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Dan Leakey
March 12, 2020

6 steps we’ve taken to prepare our team for COVID-19


COVID-19 is affecting the entire world. In light of what is happening closer to home in the UK, we wanted to share how we are preparing our teams for the potential impacts that the virus could have on our employees and everyone we work with.

We are not saying that this is the best approach to take in these kinds of situations but it’s a pragmatic one that we have taken to minimise the risk to health and wellbeing to our colleagues and clients.

Here are 6 steps that we’ve taken to prepare:

1. We managed and mitigated through our risk register

Working in healthcare, it was hard for us to ignore the early news about the virus.

As the situation began to unfold in January, we added it to our risk register and our Senior Leadership Team began discussing potential mitigations on a weekly basis.

We decided that should the seriousness of the situation escalate, moving all of our staff to remote working would be the most appropriate solution. Even though we’re a remote-first business, there were still a number of considerations, such as:

• How would our people feel about leaving their client sites and remote working?

• Would working fully remotely affect everyone’s ability to perform?

• How were our clients preparing for COVID-19? Are they also considering remote working for their own teams? If so, how are they handling security clearance issues to ensure their staff can remotely access important systems?

• What were the legal and contractual implications of moving our teams to full remote working?

• How could we start to communicate our plans with our team and support them in moving to fully remote?

We agreed on actions and began tackling each of these considerations, resolving any issues with our teams and clients.

2. We turned weekly prep into daily prep

As the situation progressed, we increased the frequency of our SLT COVID-19 discussions to daily.

We also created a dedicated Slack channel where we shared the latest information with one another as we received it from various sources.

As he has significant experience of working in crisis management, we appointed our Business Change Director, Dan Leakey, as our COVID-19 Preparation Lead.

3. We spoke to our clients to find out how they were preparing

We wanted to do all we could to safeguard the safety of our teams and those of our clients.

Our delivery teams work on-site with our clients across the UK, in Newcastle, Blackpool, Leeds, Leicester and London, so we shared our plans for managing COVID-19 with our clients, to ensure agreement and alignment with them.

4. We openly shared our preparation plans with our teams

We openly shared the latest developments and COVID-19 preparation plans with our entire team through Slack on a daily basis, immediately after our daily dedicated SLT meeting.

This includes the latest updates and advice from Public Health England, the NHS, and the Government.

We also encouraged anyone with any personal concerns to speak with their line manager so that we can make specific arrangements with them during this time.

Our approach closely follows the Government’s advice - we maintain business-as-usual during the containment phase, but we are ready and prepared to adapt and act fast should the situation escalate.

5. We set up emergency contact channels

Whilst our entire team is connected on Slack and email we don’t expect everyone to be checking these 24/7.

This means that if we need to reach people out of hours with an urgent message, then we wouldn’t be able to notify them until they were logged in at their desk, which could be too late.

With this in mind, we set up a dedicated WhatsApp group and made it clear that this channel is only to be used by the SLT to communicate any critical updates or actions out of hours as needed.

6. We acted decisively

As we received more information we continued to adapt our approach and take the best possible course of action together as a team.

Once the WHO officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic, and UK Government advice moved from ‘Containment’ into ‘Delay’ we made the decision to invoke our plan, remove our teams from their client sites, and have them work from home.

Our teams are fully equipped for remote working with laptops, collaboration and communication tools being embedded into their business-as-usual working practices.

Adapting as we learn more

These are just 6 steps that we have taken so far to prepare our team for the potential impacts of COVID-19 on our employees.

We care about the health and wellbeing of everyone so we are doing all that we can to minimise the risk of infection across our teams and our clients' teams.

Written by Daniel Leakey - Difrent's Business Change Director

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