As you’ve heard, Coronavirus or COVID-19 is certainly not to be taken lightly. The Coronavirus has been spreading very rapidly and will continue to increase if the proper precautions aren’t taken. COVID-19 is most prevalent in larger metropolitan areas and cities that have high levels of traffic due to travel. Reportedly, there have been over 4000 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus as well as at least 100 deaths in the United States. In fact, many medical and health officials believe that a large-scale outbreak is inevitable- causing concerns for several businesses and their employees alike. Multiple businesses have asked their employees to stay home to try and further prevent the spread of the virus.
In the event of widespread epidemic across the country, both business owners and employees are making the switch to continue operations by working from home or other remote locations. Planning for working in remote environments in times of crisis could mean the difference between turning a profit and paying rent. Companies need to have secured and efficient virtual private networks(VPNs) to ensure effective and successful business methods. Further into this article, we will dive into different processes on how to efficiently work remotely.
Staying Connected with Your Team
Operating remotely starts with free flowing communication across the company. Having the right tools and the proper means of accessing the correct information and platforms is crucial in the approach to successfully working remotely. For one, you can never assume that any of your employees will have the adequate or necessary internet connection at home or somewhere else. It would be an excellent strategy to gather data from workers to determine where or whom the gaps lie with. For certain staff members it may be pertinent to purchase mobile hotspots or provide stipends to create home internet access plans.
Another key facet to providing prosperous remote work practices is having all the required and fundamental devices at the ready. Equipping workers with devices from the company allows for a more secure and stable means of getting work done.
Webcams for web conferencing help bridge the need for having important meetings or the need to get a message out to a large amount of the company. High quality headsets or headphones with high definition microphones are essential to carrying out ever so important web conferences.
Along with these devices and accessories, there are also plenty of programs that businesses can utilize to make working in remote environments run more fluidly, including:
Microsoft teams is an application that is a chat based collaboration tool that provides global, remote, and dispersed teams with the abilities to work together and share information through a common place. Microsoft teams also provide unique features such as document collaboration and one-on-one chat as well as team chat. Here is a short list of the fundamental capabilities involved with Microsoft teams:
- Chat- Deep integration of Skype video into the application conveys popular social features allowing you to experience public and private conversations with your teams.
- Hub- Microsoft teams offer a shared workspace for various programs in Microsoft Office such as Powerpoint, Word, Excel, Etc.
Voice Over Internet Protocol or VOIP is basically a phone service over the internet. When working from secluded environments VOIP is another great avenue in terms of staying in the loop within the company while also offering cheaper rates than most phone companies. Here are a couple of reasons why VOIP is an excellent method when working remotely:
- Lower Cost- Using a single network to carry voice and data. In extreme cases, viewers see VOIP phone calls(even international) as free. Whereas traditional phone services are monopolies or government entities.
- Increased Functionality- Incoming phone calls are automatically routed to your VOIP phone wherever you plug it into the network. Take your VOIP phone anywhere and connect it to the internet to receive incoming phone calls.
Unified Communications as a service(UCaaS), integrates communication through a cloud model as well as integrating with Cloud-based application software. Much like Software as a Service (SAAS), it is a Cloud-based service that grants you access to run your business network through an application via the internet. UCaaS offers the ability to incorporate multiple communication methods via a single cloud provider. Check out a couple benefits provided by utilizing UCaaS services:
- Integrate communication methods including enterprise messaging, telephone communication, and video conferencing, facilitating a strong team connection.
- Integration into call center services while adding functionality through call routing and call centers when combined with contact management software.
Creating a Remote Work Policy
Emergencies may happen at the most untimely moments, varying in levels of tragedy. To ensure that operations run smoothly in times of catastrophe, creating and implementing a remote work policy can be a simple and an economical solution to working from remote locations.
When disaster strikes and panic begins to stir, having a transparent remote work policy alleviates the confusion that can arise amidst the hysteria. Remote work policies outline what is expected while working remotely and should go into full detail about all aspects of the variety of tasks that are involved when working remotely. These tasks can include the expectations of work hours, legal rights and cyber security conditions.
