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Long-Term Remote Work Readiness

With many companies announcing an extension of remote work for the remainder of 2020 and others beyond summer 2021, we’re sharing pro tips from 6 IT leaders on how companies can set their organizations up for success, remotely.  

The Society for Information Management (SIM) Chicago Chapter hosted an IT Leadership Webinar on the topic, seeking expert insights from Rick Merrick of TCS Education Systems (TCS), Scot Berkey of Illinois Housing Development AuthorityMark Forbes of D&W Fine PackBadri Herur of Octave GroupRob McGillen of Century Business Services (CBIZ) and LaSalle Network Senior IT Manager, Eric Alt

The webinar addressed the challenges these companies faced moving their organizations to remote work, and best practices to ensure staff can work from home. Below are 7 things for IT teams to consider. 

Technology 

Ensuring employees have the proper equipment, software, a comfortable desk set up and cloud access to company resources is crucial. While some many people originally believed they would be working from home for a few weeks, companies should evaluate who may need additional technology sent home to create a more productive long term set up.  

By sending a survey to employees gathering information on who needs to check equipment out from the office, and what quantity is needed, IT can oversee inventory. Providing laptops, monitors, mice and headsets may not be feasible or necessary for every employee, but if there is a need for equipment, try to provide it if possible. Some companies are helping to provide standing desks, desk chairs, cameras or WiFi extenders as well.

Catalog what technologies each employee has checked out to ensure appropriate items will come back to the office once companies are able to return to business as usual. 

Don’t forget - It’s not too late to get a pulse on what your team needs. Although staff may have been working from home since March, sending a survey now and soliciting feedback allows employees to vocalize challenges they are facing and additional resources they may need that they didn’t realize were pertinent in the early stages of remote work.  

Collaboration Tools 

Since typical face-to-face meetings, interviews and collaboration is not advised for the foreseeable future, find alternative options that provide a similar effect. Video conferencing with platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype or Facetime can provide employees the connection and collaboration they need. Consider what other collaboration tools, such as screensharing apps, virtual white boards, project management tools and time trackers might be beneficial to different teams within the company.

Communication 

Rather than relying on a mass email or text chain, consider implementing a regular video conference, allowing employees to hear directly from leadership about business updates, latest news and expectations. While many companies began having regular meetings towards the beginning of working from home, consider how things have changed and how communication may adapt to the new normal of remote work. Consider also the communication between employees or teams that are now on-site and those still remote.  The “face-to-face” element of video conferencing allows for the most clear and direct communication and lessens the likelihood of misunderstanding.  

Communication channels such as Slack or Microsoft Teams can be used to keep various teams connected and informed throughout the day, as well as encourages informal communication and support peer to peer. 

WiFi

One of the biggest challenges in employees being remote is the variance in people’s home connections. Wifi may be inconsistent or not have proper bandwidth to support the household. There has also been many widespread internet outages that have affected employees.  

This in turn not only slows the connection for that individual but can disrupt group video conferencing or connectivity as well. Create a standard operating procedure of common fixes for employees experiencing connectivity issues to preemptively share with employees. Also consider offering WiFi extenders to employees.

Phones 

In lieu of their office phones, ensure that every employee has access to a soft phone, such as a desktop phone app, to allow for calling and texting from a company device rather than personal. By forwarding their office lines to these apps or to cell phones, employees can protect their personal information and avoid sharing personal phone numbers with customers.  

Security 

Working from home introduces additional security risks. Employees should all have heightened awareness to potential web threats and suspicious emails with links and attachments, as phishing/hacking is even more prevalent now (unfortunate, but true). Email is by far the most common threat and accounted for ~90% of data breaches in 2019.  Communicate the threat with employees and consider adding additional security awareness training.  

Support 

Make sure employees know how to log issues/complaints and reach their IT team. Whether that be a ticketing system or creating an email distribution list to funnel employees’ requests into one convenient space, create a standard operating procedure for the entire organization to follow. IT should proactively check-in with managers and users to ensure they have a full understanding of their work from home challenges. 

Keeping communication open among IT team members is crucial. Check in via video conference regularly and continue to discuss issues you are tackling and how to troubleshoot future challenges. By encouraging every team member to share their experiences and ideas you can avoid having to “reinvent the wheel” and mitigate potential problems before they arise. 

Many IT groups are feeling the stress of too few people handling a major influx of requests for support. If temporary or permanent support is needed, get connected with us here. 

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