With a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly upon us and no end in sight, the whole world has had to readjust almost every aspect of life, from shopping and education to socializing and the work.
Working practices especially have had to change. Working remotely has exploded in popularity, with more people than ever working from home to try and reduce the chances of spreading the disease.
With those who do still have to travel into a workplace, there are all sorts of measures and precautions in place to make it a safer environment for everyone.
With that, however, comes new challenges and a need for new tools and software, as well as new approaches to doing things. Here, we look at some of the ways in which you can keep your business going through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Create an effective and secure foundation for remote working
It is all well and good asking your staff to work from home for the foreseeable future, but have you checked to make sure that they are able to. We all assume that everyone is adequately set up for remote working, with a space to work effectively and productively, reliable internet access, a phone line or contract to take and make calls, and so on.
Before you implement a company-wide working from home strategy, ensure that your staff has the facilities to do so. Do not assume that employees all have sufficient internet access at home or elsewhere.
Although many will, others will not have a reliable or fast enough service or only a mobile device. Take a short survey or otherwise collect data from staff involved in your remote work plan and define where the limitations lie.
For certain workers, be prepared to invest in mobile hotspots and related data plans, as well as to include funding for home internet connectivity plans or improvements to existing connectivity, such as a WilsonPro cell phone booster installer which may be of particular concern to workers living in more rural areas.
One of the biggest problems is knowing how much bandwidth workers would need to be optimally efficient, and this assessing this at the outset would pay dividends quickly.
Remote workers, particularly at first, often have to sync up their files and data. For certain industries, there may be a lot of rich media and data that need to go back and forth on a daily basis.
How fast it goes will determine the productivity of remote work. More importantly, the types of software that are used frequently, in particular web and video conferencing, may also dictate the need for bandwidth.
When it comes to devices you have two choices: you can either let employees use their own or you can provide them with a company-owned device. Of course, these have pros and cons.
The advantage of allowing staff to use their own devices is that is cheaper and faster – there is no need to purchase and wait for them to arrive.
The downside is that it comes with a significant security risk. However, shadow IT, where workers use their own devices and apps in order to complete work, is commonplace amongst remote workers anyway, so many workplaces are prepared to overlook the risk. Obviously, supplying the devices that they need is the best option and the most secure, but that brings about the considerable expense.
Finally, make sure that you have a clearly defined remote work strategy along with a schedule, a communication program, a budget, training, and resources to ensure adequate internet connectivity anywhere the worker works remotely.
Preparing quick-start guides, such as those used for consumer technologies, is a great aid in trim the initial learning curve away from any new tools or systems.
Organizing power users to assist staff who are new to remote working, answering questions, and exchanging solutions is also a great aid.
Normally, all of this is part of the overall remote work program but can be independent depending on who is responsible for delivering various services within the company.
Consider security levels
We briefly touched on this above when talking about whether to allow workers to use their own devices, but we are going to discuss more the different security measures that you need to take.
Many businesses use a VPN (virtual private network) on devices. This creates a super-secure, encrypted network that allows employees to access IT resources.
These can be turned on and off, and employees should be encouraged to make sure their VPN is switched on when they access work IT. However, you need a clear policy on usage, and what can and cannot be done when using the VPN.
You may also want to consider two-factor identification (2FA) instead of standard usernames and passwords, to add an extra layer of security.
You can pick up portable 2FA devices – hardware that provides a verification pin – pretty inexpensively now. It is also possible for cell phones to be used as a 2FA device.
Organizations now use hundreds of pieces of software, apps, and tools to run their business, from payroll to workflow management, schedulers, and editors, and everything in between.
It doesn’t matter how big or small the business; the number of digital tools used does not scale down significantly when there are fewer people working.
If you want your business to keep working efficiently, you need to make sure that your employees can access all of the tools and resources, or if not, provide an alternative that does the job just as well.
Loading them all onto a computer is not ideal because of the sheer amount of space and memory it would take up, plus the fact updates and transferring documents between devices are time-consuming and risky.
This is where using a cloud system is ideal – it automatically updates and everyone can access it whenever and wherever they need to.
How will you communicate?
Communication is imperative for the smooth and efficient running of any business, but it is even more important when it comes to remote working.
You can’t just call over to someone’s desk or put a note on their keyboard, so you have to find another way of making sure they know what needs doing. There are plenty of workflow management tools on the market to help you organize your teams.
Some of the most popular ones include Trello, Asana, and Slack. You may also want to find a platform that allows you to hold video conferencing and instant messaging options, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
Cultivate a remote working culture
For some people, remote working is a dream come true – working from the comfort of their own home, not having to worry about commuting in bad weather in rush hour or leaving the comfort of their own home.
For others, going out to work can be a bit of an escape, and adapting to such a different way of doing things can be difficult. You need to foster and cultivate a culture when people are happy and secure in working from home.
Make sure that they feel supported – if they are struggling, whether it is with a task, accessing tools and software, or working from home in general.
Remote working can bring a sense of isolation, so perhaps a virtual team building and socializing, such as a pub quiz on Zoom one Friday night, or buddying people up, so they always have someone they call and chat to about work and non-work related issues.
Allow for flexibility
If remote working is not standard in your company or field, you will find everyone is stumbling around in the dark, at least to begin with.
People not only are dealing with a new routine and the stress that a global pandemic brings, but they have to find somewhere in their home to work. Many people, especially if they have a family, don’t have space to suddenly create a home office.
They will be working from a corner in their bedroom or at the kitchen table, or even balancing their laptops on the sofa. Add to that potential issue with childcare, family pets running about, technology issues and well, things might not quite run as smoothly as they did when everyone was in the office.
Allowing for things to run over, or for it to go completely wrong occasionally is important, as is having a sense of humor about it.
COVID-19 is going to bring us many more challenges in the coming weeks and more ht, and maybe even longer. However, with it, we will learn so much more about organizing ourselves, solving problems, and staying connected whilst being far apart.
Foster a culture where remote working is engaging, fun, and supportive, and where workers feel just as appreciated as they did in the office and you will find that eventually, you will find your way.