There are several factors that may lead to a temporary business closure. Bad weather, floods, construction and other incidents can leave a business out of operation for days, weeks or even months. And now we have a new reality that has shut thousands of companies: the coronavirus outbreak.

To prevent a complete shutdown of their employer’s business during the outbreak, more Americans than ever are working from home. But while some companies have had policies in place for years to allow certain staff to work this way, many employers were not prepared for suddenly making the switch.

With a good telecommuting strategy, employers and their employees can stay connected and continue virtual operations of the business through an IT network. Although telecommuting should not be the only continuity solution, it is an important option to implement for better business longevity protection.

Here’s how to transition step by step with the least amount of headache.

Identify staff and tasks

Start by determining which tasks and staff members are best suited for telecommuting. When choosing staff, it is important to pick people who are able to work on their own.

If you have employees who are unable to work on their own with very little direction, it may be best to delegate tasks to another member. While some workers may be self-starting stars, their jobs may not be appropriate for telecommuting. For example, a good worker who must access paper files and complete mostly hands-on tasks in the workplace would not be a good telecommuting candidate, simply for the lack of resources at home or at a remote location.

Choosing which workers to assign telecommuting tasks to can be a delicate subject. Some employees may feel that they are less favored than others. It is important to meet with your staff and explain that some jobs are better suited for telecommuting. Addressing employee concerns is important to help workers remember that they are all valuable and vital parts of the workforce.

Document your policy

After deciding which tasks and workers to make part of the telecommuting plan, write the plan up. Decide who will complete various tasks, how remote activation will take place, when activation will take place and how to notify non-telecommuting workers that they should not come to the office during the home isolation period

It is important to determine how remote work attendance will be verified and tracked. Outline instructions or guidelines for employees who need to contact managers or other personnel by e-mail, phone or video conference. If necessary, make an agreement form for telecommuting employees to sign that shows they understand their duties.

Analyze what equipment and accessories employees have access to in their remote locations. It may be necessary to purchase additional computers, printers, fax machines or other equipment for them to use. If this is needed, make a purchase plan for these items.

Analyze tech requirements

After determining if additional equipment is needed, you will need to consider remote network access for the employees who are working from home.

Security and communications should be the top priority for planning a network. This is especially true if confidential and sensitive information is shared across channels. When using an IT network, make sure workers have access to support if they need it and there is no IT department in the workplace.

All telecommuting workers should have the software, VPN access, security software and other programs necessary to perform business functions. If companies plan to install equipment in a worker’s home, it may also be necessary to coordinate VoIP telephone access for that individual.

The last step

When all of these factors have been addressed and the plan is drafted, run a practice test for a few days to work out any kinks.

You may need to move quickly, as the need for working from home will grow the longer people are being told to stay home. With a short ramping up period, you may need to have IT personnel on hand to be ready to help your workers address tech issues for you.