The response to COVID-19 reveals that most businesses are not prepared for a remote workforce. Technology plays a vital role in creating both a productive and safe infrastructure for your workers. Here are some tips to set your business up for success.

Can your organization continue operations in the midst of an unforeseen interruption? Business continuity is a crucial protocol often placed on the back burner. Yet, when an increasing number of outbreaks – of an unpredictable virus, for example – occur, we’re left to deal with disruption to daily business operations and the ability to effectively serve our clients. Case in point: The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Some say it is this generations black swan.

Unquestionably, this virus is forcing companies – in all sectors – to either shut down operations for an unforeseen amount of time or move their staff to remote work. For some, working from home is already the norm. On the other hand, there are situations where remote work is not a viable option either because the job requires physical presence, the company is not set up to operate remotely, or there are limited resources to implement the right security protocols for telecommuting employees.

If your organization is currently transitioning your workforce to a remote work capacity, then having the right tools and systems can make the switch much easier and more secure. It is always a good idea to understand all the risks and best practices related to working from home.

If your company wasn’t ready for the coronavirus, and the implications it has warranted, you are not alone. Maintaining business continuity, and resilience, requires the right combination of flexibility and technologies. From unified communication systems to virtual desktops, here is everything your company needs to implement an effective remote workforce.

What is the Coronavirus?

The coronavirus is the most recent global outbreak that has already impacted trade, supply chains, the stock market, travel, and businesses around the world. Virtually every country has rapidly shuttered their borders to help mitigate infection rates and incubation periods. And, some trends in technology are also being accelerated to help deal with the rapid spread. On top of all that, it feels like a blur when everything is happening at the same time.

According to the CDC, the “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.” The symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and cough.

It can spread from person-to-person and is mainly spread between people who are within 6 feet of each other. Although, it is also possible to contract coronavirus by touching a surface with the virus and then touching one of your mucous membranes.

The CDC recommends for people to avoid close contact with people who are sick, to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, and to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Further, you should stay home when you are sick and to make sure to frequently disinfect the surfaces you touch and objects you use.

Implement the right tools and policies: Prepare your employees

For many employees, the main location for remote work is right at home. For those who are new to remote work, they might not have the right tools to do so right away and may have to work from open coffee shops or libraries with WiFi. Since COVID-19 cases seem to be on a rapid incline, it’s important to be proactive and flexible with how your company approaches remote work.

For starters, you must determine who can work from home – for most, it is the employees with back-office functions. Remember to consider the potential of any compliance-related issues, such as those with employees in the finance sector.

Once you have identified employees who can work from home, you need to ensure they have Internet access, a computer to use, and a location that can meet their job responsibilities.

It is your organization’s responsibility to ensure your employees have the tools they need to work from home, including providing equipment, internet access, and collaboration tools. Here are some solutions we recommend to our clients:

  • Implementing unified communications solutions
    Stay in touch with employees who work from home via Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx or Zoom. This includes instant/persistent message, screen sharing, video/ voice communication.

  • Use a secure connection
    If you are unsure of the security of the users home network, your employees can use a VPN service to encrypt data between their system and the resources they connect to in the cloud. It will also protect their identity by cloaking their IP address. NordVPN is our VPN service partner.

  • Reinforce your cyber security 
    Working from home can put your company data at risk. It is important to implement basic cyber security. Use multi-factor authentication like Duo. Don’t forget antivirus by using Sophos Endpoint with Intercept X to take it to the next level with ransomware protection.

  • Productivity Software Suite
    Office 365 or G-suite provides the bulk of all applications, storage, and communication needs for most small to mid-market business. In addition, it’s perfect for users to be able to work from wherever they have an internet connection.

  • Encourage the use of a Password Manager
    Even if you or your employees system gets hacked, at least you can sleep at night knowing that hundreds of logins and passwords are securely tucked away in an encrypted file. We recommend EnPass for your password management.

Remember to set clear expectations. This might include a guide for overtime, the workspace, cyber security, and what to do in the event of an injury or even equipment damage. Make sure to include cyber security awareness training. For instance, teach your employees how to care for their laptops such as storing them securely when not in use and how to access secure data.

Prepare Your Infrastructure

In light of many unanticipated repercussions related to the coronavirus, it is imperative to focus on a strategy that prioritizes collaboration. The scale at which many businesses are switching their employees to remote work is a new experience – even if it may be temporary for some.

Recognize that your organization is not alone in this journey, and there are tools to make the move much more seamless. These are the platforms we recommend to prepare your business infrastructure:

  • Virtualize your desktops with Citrix or Azure Virtual Desktop.

  • Maintain secure access to your databases, from anywhere, by using Office 365 or Azure.

  • Ensure cloud backups and disaster recovery with a solution like Datto or Infrascale.

  • Always test your backups!

Since there are still more questions than answers around the viral outbreak, make sure to monitor your current work from home program. After a month, or two, it may be time to review its overall effectiveness. Then, implement modifications as needed.

Final Thoughts?

While working remotely may seem a temporary solution, this recent crisis may forever change the way employees work. What you may notice is working from home leads to improved productivity. If you apply the suggestions and recommendations above, you will find that working from home may even offer a business advantage.

The entire world is digital. Long after we have mitigated the coronavirus risk, we will still have distributed teams. With the right tools, systems, and security, we can  open a new world of possibilities.

Still have questions? No problem! We’re here to help. Reach out to Techmedics if you need any consulting to prepare your business for limited traveling and remote work.

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