How Members of a Dispersed Team Should Respond in a Crisis

We’ve all witnessed how costly impulsive decisions can be. However, it’s important to understand that you’re not at fault.

When the brain senses danger, it swiftly produces adrenaline, causing an adrenaline rush. In this state, the logical part of the brain becomes inactive, giving way for emotions to steer decision-making.

According to cognitive neuroscientist Ian Moore, individuals under such circumstances become defiant and hesitant to make assessments.

Even with feasible solutions at hand, it’s not rare for employees to make poor choices or be unable to act swiftly during an emergency, regardless of their proficiency and skillset.

It’s crucial to recognise that our behaviour and responses can be adjusted through mental conditioning. A prime illustration of this is the education that firefighters undergo, which empowers them to take appropriate action in case of a fire.

Social proof is a theory that proposes that individuals tailor their conduct according to the behaviour of their peers. Nevertheless, with a geographically distributed workforce comprising of remote workers, it’s uncertain as to who will oversee the complete operation.

That’s why it’s crucial to train your remote workers in handling emergencies through preemptive measures and established protocols.

Below are some helpful tips from Works on how to react during specific emergency scenarios, specifically tailored for remote staff.

IT-Related Incidents

Lost laptop: This is unquestionably one of the most catastrophic situations that remote workers can encounter. To prevent this, it is advisable to take preventive steps like installing monitoring software, frequently backing up your data, or configuring a mechanism of automatic backups, and incorporating two-factor authentication.

Involvement: The IT team, the TL/manager, the employee’s team and potentially the client.

Time is of the essence: Immediate action is crucial.


  • Notify the manager/Technical Support/Information Technology immediately.
  • Contact a Disaster Recovery Service for your network immediately.
  • To prevent tracking of sensitive information, erase all data and encrypt the hard drive.
  • Restrict user access to mission-critical enterprise databases and other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms.
  • Temporarily suspend all financial transactions that are dependent on account numbers or login credentials, such as credit cards.
  • Inform potentially affected parties, whether they are customers or members of your team.
  • Notify the relevant authorities if a computer is stolen to prevent it from being sold in the future.
  • Replace the lost laptop or borrow a temporary one and connect it to the company server.
  • Verify the data on the replacement laptop through unit testing.

Compromised company passwords: Email and other accounts may provide unauthorized access to valuable corporate data.

Parties Involved: Remote workers, colleagues in close proximity, the Team Lead/IT Department, email recipients, and external businesses.

Delayed Response: Although it may take some time to detect a compromised account, the speed of action is crucial.


  • Account administrators should be informed to enable temporary deactivation of compromised email or account.
  • Ensure that the user account is safeguarded by a firewall, separate from the admin account.
  • Categorize users into distinct groups, monitor for anomalous activities such as mass emailing from an unsanctioned account, and take measures to avert such activity.
  • Prevent the generation of redundant data by user programs, especially those that are not cloud-based.
  • If a third-party such as a vendor is responsible for the security breach, follow their pre-established protocols.
  • Familiarity with the limitations of your system is imperative. For instance, the presence of a keystroke logger on your device can diminish the efficacy of password managers. To combat this, it is suggested to utilize anti-keylogger software and two-factor authentication for added protection.
  • Communicate login difficulties to your colleagues when necessary to avoid delay.

Server or Internet Problems: In order to work from home, internet connectivity is essential. Therefore, losing internet access can cause significant distress.

Parties Involved: Internet Specialist, Technical Writer, and Teleworker

Delayed Reaction: A server outage lasting a few hours, unless it is close to a deadline, is unlikely to cause significant hindrance.


  • Below is a comprehensive list of twelve possible reasons why you may be unable to access the internet, along with corresponding troubleshooting measures. It serves as an excellent offline reference.
  • If none of the aforementioned remedies prove effective, consult an IT expert.
  • Ensure your team/manager can reach you throughout this period utilizing a reliable mode of communication.
  • Occasionally, waiting for a company to rectify its website (such as a SaaS) is inevitable. Nonetheless, you can inform your team and reach out to them.
  • When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, err on the side of caution as they can be susceptible to security vulnerabilities. To safeguard your information, we propose protecting yourself by installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN), activating your firewall, turning off file sharing, and downloading and using up-to-date anti-virus software. These practices help minimize the chances of any detrimental data breaches or cybercrime incidents.
  • If the problem persists, consider changing your service provider or purchasing a device like a signal booster for improved connectivity.
  • If it is certain you cannot meet the deadline, communicate this to your team in advance.

