We’ll defer to medical experts for how to stay safe and healthy from COVID-19 as the pandemic evolves, but in the meantime, businesses should consider how to best keep operations healthy to avoid a decline in sales. Remote work enables your workforce to get the job done while minimizing the risk of spreading the illness, but there are several key procedures companies will want to focus on to maintain business continuity.
As leaders prioritize employee wellbeing amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, there is a way to maintain business-as-usual while keeping your employees safe. If you don’t already have a business continuity plan in place for working remotely, there are still steps you can take to facilitate the process relatively quickly. Here are a few of the best practices that OSF Digital, a leading global commerce solutions company and digital transformation specialist, has developed during the past 17+ years of working with distributed teams and helping their global clients create and enhance their remote collaboration programs:
Employees are going to be most productive if workstation files are coordinated with a centralized storage solution, which helps to minimize conflicting documents. Cloud-based solutions—editing documents in a web browser without the need for installed software—can help streamline multi-user collaboration as well. Some of the tools used to share and manage content and files, and seamlessly collaborate across the organization, are Sharepoint, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, and more.
Communication and collaboration are essential when working remotely, and they can quickly be disrupted when transitioning from office work to remote locations. In an era rich with communication choices, consider providing centralized internal contact information, configuring internal communication solutions to accommodate clients outside your office network, and clarifying expectations on communication channels and customer management. Luckily there are a number of platforms that can be put in place quickly and help a lot, such as Slack, Zoom, Skype, and Flock. Moving from traditional telephony to a VOIP Telephone System can decrease cost and time investments while increasing sound quality, communication stability and even productivity of your teams.
To allow employees to transition to a remote-work environment, you need to make sure they have access to the right equipment in order to eliminate any disruptions in business continuity. Companies are advised to assess their employees’ existing computing hardware, and their specific business requirements will dictate what else is needed. Organizations can rent, lease, or buy devices as appropriate for those that don't have them or are not suitable. There are a number of accessories and devices that are needed for sustaining the remote-work model, such as: a working station (laptop, desktop), a high-quality headset or headphones with mic, and a webcam for web conferencing.
With centralized administration of licenses, redistribution is faster, since employees can install copies of the corporate software to their hardware. This is also why non-binding licenses—not bound to a specific piece of hardware—are always recommended. The most popular license suites used by companies operating on a remote working model are Microsoft Office 365, G Suite, and Adobe Creative Cloud.
Working in a familiar environment will increase comfort and productivity. Ideally, businesses should have a purpose-built VDI to accommodate remote desktop connections. Other options include solutions from the big cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and OVH, or configuring remote working on existing workstations. Which brings us to the best practice that is arguably the most important of all…
In the effort to provide flexibility, you don’t want to make your situation worse by compromising on security. Remote-user routers should be configured with encrypted protocols, and all devices should have the appropriate antivirus software and encrypted VPN capabilities. For an extra layer of protection, device management allows your IT team to impose security measures or even remotely lock or wipe a device. Encrypted network connections make it safe for the worker to access IT resources within the organization and elsewhere on the Internet or other networks. VPN solutions come in a wide variety of flavors, and some well-known vendors are Cisco, Juniper, or Open VPN - an open source software that is free of charge.
Whether it’s for COVID-19 or a future outbreak, having remote collaboration options simply makes sense. In the past 20 years, we’ve experienced several global health emergencies, including H1N1 (2009), SARS (2003) and MERS (2012), the latter of which were both coronaviruses.
The truth is, if remote work wasn’t already part of your active or contingency plans, it should be considered. If your brand needs to fast track something like a disaster response to the coronavirus now, it’s achievable by following the tips above. Once the current disruption abates, take an objective look at what worked best and what challenges still need to be addressed. Ultimately, a long-term business continuity plan will give businesses peace of mind that can maintain operations, whether from a health event, natural disaster, or other unforeseen situation.
If the process of setting up remote work requires capabilities outside your expertise area, OSF Digital can help you prosper by leveraging our 1,000+ employees who speak 21 different languages working in 37 global locations. Our experience of almost two decades in operating in a distributed delivery model, with a majority of our global employees working remotely, can help move your employees to a remote work environment safely and securely.
For the latest information on COVID-19, including how to keep workplaces safe and situation updates, visit the World Health Organization.
For More: Don’t miss OSF Digital’s “Work from Anywhere, Deliver Everywhere” video explaining its company value of giving employees the flexibility to work remotely for a better work-life balance.
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