Working From Home and the Coronavirus Crisis

It’s been impossible to avoid news about the Corona Virus, and its possible impending spread. Having originated in Wuhan province, China, the virus – correctly known as COVID-19 – has now been identified in many countries across the world, and is believed to be highly contagious. Furthermore, there is currently no cure or vaccine.

Is there a need for you to worry? And how will the virus affect businesses? In some countries, people are being advised that working from home is a sensible course of action. Furthermore, some countries have put a ban on events where more than a certain number of people – 1000 and 5000 seem to be the norm. Gatherings and many sporting and other events have been cancelled in China and elsewhere as a result.

Up to a fifth of the workforce may be off sick during the peak of a coronavirus epidemic in the UK, the government says in its latest plans.

BBC Online

In the UK, however, there is no need for panic. The risk status of the disease is currently ‘Moderate’, and few people so far have contracted COVID-19 in the UK. If things should worsen, it is likely that people in certain roles may be asked to work remotely from home.

Before we talk about the effects this may have on commerce and industry, it’s worth looking at a few facts about the virus:

Should I Worry about COVID-19?

There is no need for excess concern regards the coronavirus as things stand. The health services are currently working to find anyone who may have been in contact with those persons who have been diagnosed with the virus. Anyone who has travelled to the known danger areas in recent weeks is also advised to contact a medical professional.

There is also general advice about travelling – and the NHS website has the latest up to date recomendations on how best to keep the risk of the virus to a minimum. Always wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water or sanitizer, especially if you have travelled from home to work or vice versa, and should you sneeze of cough, do so into a tissue and then dispose of it safely.

The symptoms of the virus include a cough, temperature and shortness of breath – very similar to the common cold or flu – so be aware these symptoms do not automatically mean you have the virus; it could simply be a cold.

Being a new strain of virus, little is yet known about precisely how COVID-19 is spread, and urgent research is ongoing into the virus.

So, should you go to work, or stay at home?

Should I Work From Home?

As we have said above, there is little known about exactly how the coronavirus is spread as of now, but it is undoubtedly contagious. The identified cases in the UK may be very low in numbers as things stand, but if it is spread by contact – for example – it only takes a few seconds for someone who does not know they have the virus to potentially infect many others.

In a recent BBC News article, the UK Government is quoted as stating that ‘up to a fifth of UK workers’ could be off sick from work at any one time. Clearly, this could have a major impact on the business world, and should notable spread of the virus become apparent, there is little doubt that working from home will become a preferred option for many people.

This will be the best way to make sure that businesses run as normally as possible, and that employees are kept safe from possibly contracting the virus. There are many examples of home workers who currently work in this manner, and with modern smartphones and computer networks, it is entirely possible to keep a business running smoothly if communication is efficient.

Man working on a computer at home using a headset to speak with customers on his softphone.

One way of making sure employees can actively work from home is to supply them with headsets that are designed to work in a streamlined fashion with specific software packages. Companies such as PMC Telecom specialise in such headsets for softphone and VOIP packages, and they are very efficient, and make remote working much easier for all involved.

Using unified communication systems connecting home to the workplace, and to the computers of others in the workforce who are also working from home, should lessen the impact the virus imposes on the daily working routine.

The Benefits of Softphone Communication Solutions

The more popular communication solutions such as Skype, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts can be used successfully as a way of keeping a business running remotely, and with headsets for the purpose, things can be done with relative ease. For accounting and sales, for example, the essential daily routines can be run remotely with cooperation from all involved. Indeed, many companies now allow employees in some roles to spend a portion of their time working remotely, and it is a proven working practice.

How likely is it that the coronavirus will lead to widespread remote working being implemented? At the moment it is difficult to say. The Government is saying only that further cases are ‘likely’, but is also advising that the majority of people who do suffer will experience nothing more than a ‘mild flu’. The dangers are with the very young and the elderly or frail, and those with respiratory ailments.

However, the public – and also business and commerce – are being asked to do all they can to mitigate the risks of spreading coronavirus. It is notable that many of the case that have been identified in the UK involve people who have recently returned from Italy – where eight of the most recent cases have originated – Germany, Iran, Singapore and Japan.

If you are a business owner or have been asked to look at contingency plans for your company, it may be worth getting your team up to speed with remote working and the softphone solutions that you currently use or may choose to do so. The Government predicts that the peak for coronavirus will come in May or June, but it could be a case of it recurring in waves, so be prepared, and make sure you’re ready to put your remote working plans in action.