As of the date of this blog, March 24, 2020, 43% of the US population is being asked to stay home to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, with several states and many more cities having implemented “stay at home” orders to non-essential workers. Even before those orders, insurance agents, attorneys, corporate workers, and many others were directed to work from home to help prevent the spread of the virus.
For Keytel Systems, we have seen a large jump in calls from our clients that are asking us to help them set up their employees for remote work. Any good comprehensive business continuity plan accounts for the possibility of employees having to work from home if a physical building becomes inhabitable during a natural disaster or, yes, even because of a global pandemic.
Here are some things to take into consideration:
A business will need to decide whether employees will bring their existing workstation home or if an additional workstation will be supplied. For those whose primary workstation is a laptop, they may already be accustomed to bringing their workstation home with them on a nightly basis. However, some employees may require the higher computing power of a desktop and additional monitors in order to get their work done. We’d recommend against allowing them to use their personal computers that haven’t been properly maintained and updated or installed with the latest security software.
As employees move to at-home work, most businesses allow them to utilize their home wireless network as a bridge to log into the VPN (see below). This might mean that you have to subsidize employee internet bills temporarily, or set them up with access if they don’t have it already, including a modem and router. For rural employees, this could include satellite internet or wireless internet through a cell phone provider.
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
A virtual private network allows remote employees to use their at-home workstations and home wifi connections to connect directly to the business’s private network. They’ll have access to everything at home that they would in the office. A VPN is an absolute necessity for remote employees because it comes with the same security protections for remote employees as it does for on-location employees.
One of the few bright spots in the stock market over the past couple weeks has been businesses that provide virtual meeting software. Sometimes a phone call will suffice, other times you need the type of interaction that allows you to share documents, play videos, and interpret body language. Make sure your at-home staff has access to a virtual meeting software and the appropriate training on how to operate it.
As with most IT, the most unpredictable component of your system is the human component. Providing employees with the technology is only half of it. The other half is doing your best as a business owner and manager to keep them engaged, set expectations, and lift morale. Social isolation and stress can be a real hamper to productivity. You may want to have daily video conferences with staff to touch base and see how they’re doing. Or send a daily video email with a positive message.
If you would like help with setting up your company’s employees for remote work, give us a call at (614) 866-7700 or email us.