Missing file: Recovering lost files can be a tedious task, particularly when working offline or storing data solely on a laptop.

Parties Involved: Traveller, computing expert, colleague, supervisor, or senior personnel

Countdown Timer Even if you must perform a system restore, it should not consume more than thirty minutes of your time.


  • Before making any extensive modifications, it’s advisable to safeguard your system by establishing a restore point. This way, you can revert to a previous stable state if necessary.
  • Make it a habit to frequently back up your files, preferably on cloud-based storage.
  • If you accidentally delete a file, it may still be recoverable by examining the trash or utilizing cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud. Alternatively, check your email outbox as files can sometimes be found there.
  • Utilize data recovery software like Disk Drill if you unintentionally delete or damage a file.
  • If the above-mentioned solutions do not resolve the problem, seek assistance from your IT department and inform your team if the difficulty persists and delays are expected.

Workplace Scenarios

Difficulty understanding the assignment’s briefing or instructions: Addressing this problem in a geographically dispersed workforce also requires aligning schedules across multiple time zones.

Parties Involved: remote employee, team of colleagues, immediate supervisor or manager, and client

Delay: In order to meet the deadline, you’ll need to expedite the resolution process.


  • In this case, there seem to be two potential reasons for the inaccurate outcomes. One possibility is that you didn’t grasp the instructions correctly, or alternatively, your interpretation of them was incorrect.
  • Update your team regularly on your progress to enable them to identify any mistakes sooner.
  • Clarify the instructions with your colleagues and managers through discussion.
  • Check the time remaining until the deadline and if needed, ask for help.
  • The person you are trying to reach may be located in a different time zone, which could explain the delayed response. Please keep this in mind before becoming overly anxious and exacerbating the situation.
  • Do not hesitate to inform others if the problem cannot be fixed or will cause delays in final delivery.

Colleague’s Time-sensitive Mistakes If a coworker fails to finish a task by the deadline, you may need to take charge to ensure it is completed on time. While considering the colleague’s sentiments is important, the task’s urgency should not be disregarded.

Parties Involved: Remote employees, members of virtual teams, and managers/team leaders

Timeliness: The turnaround time should be brief to enable task reassignment or review.


  • Contact the team member and inquire about the progress of the task and whether it can still be resolved despite being past the deadline.
  • Discuss with the team lead whether it would be better to delay the project or proceed despite the error.
  • If you are unable to solve the problem on your own, consider who on your team is well-suited to take over. This might be someone who has already worked on that particular aspect of the project.
  • Help them solve the problem by providing a briefing and guiding them through their next steps.

Possible Scenarios

Deadline Missed: If the delay was caused by an external factor outside of our control, such as a family emergency or extreme weather caused by climate change, there may be little that can be done. However, if the issue was internal to the workplace, it is crucial to pinpoint the source of the delay to avoid future disruptions.

Parties Involved: Freelancer, colleagues, and team leader

Timeliness: Once it becomes apparent that the deadline cannot be met, inform your management immediately.


  • Maintain open communication and keep everyone informed.
  • Examine how the delay may affect other aspects of the project and whether it is feasible to request a postponement.
  • If applicable, break down the task into smaller segments that can be more readily delegated to other team members.
  • Revise the project timeline so that critical milestones are still met on schedule.
  • Forewarn the recipient of the delivery about when they should expect it.

Human Resources-Related Scenarios

Studies have shown that remote employees generally take fewer sick days than their in-office counterparts due to unforeseen circumstances. However, there are circumstances in which taking time off work may be inevitable.

Parties Involved: Remote worker, Team, Team Leader/Manager, Human Resources

Timeliness: It is essential to notify the team leader or manager as soon as possible to allow for rescheduling of tasks.


