Yes, Even Your Remote Workplace Needs a Disaster Plan in Place

You don’t need me to tell you that Coronavirus (COVID-19) is gripping the world right now. The United States recently declared a national emergency, joining other countries that have enacted protocols to try and curb the novel virus and keep their economies afloat.

One major change — and perhaps challenge — for some workers, is their newfound ability to work from home. Since Coronavirus is believed to spread largely from person to person, it absolutely makes sense to get people out of congested office areas.

While operations teams put together guides to help workers adjust to this new arrangement, it’s an important time for companies everywhere to reexamine their policies. This includes remote ones.

Yes, Remote Workplaces Need Guidance, Too

It might seem strange to call-out businesses that operate remotely. After all, they should have the whole work-from-anywhere thing down pat, right?

Yes. And no.

To work remotely successfully, you do need to have solid processes in place. We share more information on guidelines and the tools we rely on to run smoothly here.

While this works well for everyday, run-of-the-mill Monday-through-Friday life, major events like Coronavirus still forced us to look inward and determine what we could do better.

Putting a Plan in Place

As a distributed company with team members all over the world, we started to pay attention to and have discussions around COVID-19 early on.

We read our travel insurance policies in detail and started reaching out to vendors for pre-booked travel to make contingency plans in case of cancellations. When things continued to evolve, we decided to take additional concrete actions to support the team.

Last week, we updated the team on several key items. Here are seven actions we took:

  1. Canceled or postponed all unnecessary travel. Our design team had an upcoming, in-person gathering that we decided to scrap. We also canceled all springtime business-related travel and postponed our company retreat in Costa Rica in July.
  2. Encouraged people to stay home. Some employees choose to work out of coworking spaces, cafes or… basically wherever has a strong WiFi connection. Because of this situation, we suggested people return home to work.
  3. Shared links to resources. We created a COVID-19 Precautionary guide in our company Notion and added links to trusted authorities, like the World Health Organization (WHO). Team members also utilized the #x-general Slack channel to share news with each other — and, some laughs (one person may have uploaded a video of himself singing along to the Spice Girls while working solo out of his home office).
  4. We told people to take time off if they needed it. We waived paid sick time limits for the duration of COVID-19 and told people to take time as needed to care for themselves or sick family members. It sounds simple, but it was important to us to reassure people that their health is more important than their output.
  5. We scheduled a weekly guided meditation via Zoom. No doubt, this is a time of high anxiety. One of our team members used to own yoga studios, and we asked her to provide weekly guided meditations for anyone who wanted to join (and recorded them for those on different time zones).
  6. We created a #x-quarantine-solidarity channel on Slack. We wanted to provide a place for people to connect and share their positive coping strategies during times of quarantine and social distancing. So, we encouraged people to post photos, tips and recipes in this channel.
  7. Scheduled a check-in call. We added an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session to our monthly companywide meeting to touch base with the team and provide another communal space for people to ask questions or air concerns.

When in doubt: over-communicate. It’s a good practice as a remote company, period.

Tips for Your Remote Company

If you’re a small-to-medium-sized remote business, consider the following:

  • Get key decision-makers in the company on a call to discuss your COVID-19 plan. Also, choose a lead (or leads) to disseminate information to the rest of the staff.
  • Share information on existing and new policies, specifically around time off. House this information in a place where everyone has access to it, as well.
  • It almost goes without saying, but take action on upcoming events and let your staff know ASAP.

Lastly, ask how people are doing. Your staffer might suddenly have their kids home with them for weeks as schools announce widespread closures. Another might be caring for an immunocompromised family member.

Or, like a lot of us, they may feel plain uneasy as the world collectively explores unfamiliar territory.

Be There for Your Team

It’s a scary time for many people right now. A little empathy and grace goes a long way.

To everyone: Stay safe, stay well, wash your hands and look out for one another. We’re all in this together.


Rachael Harnish

Rachael Harnish is director of operations at Shogun. Working from a small farm in rural Virginia, she’s passionate about the future of remote work and finds purpose in building sustainable companies that take care of their teams. In her spare time, you can find her playing with her two children, weeding in the garden or running through the hills of the Shenandoah Valley.