Why Cracker Jack Virtual Teams Matter During Emergencies

Ocean

Don’t turn your back on it

Earlier, I posted on what the Ideal Virtual Team looks like, but lately I’ve been thinking that virtual teams will become more and more important to the workplace.  In my last job I worked for a group that had an “Emergency work plan.”  This Plan required all employees to state how they could connect to work if an extended emergency took place  that made access to the workplace impossible. We were also assigned VPN access or Virtual Private Network access to insure that we could log in to work from home.

Over the past few years, I’ve realized that having such a plan is imperative to business and since the outbreak of the Swine Flu or H1N1 earlier this year, I’ve been considering how important it is to be able to work virtually if possible. Companies that have virtual tools available and who have trained (and selected) employees who can work effectively virtually will find it easier to keep business going as usual than the companies that require constant face to face contact with their employees.

An effective Emergency Work Plan might answer the following questions (this is just a start):

  1. How will my employees connect?
    • What sort of VPN do we have in place?
    • Are my employees adequately trained to access it?
    • Have they used it recently?
  2. Will they have the tools they need to work from home? (Laptop, or virtual workspace accessible from their own computers, necessary basic software, office tools, etc.)
  3. Are they capable of working effectively from home?
    • Do they know how to participate effectively in virtual meetings or other collaborative activities?
    • Have we trained or modeled these behaviors effectively?
  4. How am I communicating and implementing this plan?
    • First line managers?
    • Do we have a website or hub for information on the program including FAQ’s?
  5. Are my managers trained to assess whether employees can work effectively virtually?
    • Are the expectations for effective virtual work clearly stated or shared with all employees who work virtually?
    • Do they track the completions of their projects and quality of their work?
    • Did they hire people who can work effectively both in an outside of the physical workspace?

I’m sure that after asking these questions and doing what’s necessary to prepare adequately, smart leaders and managers will get feedback from their employees to see if the emergency plan worked effectively. That is if they ever had to deal with an emergency.

I wonder how many companies have developed contingency plans to deal with the Pandemic.  I know to some that it may seem like a morbid thought, but in some ways I’d rather have morbid thoughts that keep me alive and working than glossing over problems and ignoring them.  Also, I wonder if companies can get energy conservation credits for having employees telecommute.

Examples of Emergency/Virtual Work Plans:

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