Running a business that relies on remote workers presents a series of unique challenges that other more traditional businesses just don’t have to worry about—distance has a funny way of taking relatively minor crises to code-red status pretty quickly. Because you’re so far removed from your soldiers out on the front lines, you must have a quick response to any crisis ready and at hand in order to minimize the damage done.
Whether you stand to lose out on customer satisfaction, sales prospects, or even equipment and other tangible goods, you have to be prepared to handle just about anything at the drop of a hat. It’s an essential skill that must be cultivated to protect your business from the unexpected. Below you’ll find some helpful tips that will allow you to not just skate by when crisis comes, but to be prepared and handle these emergencies well.
Stay in Touch
Remote workers should still be constantly monitored to ensure that they’re living up to your company’s standards. This may be as simple as regular phone calls, but more likely, you’ll want some sort of detailed and interactive scheduling system with a built-in task list. Even better would be a solution that integrates GPS data. This will allow you to know at all times where your workers are, what they’re doing, and whether or not they’re doing their best to uphold your high standards. Periodic in-person inspections are also a way to keep those employees on their toes—just make sure they’re a surprise!
Sometimes staying in touch can be more difficult for the employer than the employee. You or somebody at your company needs to be available instantly should your remote workers run into situations that they don’t know how to handle. The last thing you want is an employee scrambling to bandage up a wound that’s hemorrhaging your company’s money while you’re nowhere to be found.
Ideally, you’ll already have protocol in place that covers just about any contingency you can think of, but if it fails for any reason, a real, a live support system is essential to keep your business running smoothly.
Have a Plan in Place
When you formulate protocol, it should include training for the most common crises your employees will run into. Training on these procedures should take place before you ever send your troops into the field, but it’s also essential to refresh them periodically so that they don’t forget certain steps over time. Creating a resource such as a crisis management “red book” or other easily accessible reference guide can also make it easy for your remote workers to deal with a problem on their own.
Each of these processes should be structured on an escalating tier: if the first and easiest solution doesn’t solve the problem, step up the ladder and try the next. Just be careful of being too tedious. Your escalation ladder should never be so tall or in-depth that your employees are wasting time trying solutions that just won’t work.
Appoint a Problem-Solver
Every company can benefit from having a dedicated problem-solver on staff. This person will usually be a seasoned employee or someone with extensive experience in the field that your company can employ to clean up nasty situations. Calls for help should initially go to this person and he or she can either try to walk through a solution remotely or visit the scene in order to triage the situation—though the best approach varies from industry to industry.
If you do decide to appoint a problem-solver, make sure this person doesn’t clash with any of your junior employees. Otherwise, you may end up with an internal staffing crisis on your hands – on top of your external issues.
Protocol is a good way to solve problems as they arise, but remote employees should be knowledgeable enough and flexible enough to think outside the box. Sometimes applying a unique solution to a problem works wonders where protocol just doesn’t. Sometimes it even solves the problem altogether. Often it will stabilize the situation long enough for your dedicated problem-solver to arrive and fix the issue.
It’s a good idea to build in redundancies such as alternate communication avenues, back-up databases, and cloud-based storage of essential information to avoid problems in the first place. Like a generator that pops on the minute the power cuts out, the redundant system can pick up the slack with minimal interference.
Whether we’re talking about applications for scheduling, communication, data management, or information sharing, technology can work wonders to keep your remote business working smoothly. For example:
Instead of relying simply on standard talk or text, the addition of picture or video messaging can allow a remote problem solver visual access to a crisis instantaneously.
The aforementioned GPS tracking call help you plan for scheduling crises with minimal interruptions.
Cloud-based data storage can eliminate crises related to deleted or damaged data files.
Updated scheduling applications can allow multiple users across your business to reconfigure their daily routine should car trouble, a doctor’s visit or some other minor crisis throw a wrench into the mix.
Whatever industry you’re in, finding technological solutions to everyday problems should be one of your top priorities.
Learn from the Experience
Once the storm passes, don’t just exhale and move on. Take the time to thoroughly dissect the problem and find out what went wrong and why. Whether it was simple (like bad driving directions causing a delivery delay) or something more complex (like a server mainframe overheating), you can learn from the experience. Then, put measures in place to keep the same crisis from crippling you in the future. This may also be a good opportunity to update your crisis response documents in order to prepare for similar eventualities.
In many ways, crisis management in fields that rely on remote workers is very much like natural disaster planning. When natural disasters hit, professional response teams are ready because they train, plan, apply unique solutions, and then examine the response after the disaster has passed. This allows businesses to recover quickly from unexpected disasters – and this same process can be applied to your business’s more immediate crises.
While nobody likes to think about disasters happening, being prepared for such eventualities will allow you to recover swiftly and with minimal losses. Don’t be caught off-guard. Take the time today to plan out your crisis management response and train your employees on these protocols to prevent disasters from taking your business down with them.Remote Worker Crisis Management: How to Handle Emergencies Chad Halvorson