As the whole nation is gripped with the Covid 19 pandemic, the government has taken unprecedented measures to slow the spread of the disease. The one that is having most impact on people’s personal and professional lives is strict social distancing – meaning we should be working from home wherever we can.
This has put pressure on business leaders to provide staff with working environments that enables them to do their jobs from home. If you run a business that is either just starting out on home working, or need to validate existing remote working environments this guide will help.
Where do I start?
Simply put, your business IT systems comprise of hardware, software and data. These elements need to be moved to a remote working environment that ideally delivers as close to fit replica of what staff would use in the normal workplace.
What determines the challenge facing the business in achieving this goal is the question of how closely your IT systems are tied to a location.
Software and data
If you have adopted a cloud platform, then moving to remote working could be easy as they are generally designed to be accessed from anywhere. Many professional services firms staff already have this type of step, and often staff are used to working at home a few days a week. Having a setup like this makes this makes the challenge easier, if not go away completely.
Some firms do not have it so lucky. Manufacturing firms for instance are not only tied into their physical locations, but often welded to complex ERP style IT systems that are designed for working at a site, rather than from home.
Accessing these systems remotely can be a more troublesome task. If you have onsite servers that house applications and data then these can be accessed via VPN or remote access. However the performance and experience will quite likely be not as be as good as if you were in the office.
You’ll need to think about suitable hardware. Often, a member of staff can simply take their setup home. However sometimes it is more complicated – setting up a multi monitor screen system on the kitchen table, is not usually feasible for a member of staff, so some adaption may be required.
Next up, you will need to make sure your employees have sufficient internet connectivity at home. It’s worth checking if what kind of internet plans they are on, to see if the connection is fit for purpose for what they need. You might need to pay some of the data charges incurred. Other options include mobile broadband devices and dongles, which quite often have the bonus of being on flexible contracts.
Collaboration and communication
You’ll need to ensure that you can all communicate together effectively. There are some great collaboration platforms out there, our favourite is Microsoft Teams. This allows chat, multi worker channels and conference calling, amongst many other features. If you have a phone system that is tied to an office that can be difficult to move, however many newer VoIP systems offer apps to access phone systems and options to route calls. If you do not provide staff with company mobile phones, make sure you are careful they don’t run up a big bill using their own personal contract.
Support, troubleshooting and moving forward
It might be a big change. Change is always risky, and change in a worldwide crisis even more so. Be prepared for short and long term troubleshooting. Make sure your staff know how to work with the new systems and are offered support.
Hopefully this will be all over soon, but there is a real possibility that these social distancing measures could stay around for a while longer than the 3 weeks that have been imposed by the government. Even if they are relaxed after the 3 weeks, it seems quite likely that they will come back at some point. So there needs to be an assessment of how feasible these measures are long term, as we head into what lots of people are calling the ‘new normal’.
Next in our guide we will focus on the security and compliance aspect of remote working