The Corona crisis: Coping with employee shortages

We’ve no way of knowing how long or how extensively the coronavirus outbreak will impact on our everyday lives, our work, and the economy. But it’s perhaps best to plan in terms of months rather than weeks, and organizations will almost certainly run into employee shortages if they haven’t already.

You’ve probably introduced social distancing, with as many of your staff now working from home as possible. But are there other steps you can take? And have you made contingency plans for coping with significant and sustained staff outages?

As providers of software development as a service, we’re familiar with covering for IT staff shortages and closing gaps in expertise. So we’ve put together a quick checklist with a few tips and ideas to help keep you on track during these potentially turbulent time

Avoid staff losses

The first thing to do is lower your team’s risk of infection. You’ve likely taken the right steps already, but it’s worth covering a few key points here.

  • Make sure you have the right processes, tools, and infrastructure in place so that your staff can work from home. And, as IT professionals, you’re doubtless familiar with the security implications of people working remotely.
  • Where working from home is not an option, consider introducing flexible working hours and shift work to limit the number of people on site at the same time.
  • Organize workspaces so that teams or staffers and their deputies can stay separate from one another.
  • Re-arrange furniture and dividing walls to make it easier to follow safe distancing rules.
  • Make sure that hand sanitizer and disinfectant sprays are available; masks, too, should be provided, as and when they become a requirement (keep checking the latest public health guidance). Remind employees to clean keyboards, mice, office phones and mobiles regularly.
  • Hold phone and video conferences instead of face-to-face meetings, and postpone all nonessential business travel. Limit crucial meetings to the smallest number of people possible; hold meetings in well-ventilated rooms, and keep people a safe distance apart.
  • Anyone returning from known coronavirus hotspots in foreign countries or who has had close contact with someone showing symptoms of infection should self-quarantine for two weeks. If a member of staff shows typical COVID-19 symptoms, employers are required to send them home.

Prepare for staff shortages

Make sure you have a crisis management plan in place so that you’re ready to deal swiftly with staff shortages when they arise.
  • Assess which tasks and processes are crucial to keeping your operation up and running.
  • Re-prioritize all ongoing and upcoming projects. Which of them can or can’t be put on hold?
  • Are there new projects that have to be completed in spite of (or because of) the coronavirus epidemic? What staffing levels will you need to handle them?
  • Identify key individuals who are likely to be business-critical.
  • Ideally, you should appoint multiple deputies for each of these persons and make sure the deputies are as well prepared as possible to step up when needed.
  • Consider how you can scale up capacity quickly – say, by mandating overtime or outsourcing certain projects.
  • Create greater leeway by deferring less important projects. Or hire and prepare freelance consultants for your projects before things get tight.

Act swiftly when the time comes

If you lose staff – through illness, quarantine requirements or childcare obligations, for instance – you have two basic choices: You can cut the workload or expand capacity.
  • Defer those projects identified as less important in your crisis management plan.
  • Reduce the scope of projects where possible and expedient.
  • Ask staff to work overtime. You may even need to impose mandatory overtime in line with statutory working time regulations.
  • Ask part-time staff to work full-time for a number of weeks or months.
  • Farm out projects, in part or in whole, to external service businesses to lighten your in-house workload.
  • Support your team and close any gaps in expertise by hiring freelancers to work remotely and cover capacity shortfalls

How are you handling the crisis?

This checklist is by no means intended to be comprehensive, and we’d be happy for any ideas or additions you’d like to share. We’re especially interested in what steps you’re taking to handle the Corona crisis, as well as any tips you’d like to offer other readers.

If you want to know more about what we do or would like an obligation-free consultation on software outsourcing or working with remote consultants, then please feel free to get in touch. We can draw on a large network of European IT professionals and will do our best to help you find the additional capacity you need.
We wish you and your staff all the very best in these uncertain times. And, most importantly, stay safe, stay well!
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