Sustainability and Continuity: How to support a remote workforce – NOW!

Over the last couple of years, the option to work remotely has become more and more common amongst employers. As employers look to recruit top talent, employees are also looking for a flexible work environment and schedule. What feels like overnight, the luxury of working remote has now become a necessity during this state of emergency.

In addition to the everyday obstacles of growing a profitable business, employers are now faced with an unprecedented challenge and they’re feeling the pressures of the fast-spreading COVID-19. Everyone is reacting to the sudden influx of remote workers and trying to best accommodate the current state.

However, it’s not as easy of a transition as one may think. Some of these employees are not used to working outside of the office, nor do they have the proper equipment or office space to comfortably and efficiently work from home. Let’s say you can provide all of your employees with a laptop to work from wherever they choose, as long as they have an adequate internet connection. We assume that in 2020 each employee has access to a decent internet connection, but how can you really make sure they do? What about your infrastructure? Are you confident that your systems currently in place can withstand a different workflow? How do you trust that your employees are still being productive?

The following sections outline some of the major considerations while you shift to a remote workforce.

Infrastructure

Assess the capability and know the limitations

When was the last time you evaluated key areas and were provided with recommendations for improvements in your IT environment? Often an assessment can get pushed lower on your priority list. Take this opportunity to ensure you have the systems in place to facilitate strategic shifts and new initiatives like working remotely.

In addition to the fundamental tools like a laptop, there are more considerations regarding your infrastructure an enterprise will need to consider before deploying a remote workforce strategy.

Network and remote access

To meet these dynamic business needs, an organization’s network environment needs to be efficiently architected and facilitate high-performance at the right cost. As end-users and devices accessing a network increase, this service becomes a more important and critical responsibility. Optimize and manage bandwidth to ensure your network can withstand the rapid influx of traffic. Lastly, don’t forget to account for the number of licenses you will need to support your remote connections.

Virtual desktop infrastructure

VDI can provide security and increases efficiency by hosting a desktop operating system on a virtual machine. VDI allows for a highly available, consistent computing environment both locally and remotely, and it simplifies the management of your computing environment. With VDI, IT support staff are better equipped to manage desktop computing due to centralized management tools that ease the burden of software updates, endpoint security, end-user support, endpoint replacement and future expansion.

Hosted cloud service

If your organization decides they don’t want to or can’t afford to make the capital investment, cloud hosting may be your best option. Typically, expansion and scalability are easier, and implementation time is significantly reduced.

Automation

IT automation is a powerful tool that can scale a business, provide significant cost savings, and allow IT staff to focus on strategic rather than administrative work. Think about the amount of time and effort is spent during onboarding and offboarding employees. The more you can automate, Active Directory federation, single sign-on and password reset, the simpler your life will be.

Security

With employees now working remotely, employers will be concerned about their data, as they should. Firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention appliances provide access control and protection at the perimeter and around data center services. VPN, proxies and SSL solutions provide a secure way to access services remotely. As mentioned above, an in-depth assessment into areas such as IT security will help alleviate worries and protect your employees and clients’ sensitive information. Be sure to set up proper user controls and ensure remote devices are regularly patched.

Documentation

What document repository are you currently using? If it’s not currently working well, it may be time to evaluate other options. Make sure employees have access to the documents they need when they need them. Consider whether you might need to offer levels of permissions for access and decide whether you need users to edit or only view certain files and/or documents. Consider managed or hosted cloud storage to retain all documents.

Culture

Sustainable productivity

As your technology is being implemented, the other important factor is the people. How you start to cultivate this new remote work culture will impact the future of your business. Rather than falling into a micromanaged environment, remember to keep your eyes on your team’s goal or tasks for the day. If they are being met, then great! If not, then it’s time to dig a little deeper and see what obstacles the newly remote employee may be facing.

Communication

Communication is KEY and the glue to keep the puzzle pieces together. During such a transition, authentic, compelling and consistent communication will help your employees adapt to change. Have a proper internal communication plan before and during the transition to move your employees to remote work. They will have a ton of questions on what to do and how to do it. Within your messaging, ease their uncertainties by reassuring that they have the same resources as if they were located within the four walls of the office. Reset your team’s expectations.

Training

Training will be ongoing, but as an employer, you have the ability to make it fun and collaborative. Your team should be armed with a basic policy and procedure handbook at this point. Continue to work on this document as you begin to flesh out processes and workflow. Train your team to be self-sufficient and to work efficiently. This includes the utilization of collaboration tools. As technology has advanced, so has our toolbox.

Engagement

Overall, the foundation of increased communication and training should end up making your teams more communicative. Empower your team to be part of this new direction and you will find them to be more engaged. Host feedback or check-in meetings so you can continue to improve your process. You may also find your teams using video conferencing a lot more than usual. This will continue to give your teams a more connected feeling.

 

Moving forward, any new systems or applications that are implemented should be done with the remote worker in mind. Remote work will only become more mainstream, developing the right processes will become even more critical to your organization’s success. Whether you’re adjusting to a new work-from-anywhere policy or striving to improve your existing, flexible work arrangement, implementing the above suggestions can help improve experiences for both remote and onsite employees. T2 Tech Group will help you navigate during this difficult time by implementing the right technology, with the proper access, at the right time, all the while helping your team feel comfortable with a new remote workforce. Contact us today for a consultation! 

About the Author:

Kevin Torf
Kevin Torf is an information systems executive with a 30+ year career. In 2012, Kevin became a managing partner of T2 Tech Group after merging the consulting division of Inventtrex into T2 Tech. He specializes in large-scale IT project design, procurement and implementation. He offers experience in executive-level technology consulting involving data centers, server farms, storage and backup systems, security, video messaging and VoIP systems.

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