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Managing Remote Workers

With more people than ever working at home to help contain the COVID-19 virus, companies are facing challenges in several areas, including infrastructure, hardware, cloud security, engagement, and support. In our experience managing large, remote teams for enterprise-level companies, we’ve learned a few things along the way. Here are some suggestions and elements to consider when provisioning a new remote workforce.

1. Prepare your service desk.

“My laptop won’t boot up,” “My email doesn’t work,” “I can’t connect to the network,” “How do I print?” These are just a few of the type of calls a support desk will receive as the volume of workers adjust to working remotely. That’s if you are still able to operate a support desk. Many contact or call centers were told not to report to the office. How can you provide support? Transfer or forward call center main numbers to these cloud-based Voice over IP (VoIP) phone systems, which can be deployed rapidly.

2. Boost your bandwidth.

So you have a VPN, but can it withstand the increase in users? Are your company’s Internet circuits large enough to handle the increased traffic? 

Standard methods of increasing most internet circuit bandwidths can take 30 to 60 days – way too long in an emergency. Use cloud-based infrastructures as much as possible to manage the increased load.  Most tier 1 cloud providers have built their environments to sustain the increased traffic. Add 4G and 5G wireless internet connections to expand bandwidth. Add Internet access to existing TV and cable provider accounts, where services are usually “quick installs” with month-to-month contracts.

3. Allow chat on conference calls.

One of the biggest challenges for an at-home workforce is maintaining the feeling of being part of a team.  When you go into an office daily, you may chat about your kids' soccer games, last night’s episode of The Bachelor, or the latest company news.  There are a plethora of tools on the market that can improve the feeling of engagement. One simple way to help team members feel connected is to start or end video conferences and conference calls with a few minutes of chitchat before jumping into the topic at hand. Start with free tools like Skype and Facetime, or embrace tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Confluence, Basecamp, and WebEx to drive collaboration and productivity.

4. Secure your information.

Treat your home-working location just like you would your office workspace. Sensitive information should not be left in the open or discarded in the home trash. Company files or files containing customer information must not be downloaded or stored on non-secure, company machines.  Don’t use public Wi-Fi, which is notoriously insecure. Use VPNs and data encryption for transmitting sensitive information.

Once you’ve addressed the immediacy of the current situation, you can revisit your business continuity plan (BCP). Take notes along the way about what’s working, what isn’t so you can improve next time. While we don’t want to imagine worst-case scenarios, planning for them makes them easier to manage when we do have to activate those plans.