee engagement is as high as ever. But the foundation to this was our trust in each other.

Learn to adapt, and innovate

We’ve got new features coming to help you manage your remote team over the coming week. Until then remember to check out our COVID-19 series on the helpdesk to see what you can do with your WhosOnLocation subscription today.

About WhosOnLocation

WhosOnLocation provides people presence management software that monitors the safe and secure movement of people through buildings and work sites. Our powerful, cloud-based solution unites visitor, contractor, employee, and emergency management, enabling organizations to secure their facilities and ensure the safety of every person on-site. Armed with a rich, unified source of people presence information, our users are empowered to make more strategic, data-driven decisions that mitigate risk, reduce overhead costs, and streamline operations. Compliant with ISO:27001 2013 for Information Security Management. WhosOnLocation serves organizations in 42 countries around the world and manages over 60 million secure movements through thousands of locations each year. For more information, visit whosonlocation.com.

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