  • If there is a pressing matter, please get in touch with the team leader promptly.
  • Create a tentative calculation of the number of days you will require for time off.
  • Provide your manager and colleagues with a progress report on your recent tasks and forthcoming deadlines.
  • After task allocation has been altered, use video chat to communicate with new colleagues and clarify any questions or concerns they may have about your earlier contributions.
  • Prior to taking time off, it is crucial to determine whether you will have access to email, phone or any other communication channels, and if so, when and how you should be reached. This will ensure that you can stay in contact when required.
  • Update your team leader if there are any changes to your circumstances, such as a need for an extended leave or an ability to commence work early.

Workplace Violence and Misconduct: Remote employees may experience additional dangers such as cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and other forms of online abuse. This may result in the inability to adhere to their regular work schedule. On the other hand, remote employees could also encounter unacceptable conduct or alternative learning opportunities in the workplace.

Parties Involved: Remote worker, Teammate, Manager, Human Resources

Timeliness: In order to set a good precedent, it is crucial for both the remote employee and the manager to respond quickly in the event of any misconduct or mistreatment.


  • Reassure your team that it is acceptable to report any instances of harassment that they may have encountered or witnessed.
  • Whenever feasible, select an expert who is capable of dealing with these issues.
  • The majority of individuals would opt not to report any incidents of misconduct or mistreatment, thus it is critical to give your team members the option of how they would like to contact you (whether it be via email, video chat, or telephone) and how much information they wish to disclose.
  • Avoid judging what they disclose. Commence the conversation with them without waiting for any evidence.
  • Conduct an impartial investigation to obtain the facts. It is crucial to listen to the other party’s viewpoint when there is another person involved.
  • If you are unsure about the appropriate course of action in a particular situation, it is recommended to consult your company’s Human Resources department. Regrettably, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem at hand.
  • The remote employee should be given access to therapy and other relevant forms of assistance.
  • Avoid pressuring the victim to disclose additional details than they are comfortable with; instead, allow them to determine how much they want to reveal.

Why having an emergency checklist is crucial for a dispersed team

In addition to teaching your staff about the mentioned procedures, you should implement the following additional steps:

  • Consistently update and refresh training:

    Modify your emergency plans based on what was successful and what was not.
  • To obtain personnel contact details, you should:

    Record each staff member’s residential and professional addresses, and keep a list of at least one emergency contact for each individual.
  • Distribution of critical information to the public:

    Establish a system for promptly alerting everyone in the workplace at the same time.
  • Managing time and various time zones:

    If your team is dispersed, it is critical to reassure them that there is no need to panic due to the absence of an immediate response from you. However, it is also essential to equip them with the necessary expertise and knowledge to enable them to address the problem autonomously.
  • Set up a well-defined chain of command:

    Knowing who to contact is a crucial aspect of many procedures. If a team leader can explain a process, there is no need to involve extra personnel.
  • Familiar with the required emergency levels:

    Misplacing a company laptop is a critical matter that necessitates immediate attention and is significantly more important than accidentally deleting a document. When confronted with numerous issues, it is crucial to guarantee that appropriate measures are taken in the proper order of significance.
  • Effectively manage the situation:

    Prioritizing issues that may be viewed negatively by the company’s clients and other stakeholders is critical. Instead of attempting to conceal any information that may become public, it is essential to utilize proper public relations and social media platforms to efficiently communicate the story.
  • Cultivate a culture where individuals make an effort to comprehend and empathize with one another.

    It is unavoidable that issues will arise, and completely avoiding them is impossible. It is thus crucial to acknowledge this reality and ensure that your employees have the necessary resources to deal with any problems that may emerge, and to return to their regular duties as soon as possible.

Effectively managing a crisis while working as a remote team necessitates ensuring efficient communication. To accomplish this, it is crucial to build an environment where personnel are at ease sharing their feelings and receiving assistance from their co-workers during difficult times.

At Works, we are dedicated to discovering ideal candidates for your firm who are interested in remote work and can seamlessly integrate into your organizational culture. If you have any inquiries or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us.

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