Although establishing a solid and clear-cut policy may sound intimidating, and while it does come with its own set of challenges, there are many different services and templates that you can utilize when creating a remote work policy. Several employee remote work policies are tailored to any business needs. With the proper research, creating the appropriate remote work policy can be as simple as drinking lemonade.
Your Technology Strategy While Working Remotely
When it comes to the technical side of remote work, it is important to have a system in place that will optimize operations for your whole team without compromising security. Cloud-based data and document storage software make it easy for employees to safely and quickly share information. This streamlines their productivity and keeps all sensitive data and documents in one monitored location.
Another solution to try is Unified Endpoint Management. This class of software tools is created to provide a single management interface for your whole workforce, that can be accessed via mobile device, on a PC or whatever hardware your team may be using. The value of a UEM is it keeps all systems updated and provides other IT help as needed to keep your software running smoothly and efficiently. Also, using one interconnected system for your entire workforce will keep all users on the same page and make collaboration simpler without compromising security in the process.
Efficient and Secure VPNs Make It All Happen
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are the vertebrae to any and all remote work solutions. VPNs essentially keep your business secured when business cannot be conducted in the traditional sense. Afterall, since keeping your business secure in regards to cybersecurity is an ultimate priority in itself; it should be even more of a top preference when referring to running a business remotely. A VPN involves technology that provides an additional layer of security for organizations and enterprises to send and receive data throughout the internet.
The reality however, though it be that your connection cannot be intercepted by anyone; a VPN connection is only useful if it hasn’t been compromised by malware. Prior to establishing a VPN connection, it would be wise to download a tried and trusted antivirus program to further protect and prevent information breaches. VPNs were developed to gain access to corporate records and applications through a private and protected network for branch offices and remote users.
However, sometimes a VPN can be too complicated or take too long to set up for certain companies that need it right away. A great alternative solution to this is Connectwise. The nice thing about this approach over using a VPN is that it’s able to act as a buffer between their home computer and the business network. You can have the ability to virtually log into your work computer from the device you’re using remotely! This may be the best solution for businesses that are forced to “Shelter-in-Place” and looking to get their network connected remotely without purchasing a bunch of hardware and getting stuck in a long contract.
In addition to a secure network connection, you’ll need to speak with your employees about the importance of data security. Unfortunately, hackers and other cyber-crime artists are taking advantage of remote workers who may be working from home for the first time due to the virus. Your employees will be relying on technology more during this time than they did before, so it would be wise to offer some form of data security training to keep your employees educated and empowered against cyber threats.
Focus on topics like phishing emails and other social engineering scams that are commonly used to trick unaware employees into giving up sensitive information. Hackers will also include fake (or spoofed) links to get employees to click and unknowingly download malware or spyware that puts your data at great risk. The more information and examples you can provide of what fake emails and links may look like the more protected your company will be.
Another valuable data security solution is to set up a network that will allow you to manage who has access to your data storage and can also provide constant monitoring to ensure there are no leaks or compromises. No matter where you and your team are located you want to make sure there is a virtual set of eyes recording who and when information is being accessed, and that there is an alert system in place so you can stay on top of any potential threats.
To summarize all these points, here's a helpful infographic for you to reference and use with your team:
In wake of the Coronavirus, several global enterprises and prominent events including Disneyland, the NBA, NHL, MLB and Coachella Music Festival have all suspended or postponed all activity indefinitely. Now, since most businesses can’t just suspend all operations, a multitude of companies have subsequently halted work at the place of business itself. Across the nation more and more workers are continuing their normal business routines from home or other secluded locations.
In times of crisis, it is imperative that enterprises have a remote work policy as well as the correct platforms and devices to efficiently sustain operations. Staying connected with your team through Cloud-based platforms or other means of communication like VOIP has become an immediate necessity for the workplace. Protecting your business with the layered security provided by secure VPNs reduces some of the stress that can arise during times of disaster. Establishing the proper remote work strategies will allow your company to thrive in the face of chaos rather than be handicapped by the pandemonium!