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COVID-19: Open letter to employers struggling with sending staff home or not

(BUSINESS) Employers making decisions right now are in an impossible situation, but not trusting your team, or halting hiring are huge mistakes. You can do better.

COVID-19 work from home

There is an evolving list of Austin tech employers making the rounds in response to a nation of workers making changes in their home to sanitize their lives, and wondering how they can possibly do the same in an office. Employers are in the impossible situation of having to scramble logistics and deploy a fully remote workforce for the first time in our nation’s history.

May this article serve as an open letter to ANY employer making difficult business decisions right now:

In the tech industry, it’s totally possible to send everyone home. And for massive companies, it’s possible to take any potential financial hit. But for those companies that aren’t Google, this is nerve-wracking. It’s an untested time, there are no case studies for this. Sure, companies like Auttomatic are famous for having a fully remote workforce, but what do companies that have always worked on-site do?

I’ll tell you what my mentor, and our company founder told me – we trust.

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Easier said than done, right?

Nope. If you can’t trust your workforce, what does that say about your hiring skills and your own leadership? It says you haven’t taken the time to build a workforce that you are proud of and trust, and further, that the managers you’ve hired aren’t being groomed in a way that allows you to trust them implicitly.

There is a fear that productivity will take a hit, and that’s certainly a risk, but I can tell you based on our current site traffic, that your company is already slightly less productive than they were a month ago as employees grapple with the same new realities you’re having to.

You can deal with this by being transparent and leading, or you can hide at home while your employees worry they’re literally going to die or kill someone they care about.

For any company that has told employees that they can go home if they WANT to, there is an unfair burden put on that employee to decide whether or not they want to raise their hand and risk be punished later for not being a team player. “If you feel like going home” is too subjective and honestly, a cop out – be clear and either send everyone home, or express the reasons they should or should not work remotely.

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Additionally, now is not the time to shut down your hiring pipelines, in fact, right now is the exact time you need to fire up your efforts, because remote work is going to reveal a lot about your team, and some folks are going to shine more than you ever knew they could. You’re going to be wildly proud. Some managers are going to reveal themselves to be your next generation of high quality c-suite executives. But in this sink or swim scenario, some are going to sink and you need to have a deep roster to pull from. If you don’t keep that pipeline full, your sinkers could drag your whole company down.

We recognize sending staff home isn’t realistic for all companies, and literally impossible for others (semiconductor manufacturers can’t send a clean room and manufacturing equipment home, but their marketing team has no business being on-site right now). When a publicly traded company’s stock plummets, there are precise protocols in place for how to react, but even the biggest companies don’t have tested protocols in place for a literal global pandemic.

Communicate openly, honestly, and frequently, no matter what you do.

And in the concise words of the person *I* look up to professionally, it’s time to trust. Don’t let COVID-19 hold back the quality leadership that lives inside of you. You can do this.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: COVID-19: List of Austin tech companies not sending workers home

  2. Pingback: Sequoia 'Black Swan' memo could steer companies off of the COVID-19 cliff

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