We are experiencing a unique event — a world-wide pandemic. Much of our country has shut down (although my inbox indicates some CIL executive directors seem to have time right now to update policies, to think about planning, to do things they haven’t had time to do typically).
We have all discovered that our past disaster planning was too focused on the immediate events — evacuation mostly — and not the longer term. Here we are, weeks into social isolation and we have learned some things.
Have you learned what was missing in your ability to be productive away from the office? Some of you had to purchase equipment because what you had wasn’t portable. Some learned how to forward calls to staff cell phones without giving out personal numbers. You discovered how to manage remote access to key files. You have streamlined your intake process because it didn’t make sense in the new reality. You’ve learned whether or not staff can get any work done when they are also in charge of child care, or when their anxiety disability kicks into full gear. You have also learned who doesn’t have good access to electronic communication or even basic phone access.
Have you taken time to think about these discoveries? Stop today and write them down, because you will want to review your emergency policies and procedures after we return to whatever normal will be in the post-COVID days. Ask yourself:
- Do you need to invest further in portable equipment? Can staff work from tablets or phones, or are laptops needed to work remotely?
- Can confidentiality be maintained when staff work from home? What are the challenges that need to be addressed for the privacy of consumers?
- Do you want staff to have remote access to consumer records?
- Do you think staff should use their own equipment (phone, computer) for at-home work? What about wireless accounts or internet access?
- How often do staff need to meet — virtually or in person — for lines of communication to be maintained?
- Are small one or two person offices needed or could those staff work from home?
- How can staff be held accountable for really working when they are out of sight?
- Did you find that you could shift thinking from seeing people work to expecting specific tasks to be completed?
- What about consumers? Do you have an advocacy role in assuring more equal access to communication for the people you serve?
Planning is one of the creative things you can do in this break from the office. Do it now before the press of “getting back to normal” sweeps us.