Coronavirus and Working from Home
It’s official: the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19 has reached pandemic status. Concerts and festivals have been cancelled, conferences postponed – even film releases put back due to the public health scare. Across parts of Asia and Europe, office blocks are empty and city streets are silent.
And it increasingly looks like we’ll be next. Already Google has recommended that all its employees in North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East work from home, and the UK’s Chief Medical Officer has warned that UK schools may have to close for more than two months. While those in retail, manufacturing, or health care may still need to be physically present, for the rest of us working from home may soon become the new normal.
So what can you do to prepare your team for working from home in the wake of Coronavirus?
Tech giants like Microsoft and Google have a natural advantage: many of their employees are already accustomed to working from home and most of them – we can assume – are IT literate. Others are going to have to play catch-up pretty quickly.
If you’ve already migrated to the cloud and adopted a flexible telecommuting policy for your staff, you’re in good shape. But what if you haven’t? Is it possible to transition into a remote working culture without major upheavals and expensive infrastructure costs?
The short answer is maybe. In our always-on, interconnected world, keeping in touch remotely is easier than ever. But that’s not to say that there won’t be several technical considerations. And those organisations who’ve resisted allowing workers to telecommute will probably struggle more than most. Then there will be the capacity issues, as the most popular remote working tools struggle to keep up with the upsurge in demand.
Before everything, think security. It’s more important now, because there’s less control of your system. Don’t discover too late that your team’s been reusing passwords across other websites, or that some laptops containing sensitive data aren’t encrypted centrally, or maybe your security audits didn’t ensure your finance team’s remote access was secure because of BYOD ‘Bring Your Own Devices’. The time to resolve those issues are now, before security breaches overwhelm your organisation.
Coronavirus and working from home: six strategies to help your team succeed
Laptops are the obvious choice for remote working, but if your office is a desktop-dominated workspace, what can you do, short of buying new laptops for every member of your organisation?
One possible short-term solution is to allow your team to use their personal devices for work. Many organisations already have BYOD (bring your own device) policies. If this includes you, this could be an advantage. However, even in companies that allow BYOD, not everyone will have their own device or be willing to use it for work.
There are security concerns with personal devices too, such as lack of encryption or people losing their hardware. If you decide to go down this road, you’ll want to think about a BYOD security policy.
Before sending home your staff, don’t forget to check everyone has the peripherals they need. Laptop chargers are an obvious essential, but there are other devices that can make working from home both more comfortable and easier. An external mouse may help anyone working on their laptop for an extended period, for example, and headsets and webcams are essential for videoconferencing.
While most people these days have good, reliable broadband connections, it’s important not to assume that everyone does. Ask your employees about their broadband and how fast it is. It’s a good idea for your team to have a back-up plan as well, such as using their mobile phone as an internet hotspot – but make sure everyone has an adequate data plan with their provider.
4. Remote access
If you have moved to cloud-based computing or you have a virtual private network (VPN), you’re sitting pretty. Your remote workers already have access to the files and folders they need to do their job. If not, you’re probably going to need to set up a VPN or move your on-premises servers to the cloud. Either, or both, could be right for your company. This is one area where it’s best to consult an expert to make sure you choose the right solution for your needs – talk to your IT department or your IT management service.
5. Document management
We recommend SharePoint as a cost-effective solution for organising your information and projects in a secure, central location. It’s mobile-friendly, allowing your employees to work on their phones, tablets or laptops, and fully integrated with Office365.
If you usually hold regular face-to-face meetings in the office, consider moving to virtual meetings. Communication is more effective when you can see the person you’re talking with. There are plenty of options to choose from, such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Meet or Zoom. Most services offer basic, free packages that are perfectly adequate for small- to medium-sized businesses. And if you do need the full business version, because of the coronavirus outbreak, many are offering reduced price or free video-conferencing right now.
There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic is causing disruption on a massive scale, and many of us are having to adapt quickly to a very different work environment. It also serves as a reminder that all organisations need a business continuity plan to help prepare for the unexpected.
Do get in touch if you have any questions. As a full-service IT company, we can help your team transition to partial or full home working – and provide the cyber-security that helps ensure your business remains safe and secure in the new working environment.
Lastly, don’t forget that it’s harder to ‘close the door’ on work (both mentally and physically) when you’re at home. It’s important to retain discipline so that home and work life don’t blend together and compromise both.