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5 Steps to Prepare Your Team to Work from Home

illustration of 4 people collaborating as they work remotely

As a business owner or IT manager and in light of the coronavirus pandemic, we’d be surprised if you weren’t already evaluating your organization’s readiness to handle the technical challenges inherent to enabling and supporting employees to work from home. In a recent statement, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said, “Disruption to everyday life may be severe. Schools could be closed, mass public gatherings suspended, and businesses forced to have employees work remotely.”

If the only way to keep your organization open for business is to work remotely, are you ready? Here are five critical steps to help you get started preparing your organization to respond to this evolving situation.

1. Acceptance 

Accept that all or part of your workforce may need to work remotely. Hoping that the pandemic won’t get worse before it gets better is not a strategy. But to enable employees to work from home, just handing them a laptop is not going to be sufficient. You need to plan as if the only way to remain operational will be for as many employees as possible to work remotely. Call a joint meeting of Management, IT, Communications and HR now and lay the groundwork for different scenarios. But don’t stop there—establish how to optimize execution, so you are ready when and if the need for a rapid response arises.

2. Make a list of jobs and tasks that could be affected

Start listing which roles and duties: 

  • can be carried out without a physical presence in the workplace
  • are impossible to carry out at all outside of the physical office

3. What’s your team’s communications protocol?

Set up an all-encompassing communications plan outlining: 

  • how to reach all employees (list all contact information, establish the primary communication channels — email, IM, etc.)
  • how team members are expected to respond to customers
  • how and when teams will communicate and meet

4. Make a thorough audit of your IT hardware and software, and knowledge gaps

  • List devices your organization currently has available for employees to use from home.
  • List acceptable options for phone, laptops and tablets.
  • This is not the time to skip important issues like data security. You can bet there are hackers waiting in the wings for sloppy IT practices due to hastily set up work-from-home solutions.
  • Is your team experienced using applications like video conferencing and other collaborative communication platforms? The time to provide training and opportunities for practice is now, before people need to use them. Learning in real-time is almost never efficient.

5. Technical considerations: what equipment do you need?

Every tool that allows your employees to work from home requires an internet connection. Internet, Email, and a VPN will form the foundation of your mobile workforce solution. All employees working from home will need to be equipped with the following resources:

A) Hardware

  • A laptop, desktop or tablet
    Your employees likely have one or more of these devices of their own. Are these devices acceptable or do you prefer to provide them with a company-issued laptop?
  • A cell phone or landline
  • Consider the need for a noise-canceling phone headset

You may want to consider preparing and setting aside some devices for remote use, just in case.

B) Security, Software & Licensing

No one can afford to simply assume that a device or a network is ‘safe’. If personal devices will be accessing your network, you will want to evaluate and possibly augment your IT infrastructure to keep the network and data secure.

You can set up remote working conditions with traditional enterprise solutions (such as VPN) or cloud-based services (think hosted email systems and cloud-based file systems). The solution you choose will depend on:

  • which programs /software your team needs for daily operations 
  • how your employees will access these systems remotely

Even if you go with cloud-based services, each unique device will need traditional software installed. Would you be able to scale your current software licenses should you suddenly need to cover more devices? If you were to have 5, 10 or more people start working from home tomorrow, would you be able to provide software licenses for them?

The time to plan is now, while the supply chain is functional and you have options.

C) Bandwidth & Backup

Last but not least, having employees logging into your system remotely will place an extra burden on your system. Does your ISP solution have enough bandwidth to handle 10+ people needing to access your servers from outside the office? Will your VPN / remote desktop service solution be able to handle the increased load? 

Start a “what if” scenario. Map out all IT assets and make sure you understand the capabilities and limitations of your current IT infrastructure. If you think you are system ready, then you might consider setting up a test run where key members of your organization work from home. Any holes in your system or areas that need improvement will quickly come to light.

Of course, make sure you have a robust backup process in place.

And if you plan for the worst but end up not needing to put disaster plans into practice? You can rest easy knowing that you have put in place an efficient work disaster response. The next time your organization faces a challenge to operational continuity, your team will be ready.

As a managed IT partner we can help evaluate and support your IT needs, from setting up remote working capabilities, data backup, assisting your IT team, and more. Email us or give us a call at  828.210.4308