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Directive has been serving the Oneonta area since 1993, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

In the Age of Coronavirus, Now’s the Time to Reconsider Telework

In the Age of Coronavirus, Now’s the Time to Reconsider Telework

New York State recently mandated a stay in place order, requiring only essential businesses remain open and all others have their employees stay at home. The goal is to reduce the spread of coronavirus, by increasing social distancing. The best way to do this is by having fewer employees physically in the office. For telecommuting to be successful you need to have a plan in place before you need to use it. Here are 5 steps to allow your employees to work from home in the age of coronavirus.

Reduce The Risk Of Coronavirus

Coronavirus is a disease of proximity and density, that is, it thrives best when there are a number of people close to each other. This is the reason why we’ve begun to see opportunities for social gatherings either reduced or eliminated. The goal is to reduce the number of people collected together. There are a few key coronavirus best practices you can do to reduce exposure and transmission of the illness:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid being in situations where there are a lot of people close together.
  • Refrain from going out if you don’t need to.
  • Don’t go to work if you’re sick.

NYS Response To Coronavirus

As part of his push to ‘flatten the coronavirus curve’, the Governor of New York recently ordered that non-essential businesses and retailers close their businesses, and residents to stay at home. The Governor’s rationale is that by keeping employees out of the office, you reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus by a level of magnitude, simply because there are less people coming into contact with one another reducing opportunities to transmit the infection. 

On the face of it,  this is certainly an effective objective in regard to healthy service policies, the elephant in the room is that while many employees would like to be able to work from home, they can’t. While the reasons why they can’t, may be due to a lack of broadband coverage, or appropriate technology, those are issues which may be able to be corrected. The real issue is that unfortunately most businesses didn’t plan for the necessity of a remote workforce and don’t have the technology or the mindset to make it happen. Now they are struggling with the real necessity to keep their staff connected and producing.

6 Things You Need To Support A Remote Workforce

Fast and Reliable Internet Access
First and foremost, once your team goes home to work, they need to be able to get their work done. The lack of high speed Internet will most likely be a deal-breaker, as your team will simply not be able to work. However, before you toss in the towel, take a moment to examine the leading causes of slow Internet and try to address it. With any luck, you will be able to get your Internet up to speed and get past the first hurdle.

Modern Computer
While your business may be using the latest technology, there’s a good chance your team may be a generation or two behind. This can cause issues of reliability in hardware, as well as compatibility with software, some of which may be required for them to do their jobs. You will be surprised at the number of people and businesses who are still using Windows 7 and even Windows XP!  The first thing your remote workforce should be able to do is work smarter, not harder and that means having a computer that is up-to-date and stable.

There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting down to work, only to discover that you can’t; facilitating a need to trek into the office. As the whole point of social distancing due to coronavirus is to not have them come into the office, you should ensure that your team can work off-site before they need to.

Lastly, as their computers will be connecting to your network, it is critical that you are certain that their machines aren’t already compromised when they connect to your network. This is why remote workforce check is a good idea. You should perform an audit of your team’s technology to ensure that they will be able to to perform their jobs off-site, while confirming their machines are safe and secure.

Network Security
In a perfect world, you would provide your team with technology you vetted, so you know how it will work in the field, but in reality, your team will use what they already have. While consumer level routers and antivirus software may be good enough to protect the home-user, once they begin to access your business network from home, the need for high-level security becomes essential. This should include appropriate spam and virus protection, as well as training in best security practices because your emails won’t be secure without safeguards

Remote Access Software
Remote access comes in a variety of flavors, however, your team could benefit from remote desktop. This will allow them to connect to their work computer and interact with it as if they were in the office. Remote access in combination with cloud computing will increase productivity and reduce issues that can arise due an unplanned need for documents which were left on your business computer. Here are 4 quick steps for optimizing remote desktop.

One thing to consider is that you enforce security best practices including multi-factor authentication to reduce the possibility for malicious actors to gain access. In spite of any misgivings about the process, 2FA is worth the trouble.

If you’re unable to manage your team’s home network, you should at least mandate that they use a VPN for remote access. A VPN will protect your data as it is transferred from your server to your team member’s computer by masking your data.

Cloud Computing
Long gone are the days of having to email documents to your team for them to review, make changes, and then send them back. This process was not only time consuming, but there was also a risk that the file would have important data overwritten due to having multiple versions of the same document. Whether you chose Office 365 or G Suite for Business, cloud-based productivity tools offer a wealth of benefits.

Finally you should make it easy for your remote team’s data to be backed up, as chances are they won’t have the devices designed to keep their data safe, such as a UPS (uninterruptible power supply device) or even a BDR (backup and disaster recovery solution) to protect their data from any scenario.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)
VoIP is a valuable tool for business, and using VoIP provides a wealth of benefits for the remote worker, without the need to invest in a traditional communication system. Moreover a traditional communication system isn’t something the average person has in their home, but they do have broadband and that’s all they need to take advantage of VoIP.

Some features VoIP include is the ability to route calls to your remote team members, allowing your clients to have a seamless communication experience. VoIP also allows you to record conversations, have conference calls, collect data, produce reports, and even play hold music, all from a simple user interface. VoIP gives your clients an enterprise-level communication experience right from your team member’s home.

Businesses Must Adapt In The Age Of Coronavirus

In the age of coronavirus, one of the best things you can do as a business owner is reduce the number of people you have in your office by practicing social distancing. While you may be uncomfortable allowing some of your team members to work remotely, it is better than the alternative. The alternative being, if you continue to encourage workers to come into work, you’re increasing the risk of all of your staff becoming ill and being unable to work at all; including yourself.

A healthy remote workforce provides more value to your business than a workforce who are sick at their desk or at home sick, and out of the office. Either way, no work is getting done. The irony being, they are unable to work because they continued to return to the office, instead of working remotely. Worse, they may have also exposed your entire team (and maybe clients) to the coronavirus in the meantime. Encouraging a remote workforce in this health crisis is a recommended best practice and is the responsible thing to do… if you are able.

If you’re interested in learning more about setting up your team for telecommuting and remote work, contact us at 607.433.2200. Call and schedule a free remote workforce consultation today to learn more how Directive’s Managed IT services can help your business remain above the curve and ahead of the game.