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Technology Services • Published 3/10/2020 COVID-19 Sparks a Shift Toward Remote Work


Last updated on 3/10/20

As Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) spread into new regions (complicating an already-active cold and flu season), companies all over the US experienced impacts on employees and business. Remote work allows employers to increase the physical distance among employees if they have increased potential for exposure, show any signs of illness, or if they have sick family members at home. 

Remote work (also called telework or telecommuting), has been growing in popularity over the past twenty years. Many organizations allow for flexible worksites on some level: employees work remotely for part of the week, as-needed for minor illness, or when school or childcare is unavailable. However, with a major health concern in play, companies of all sizes (including tech giants such as Twitter, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft) have transitioned some or all employees to remote work to keep business moving while limiting unnecessary exposure to COVID-19.

Flexible infrastructure for employees inside and outside your physical office

Allowing employees to work outside the office for an extended length of time and at scale requires more planning and technology support than an occasional work-from-home day for a small percentage of your work force. With the right infrastructure and communication tools, you can limit your employees’ risk of exposure to COVID-19 or other serious illness, and more effectively maintain productivity. When evaluating your current infrastructure and your ability to support remote work, consider the following:

Allowing employees to work outside the office for an extended length of time and at scale requires more planning and technology support than an occasional work-from-home day for a few individuals.

Video conferencing and real-time media

Setting up the ability for teams to come together virtually is an important part of maintaining productivity and engagement. Employees who are used to working side-by-side may find that video calls and web chats foster more office-like group collaboration.

Video conferencing, webinars, or streaming services are potential alternatives when work-related meetings, events, and travel are impacted. However, you may need to upgrade accounts to accommodate a larger volume of meetings or users.

Increased internet bandwidth needs

A significant increase in remote employees is likely to require more internet bandwidth to support web-based communication and access to important systems. Find out if an increase in bandwidth is possible, if it is supported by your current hardware and/or licenses, and how it may impact your budget.

Virtual Private Network (VPN) licenses

Many organizations have already implemented VPN and have a limited number of licenses for occasional remote work needs. Identify your current VPN limitations and whether you need to increase the number of licenses if your workforce becomes partially or entirely remote for several weeks or longer.

Mechanisms to access legacy applications

When considering the programs that employees access regularly, you may find that there are certain legacy applications that don’t support remote or VPN access. It may be possible to develop integrations or other mechanisms to maintain access for employees outside the office. It might also be a good time to investigate cloud-based applications (such as Sage Intacct) that could meet your organization’s needs.

Inbound and outbound phone calls

Considering that call quality could be impacted, decide whether personal cell phones are an acceptable way for remote employees to communicate with each other and clients. Inbound calls may need to be forwarded or automated options implemented if your usual in-office staff is unavailable.

Staff and manager training

Training is an important aspect of any new technology or process implementation. From how to connect to the organization’s VPN to maintaining engagement and productivity with a partially- or fully-remote team, be sure to account for the problems and concerns that are likely to arise in a new, remote dynamic.

Support staff capabilities and capacity will be especially taxed when moving to a remote-centric workforce. The transition itself will bring new challenges and a may require additional staff and development of new support processes.

Security and privacy considerations

With a significant change in operations, the security and privacy of information and assets is sure to be affected. Well-defined data handling processes could cease to function in a remote work environment. Data handling procedures requiring encryption, controlled printing, physical access controls, or specific storage locations could all be rendered ineffective and must be addressed through other compensating controls.

As we navigate the evolving COVID-19 situation, it will be increasingly important to anticipate disruptions and plan accordingly. Although it represents a major public health concern, this scenario also creates an opportunity to explore new ways of working that benefit your organization with greater flexibility and resilience and can ultimately be incorporated in your business continuity plan. P&N has a team of experienced professionals to help your organization navigate a shift to remote work. Contact us to start a conversation about technology infrastructure and business continuity.

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