In the face of rapidly-changing pandemic response and prevention efforts, business leaders are having to shift to remote operations, cut workers’ hours, or put staff in high risk situations.

Needless to say, the landscape has shifted dramatically, said Kimberly Prescott, founder and president of Prescott HR. “At first it was ‘how do I stop people from being afraid?’ Then, it completely shifted: ‘how do I manage a remote workforce?’ How can I tell people they’re not going to be paid?’ ”

Now, more than ever, business leaders need to lead, said Prescott. “Your people need to hear: don’t get panicked. Don’t watch too much news. Your company is still here to support you.”

Try first to answer the question: “How do you set deliverables and handle this remotely?”

Prescott believes a large percentage of companies are in the process of doing that, though, she said, “we don’t really have anything to reference.”

On a vastly smaller scale, “Snowmageddon” – the Feb. 5-6, 2010 North American blizzard was a paralyzing situation with widespread impact in the northeastern United States.

“That was a state of emergency and only essential personnel were on the road,” she pointed out.

The difference was, we knew it would end within a couple of weeks, Prescott said. “Right now, we have no idea. It’s the panic of the inability to measure the impact. You can’t measure the impact of being closed until August, as some people are estimating.”

But even if the message is ‘I don’t know,’ communicate with your employees, suggested Prescott. “The first thing is to make sure that leadership has a clear and constant communication plan because even if people aren’t working in your office, have a way to communicate with them and let them know what the company plans to do.”

Business leaders should understand that they are not off right now, she added. “When people are left to their own imagination about what can happen, they start to think the worst. Business leaders need to make sure they are providing resources to people.”

If you do have the ability to have employees work from home, keep in mind that people are not working from home under normal circumstances. “What does a responsible workload look like?” she asked. “Many of us are home schooling our children at the same time.”

She projected that companies will continue to cope, and often business leaders will put together whatever plans they can, often on the fly.

Ryan Miller, principal of Critical Functions, LLC, has been busy helping several companies develop basic business continuity strategies, recognizing the fact the plans have to be simple and developed under pressure.

Miller said he’s actually been impressed by the capability of local business owners and leaders to put in place a disaster management strategy. “This is without them having any training or preparation and they are doing an incredible job,” Miller said. “The side benefit is that they are cutting to the core of what is most essential to their business and getting on paper what is necessary to make it happen.”

In the midst of uncertainty, Miller said he’s already looking at a silver lining of sorts: “I can only imagine the business benefits this process will bring for them, not to mention the head start they will have on the development of more comprehensive plans.”

By Susan Kim | Staff Writer | The Business Monthly |

Kimberly Prescott
Ryan Miller