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Effective crisis management in a remote working scenario

Personal resilience and wellbeing

The Covid-19 outbreak poses a serious challenge for organisations across sectors, and crisis management teams will likely be called on to support the response. Due to the nature of the situation, many team members involved in the response will be required to work remotely.

As of 23 March, employees across the UK have been asked to limit all non-essential travel and to work from home wherever possible. Schools and nurseries have been closed, and special arrangements put in place for defined key workers. These measures will create unprecedented challenges to the way we work.

The wellbeing of team members must be a key consideration in all crisis responses. This takes on a different dimension in a remote working scenario, where people are working in isolation in sub-optimal working environments. There are a number of steps that you can take to help your crisis team to overcome these challenges and maintain their wellbeing under pressure, setting up your organisation for success.

Help your team to create a crisis-ready working environment
Recognise that some team members may not have appropriate facilities to support remote working. People who live in shared accommodation may not have a dedicated environment where they can work undisturbed. Consider providing equipment to support team members to effectively work remotely. Using a laptop on a sofa is not sustainable during a long-running response. Where needed, lease additional display screens and office equipment and make sure basics, like stationery supplies, are readily available to your crisis management team.

Review resourcing and make sure workloads are distributed appropriately
Any pandemic crisis response is likely to run for weeks or months, rather than days. Review your team composition and ensure it is appropriately resourced to work on a long-running response. Your planning should incorporate functional expertise that may be needed in addition to the core crisis management team.

Recognise that Covid-19 could infect members of your crisis management team, and take steps to identify contingency resources that can be called upon to support. Consider the merits of having stand-by surge capacity to rapidly stand-up a larger response if needed.

Take an agile approach and recognise changing personal circumstances
Support team members who have caring commitments. Those with young children or elderly dependents may become unavailable at short notice. The closing of schools and nurseries has disrupted established routines and may impact shift-working capabilities. Be prepared to flex your plans and processes as required.

Actively maintain morale and provide psychological support
Long-running crisis responses can be emotionally and physically draining, and this can be exacerbated by individuals working in isolation. Consider what steps can be taken to maintain team spirit and individual morale during an extended period of remote working, including reward and recognition policies. Make use of software where appropriate; video conferencing tools can reinforce the social side of working.

Research shows that people are more likely to be willing to work in a pandemic if they believe their role is important to society. Take steps to remind your crisis team of the role your organisation plays in wider society.

Finally, crisis management team leaders should never forget the importance of a call directly to individual team members to ensure they understand the personal challenges team members may be facing and to thank them for their efforts.

To discuss the issues raised in this blog post, contact Tim Johnson or Abigail Worsfold.

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