COVID-19 is one of the worst pandemics that the modern world has seen. One of the most adversely affected countries in the world is the US, where the number of people getting infected from Coronavirus is increasing every hour as we write. This is where it becomes imperative to ensure the continuity of their business. Several industry leaders are now adopting virtual communications as a part of their business activity.
Most of the major events across the companies are now happening through online media. This makes it imperative to select a virtual communications software that comprises conference room solutions. It can also help small companies and large corporations to organize video meetings as a way to keep in touch with their employees who are working from home.
What are Industry Experts Saying About This New Revolution in Business?
“When traditional channels and operations are impacted by the outbreak, the value of digital channels, products and operations becomes immediately obvious," according to Gartner analyst Sandy Shen. "This is a wake-up call to organizations that focus on daily operational needs at the expense of investing in digital business and long-term resilience.”
For most of the organizations, this is the perfect chance to get a boost in business continuity (BC) planning. This means you not only have to counter the execution of “fire drills” connected with cyber threats but also the creation of additional data centers and communicating about the challenges of remote work, the task of industry leaders boils down to these things.
How are Industry Experts Dealing with Virtual Communication Challenges?
Remote access to employees and sound time management for remote workers are two of the major challenges that industry leaders today face when it comes to conducting virtual communications in their organizations. To overcome these challenges, they are taking the following steps:
Proper Functioning Apps and Data
Industry leaders ensure that their employees have access to the right IT systems that are fully operational. Irrespective of whether it is a complex app or an email. Remember, if their employees’ emails do not work everything comes to a standstill. It is equally important to provide access to top-tier software required by employees to perform their jobs at home.
Hardware & Bandwidth
There are lots of people who work on desktops from home, hence as an industry leader, it becomes imperative to ensure that they have enough bandwidth to handle the external traffic. It has been observed that in most organizations approximately 70% of the bandwidth requirement is outbound. However, with the rush of remote working norms now pushing, industry leaders need to evaluate quickly whether they have the network capacity to handle increased inbound traffic.
Evaluate Your Risk Profile
This pandemic has given plenty to think for the industry leaders. From data breaches to risk tolerance, there is a need for creative ways to increase security through technology and administration. Is your industry well-equipped to counter the emerging cyber-attacks and other threats? This is where AI can come in handy to protect users from these security threats at the time of the pandemic.
Most of the time, leaders fail to keep their subordinates in loop during a crisis because they forget that they are not sitting in their offices with adequate resources in hand. It is imperative to update the employees on a regular basis about the current happenings in your business and industry.
Now that you have looked at how industry leaders are adopting the virtual communications and the various challenges that they are facing, let’s now divert our attention to a proper framework for a pandemic plan.
There are four steps involved when it comes to planning for a pandemic. This includes:
1. Scrutinizing an executive sponsor
2. Building a team especially for the pandemic
3. Scrutinization of the business impact
4. Developing/updating the pandemic response
There are certain organizations that believe too much communication can raise a panic button. On the other hand, zero communication can make your employees and key stakeholders feel as your organization is not doing anything during the pandemic. Instead of frequently passing on the information, it is better to work with HR and corporate communications to create concise, informative and empathetic messaging and deliver it through multiple mediums from emails to text messages to corporate portals. This is where a virtual communications tool can come in handy.
Create awareness amongst your staff to wash their hands with sanitizers on a frequent basis. If they are overworking to compensate for reduced workforce capacity advise them to take adequate rest. Companies should also restrict their employees from traveling abroad until a vaccine is found for treating Coronavirus.
Ask your employees to self-quarantine, especially if they return to work after being in the affected areas prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Do not force sick employees to attend office. Instead, ask them to work from home. Organizations need to reassure those people where remote work is uncommon that their jobs will be secure and they will not miss out on bonuses if they miss out on work due to this crisis.
However, without executive support, your pandemic planning team will not have the desired authority to exercise adequate measures and credibility to communicate crucial information and instructions to the employees.
This is where a senior executive needs to be held responsible and accountable for the organization’s pandemic preparedness. Such a person will have the authority to budget money and staff time for developing and communicating formal pandemic plans. Such planning needs to be conducted with the help of HR representatives, communications, IT, legal, finance, line-of-business owners, facilities, employees, risk managers and business continuity planners.
Now that you have looked at the basic framework for the pandemic plan, in the last section we will concentrate on the key pointers for running an effective virtual business meeting.
Have a Concrete Plan in Hand
This has to be done for the success of any meeting and even more pertinent when you have attendees located across various geographic boundaries.
Your virtual meeting agenda needs to be decided in advance. Such that the attendees know what to expect from the online meeting and the best way to contribute to the conversation. To achieve these endeavor, try these best practices:
- Send an agenda for the meeting in the form of an email invite containing all the nitty-gritty of the meeting. This includes crucial information that needs to be discussed like relevant documents, files, or research that is to be discussed in the meeting.
- Give an opportunity to everyone attending the meeting to have an equal chance of contributing. This can be done by having a document management tool like Google Drive.
- Have a meeting decorum where you lay down the rules for the virtual meet-up. For example, you can have a rule that attendees need to mute their videos and audios while the presenter is speaking.
Schedule Ahead of Time
This is especially critical when the participants are located in different time zones which makes it difficult to schedule the meeting. Here are some of the tips to ensure that everyone in the virtual meeting is on the same page.
- Pick out time frameworks that work best for everyone. For example, rather than asking “What does one believe about this tool?” you ought to ask “Do you think that this tool will assist with productivity?
- Use meeting collaboration tools like appointment schedule software to assist with automatic time zone detection of all the attendees.
- Ensure that you let the attendees know well in advance about the timing of the meeting so that there is no scheduling conflict. In case there is a need to make changes in the meeting at the last minute, ensure that all attendees have requisite free time for the meeting.
Lay Down Etiquettes for the Meeting
Practicing proper etiquettes ensure the success of a virtual meeting. Here are some tips for helpful etiquettes for host and participants:
- Check all your connections well in advance. This includes Wi-Fi, video and screen sharing capabilities.
- Ensure that all the participants can see each other. 55% of communication is body language, while another 38% is the tone of voice, according to research. Hence, meeting face-to-face on video is preferred over meeting over VoIP. It also enables participants to pick-up body language and cues.
- As many as 83% of attendees say they checked their email at an in-person meeting or presentation—and that’s with other guests in the room to hold them accountable. Make sure that attendees have full attention towards the speaker so that there are fewer distractions like messaging and emails during the virtual meeting.
Ensure Engagement of Participants
All the planning and scheduling will go to waste if your audience is not engaged. Here are some of the tips to keep them present and engaged in the virtual meeting:
- Let there be a bit of small talk at the start of the meeting. This way, the remote teams can ease off themselves and connect on a personal level before starting the serious discussion.
- Encourage everyone to participate in the meeting so that there is no dull moment in the virtual meeting. You can do this by executing a poll or encouraging questions over live chat for your business.
- Ask participants to share their views on a particular subject and ensure that they are following you. For this, you need to ask them close-ended questions instead of open-ended questions.
It has to be said that Coronavirus has made the entire business fraternity think hard about changing their perspective of conducting virtual communication. Who knows when this pandemic will end? But one thing is for sure that businesses across the globe are gradually shifting towards virtual communication. This can be a very big plus for the global environment and can also enhance people’s productivity to the next level. Follow the useful tips that we have provided while conducting the virtual meetings and you can ensure highly successful outcomes for your business in the coming years.