Several months ago, when we first started hearing concerns over COVID-19, no-one could have imagined the impact it would have on the global economy, and the changes it would impose on our daily lives in such a short span of time. Not only has the pandemic caused companies to rethink the way they do business, but confinement has forced people into complicated and stressful work situations.
For those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, we have had to quickly adjust our workspaces to ensure business continuity. But securing remote workers without hampering productivity is not as easy as it sounds. Connecting to enterprise networks from personal devices at all hours of the day and night, accessing business-critical applications with inferior bandwidth capabilities, and ensuring the overall security of such a complex system from external threats is challenging to say the least. In addition, the general fear that employees will not work as hard at home as they did in an office environment is present every day. So how can companies “keep calm and carry on” when there is so much to worry about?
Here are some tips to ensure your remote workers can continue to operate as usual in a secure manner.
Ensure your Infrastructure is in Place
If companies were delaying digital transformation previously, they no longer have that luxury. On-premise legacy systems are quickly becoming extinct as companies are forced to revamp their strategies in record time. Cloud-based solutions are the big winner and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) will increasingly play an important role to guarantee scalability (up and down) despite varying requirements.
One of the biggest complaints of home-based workers is latency—slow reaction time when accessing business-critical applications—which is amplified when several people at home are accessing the internet at the same time (especially with personal use ISP’s that are typically less robust than what workers are used to using in the office). Those of us with kids know that while children are increasingly attending home-school videoconferences, streaming Netflix, talking to their friends on Skype, or using apps on iPads, it’s no wonder that employees working from home are suffering from reduced response time. But solutions exist to enhance application performance to help your remote workforce improve their productivity at home; such solutions can help increase reaction speed and improve the user experience. Trialing such solutions can not only provide an immediate fix now but will help your remote teams should confinement last longer than expected (or should future outbreaks resurface in the future).
Security is Everything
The recent security breach announcement at Zoom has caused alarm in the software vendor community whose top priority is to protect data integrity. Now more than ever, increasing the cybersecurity of your IT environment is a must to ensure the continuity of business operations; otherwise, you may be vulnerable to attack as hackers have more time on their hands to do serious damage. Conducting security audits, risk analysis and penetration tests should not be put off; revisiting your back-up and data recovery strategy is also a good idea. What’s sure is that security should not be taken lightly. The risk inherently posed by remote workers combined with an increasing dependence on the Cloud is a recipe for disaster. Monitoring such threats and taking measures to prevent them is the only way for companies to survive.
Stay Close to Your Remote Team Even From a Distance
Time tracking and monitoring solutions exist so that you can see what your workers are doing and how they spend their time. Many provide screenshots of your remote employee’s workstations in real-time so that you can get an inside look at what they are working on. Such solutions can bring peace of mind to managers and give productivity tips to employees so that they don’t waste their time on non-priority tasks. Some even have settings to block access to certain websites including social media channels, (which may not be the best way for employees to spend their time). But with or without such a solution, it is important to convey expectations to your remote team regularly. Continuing to have team meetings (online) and fluid communications to align missions with business priorities is key. Staying in close contact with your team will also help them cope with the mental strain of working from home and feel connected to their colleagues despite the sudden changes to their routine. Generally, however, employees who work from home get a lot more done than they do in the office. It’s important to trust your employees and not let fear guide your decision-making.
Strangely enough, some businesses have seen a surge in activity since the crisis began. For those companies who need to continue recruitment in order to scale, it is important to consider other options for the short and mid-term. Recruiting from a distance only to have new hires work from home is less than ideal. Outsourcing certain aspects of your business may not only help with scalability but may also provide more cost-effective ways of operating.
Everyone wanted to work from home until everyone started working from home. It hasn’t been easy for businesses and workers alike to adapt to such radical change overnight and working from home has proven difficult in more ways than one. Now that people are online at odd hours of the day and night, an “always-on” mindset has taken hold of many remote workers, erasing the boundaries that used to allow for work-life balance. In fact, since life has become restricted to staying at home, many find that there’s nothing else to do other than work. But maintaining a separation from life and work is still important in order to remain productive. No-one can work all the time—it’s important to self-impose limits on time spent in from of your laptop screen to keep your sanity intact.