As COVID-19 continues to cause mass disruption across the world, and social distancing measures are being put in place, businesses have had to rethink how employees can continue to work day-to-day.
For many office-based organisations, it means enforcing the option of remote working and allowing home access to all the relevant tools and systems we need to continue our work and remain productive.
Before the Coronavirus outbreak, many organisations based in offices saw remote working as a nice-to-have option for employees, with some companies only allowing the option during special circumstances.
According to ONS, an estimated 1.54 million people in the UK work from home for their main job, and this will only increase if the Coronavirus outbreak worsens – that means a strong internet infrastructure and equipping employees with the necessary technology and tools for remote working will become a necessity to maintain business continuity.
In a time of global crisis, we must make sure we’re prepared, but when it comes to internet infrastructure and remote working, who is responsible for what?
Laptop or desktop?
Are you reading this from your work desktop or laptop? If it’s the former, and you don’t have a proper cloud system set up, you could be in trouble. Desktop computers might be the better option in terms of cost-saving and performance for some organisations, but they can also be restrictive. Should employees need to work from home at a moment’s notice, you could be stuck.
Employees can also get caught out if they rely on their system’s hard drive to save down files. Ever worked on an important spreadsheet and then saved onto your computer’s hard drive rather than in the cloud? With a work laptop, you’re ok if you have it with you, but with a desktop, your file is stuck on there.
It’s also worth remembering that not everyone has a laptop or desktop at home, and permission to take laptops from the office might be needed. Check with your IT department to see what options are available.
When we’re in the office, corporate internet servers mean that we’re almost guaranteed to have a decent internet connection, but at home, it can be a different story.
Employees might live in areas with limited broadband connections or have slower internet speeds than when in the office. With school closures also on the cards due to the coronavirus outbreak, employees might also have other family members in the house that will be using the internet. If this is the case, encourage employees to limit data-intensive tasks such as videoconferencing and streaming videos. If an employee lives in a broadband not-spot area, consider offering dongles or wireless hotspots.
Remember that not all tasks require internet either. In fact, employees who don’t have a full home office set up and are required to work from home at a moment’s notice could use the time to take part in training– speak to your L&D department about giving employees access to offline training modules.
The easiest and most efficient solution to remote working is having a cloud system in place, providing your employees have a device and internet connection to access it. There are different cloud systems for different activities – SaaS systems like Office 365 and Google drives can be used to store and access those all-important files, whilst cloud backup systems can be used in the event of a cyberattack or data loss.
There are also cloud-based collaboration systems like Slack and Salesforce. Cloud-based LMS systems, like Cornerstone, also allow employees to access learning modules wherever and whenever they want.
Cloud technology allows information to be stored in a centralised system and it can be private, public or a hybrid.
Cloud systems can also potentially put less strain on IT departments because they don’t have to worry about the underlying infrastructure. Again, speak to your IT department to determine your options.
So, your employees are equipped with a device, a good internet connection and you have a cloud system in place – but what about online security? Using personal devices and connecting to unsafe WiFi networks all pose a higher risk for potential data breaches and access to hackers.
Make sure that your organisation has a VPN in place to encrypt data and communicate to employees the importance of cybersecurity and what to do if they suspect a data breach.
It’s also important to be clear about which tools, systems and files employees can use at home – sensitive information that can potentially be leaked, for example, might not be worth accessing over an unsafe home WiFi. So, be clear on what your employees can access and share over email when they are at home.
For office-based organisations, remote working shouldn’t be a deal-breaker in terms of loss of productivity. In fact, if you have the right systems and infrastructure in place, it shouldn’t have any effect on productivity at all.
As long as communication is clear, and special-case scenarios have a solution, we can all keep calm and carry on.