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April 21, 2020 By Sridhar Karnam

COVID-19 crisis management guide for business leaders

The coronavirus pandemic is one tough test for business leaders. It disrupted all routines and scrapped most of the business plans for the coming months, or even years. Our lives have changed dramatically and no longer is it business as usual. Businesses have to adapt to the change and they need to do it with agility.

While office closures, enforced home working and social distancing are necessary for our health, they challenge business continuity. Most leaders currently ponder how to avoid employee layoffs and whether it’s possible to keep the business growing during the pandemic.

While there are no clear answers to these questions, it’s evident that empathy matters most. Both the morale and future of any company depends on the leader’s ability to empathize with the current situation and whether they prioritize their actions accordingly. Here are some tips on the actions that can be helpful in ensuring your business survives the COVID-19 pandemic:

Establish a dedicated response team

Convene with your key managers daily (or several times a day if need be) - in order to build resilience, everyone has to stay informed and updated on the current events and how they impact each aspect of your business. This is the best way for you to make informed decisions as to what needs to be passed on to all the interested parties, including your customers, business partners, stakeholders and employees. Ensure the team follows the latest data on how the pandemic is evolving and make contingency plans based on that data, as well as the economic factors.

Make rigid priorities

At times of uncertainty and rapidly evolving events, revise your priorities frequently. Make sure your team knows at all times what to focus their attention on at a given time. It’s the best way of keeping them productive in these challenging times. When planning for concrete deliverables, set goals that are realistic, otherwise your employees will quickly become demotivated.

Ensure team alignment

Keeping your team aligned on the company’s overall strategy, purpose and priorities is key to ensuring they collaborate even when working remotely. Collocation is the key to successful teamwork. Teams that work together from the same location generally report higher productivity, effectiveness and better decision making. Since this is temporarily impossible, the need to stay aligned is even more important. If your employees are to act quickly and efficiently, they need to feel they are autonomous, and can be achieved only when each team member is on the same page. As a leader, you must be proactive about keeping everyone connected.

Maintain regular meetings

I’m sure recurring meetings are already on your agenda. Though have you realized that this regularity may be instrumental to helping people adapt to their new work environment? Working from home isn’t for everybody; some of your employees may find it hard to cope with distractions at home and remaining as productive as they were in the office. Others will also have to manage work and the need to educate and entertain their children. Scheduling regular meetings may help everyone to better organize their time at home. This is how eventually things will get done.

Benefit from the abundance of virtual tools

You have a vast choice of online tools that can help your business survive while most of your staff work from home. Videoconferencing tools such as Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts can help you keep your regular team meetings and standups. Virtual whiteboards can be instrumental in illustrating what you want to say or to explain a complex technical issue. Finally, productivity tools such as Asana, Jira or Trello are vital to sticking to priorities and making sure nothing slips your employees’ attention. Some companies even found a way of organizing their virtual offices with dedicated rooms on Remo. The choice of tools is robust - the question is: what does your business need?

Build a virtual team culture

This may be the most difficult task on your agenda. Workplace culture can slowly dissipate once all the employees go home. During these challenging times, work teleconferences shouldn’t be solely about work. Always check on your employees’ health and wellbeing. Perhaps you can invite them on a virtual tour around your home during one of the calls? Perhaps you want to assign specific roles for the virtual meetings, such as timekeeping? Encourage employees to take turns in those assignments? The point is to make the virtual meetings fun for employees while making sure you progress with the plans. Nobody knows for how long we will have to continue working in the current mode, so make sure people enjoy it as much as they can and maintain their work relationships close despite the social distancing. If you display empathy and positivity, and be engaging towards your employees, the office culture will quickly go virtual.

Ensure you are visible

Typically, a crisis situation would push you to work harder with your top tier management on contingency planning and next steps, but if you don’t devote time to communicate with your employees, the situation may quickly go out of hand and the decisions you make may not be met with further difficulties if not resistance. Your employees need to feel that someone is in charge and that the person is doing their best to handle the crisis. When you do communicate with them, don’t be stiff or try to act calmer than usual as it will create unnecessary distance. Communicate the risks to your employees openly and they will be more engaged and willing to help.

Communicate regularly

It’s a mistake to remain in silence for days only to bombard your employees with decisions and other pertinent information later. You may be used to updating your employees on key decisions, but during emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic, it’s better to remain transparent at all times and inform your employees about what is currently on your agenda. Don’t keep anyone guessing, unless you want to deal with additional tensions. If there are risks of redundancies; don’t wait until the last minute to pass that information on to your employees. If they see how truly busy you are trying to fix the situation, the busier they will get with their own tasks.

Invest in security tools

Now it’s more important to invest in additional security measures than ever. With employees being forced to work remotely, your data and critical assets are exposed to more threats as the attack surface expanded dramatically - we have already covered this topic in detail in this blog post. You need to keep a watchful eye on threats and tools such as Sumo Logic Cloud SIEM can be instrumental to ensuring maximum visibility of your entire infrastructure, which is crucial for protection against cyberthreats.

Think about the bigger picture

Most organizations will be focusing solely on reacting to the current situation, without thinking what the rebound will look like and what the post-crisis reality will be and how it will impact the business. Why you respond to the most pressing issues, it’s extremely important to think about the future as well and prepare for it. In this article, McKinsey highlights that after resilience is built, leaders will have to think about how to return the business to its normal operation and reimagining it in a new reality that will inevitably welcome us after the crisis is finally over.

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Sridhar Karnam

Sridhar Karnam

Senior Director of Product Marketing

Sridhar Karnam leads the security product marketing for Sumo Logic. Sri has a decade of experience with SIEM, Security Analytics, Cloud Security, and IT Operations. He has led product management & marketing for SIEM solutions at ArcSight, Arctic Wolf, and at Oracle. He has written hundreds of blogs on SIEM, and has also spoken at many security and IT events.

More posts by Sridhar Karnam.

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