The alarming news about a pandemic has forced many organizations to adopt solutions for remote workers and services. While this pandemic will pass, in time, other disruptive events—another pandemic, natural disaster, human-caused event, social unrest, and more—will arise, requiring a new thought process around remote work as part of business continuity.
Consider these statistics:
- More than 26 million Americans—about 16 percent of the total workforce—now work remotely at least part of the time, according to the S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- The FlexJobs 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce report suggests that 9 million U.S. employees work from home at least half of the time, up from 1.8 million in 2005—a 115 percent increase since 2005.
- In a recent Buffer.com survey, 99 percent said they would like to work at home at least some of the time for the rest of their careers.
Clearly, remote work is no longer just a pandemic response, it’s a benefit and often a necessity.
While there are clear benefits to remote work and a majority of employees enjoy working from home, a Harvard Business Review study showed that many remote employees feel left out and mistreated, often due to a lack of communication and cohesiveness.
In a recent briefing around COVID-19, Gartner recommended these considerations (among others):
- Implement/review WAH/remote work programs, especially issues around BYOD, company-issued laptops, Internet bandwidth capacity and prioritized access
- Investigate alternative voice and chat communications
- Implement web-based video conferencing
Are you prepared for the challenges of a remote workforce?
Prioritize security for remote workers
As always, security should be the primary concern. Phishing attacks will be on the rise and people will be more apt to click on links that look like crisis-related information. Just today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it had suffered a DDoS attack that brought down servers and spread misinformation about the virus.
The rapid deployment of VPN connectivity can also result in the accidental exposure of the corporate network to attackers leveraging an insecure endpoint.
As more organizations turn to remote work to keep their employees safe, their IT teams must agilely provide support for an unprecedented number of remote workers and their devices to keep their organizations safe. IT teams should consider:
- Internet DNS protection – Protect users everywhere from malicious Internet destinations whether they are on or off the network, enforce acceptable use policies, and ensure DNS requests are sent to the fastest available data center with automated failover.
- Multi-factor authentication – Employ a zero-trust model to verify users’ identities and establish device trust before granting access to applications, decreasing the attack surface and reducing risk.
- Secure VPN – Empower employees to work from anywhere, whether on your devices or theirs, while giving you the visibility and control needed to identify who and which devices are accessing the infrastructure.
Once you’ve protected remote workers anywhere, anytime and on any device, they’ll need tools for communication and collaboration.
Add video-based team collaboration
When communication and collaboration isn’t an integral part of the work culture, efficiency and productivity drag. That’s why it’s important, at this crucial time, to enable employees to stay connected to each other and continue business operations.
Team collaboration tools, like Cisco Webex Teams and Microsoft Teams, put work in one place and enhance the employee experience. From calling and messaging to file sharing, whiteboarding, and video conferencing, powerful meeting and collaboration tools keep teams on track and productive.
In fact, face-to-face interaction using video is key to keeping remote employees engaged. In a survey of Cisco Collaboration users, 93 percent believe that using video in meetings improves their interactions and strengthens their business relationships.
Why? Video is the next best thing to being there. Incorporating video into meetings:
- Improves communication by providing non-verbal cues, such as facial expressions, gestures, body language, etc.
- Builds client trust, especially during the early part of the sales process.
- Improves customer relationships and retention during customer support and service calls.
- Facilitates creative team brainstorming by enabling sharing of and collaboration on concepts and drawings.
- Provides an historical record that can be used for later reference, business continuity, training, etc.
- Powers productivity and team dynamics by bringing remote workers together on a day-to-day basis.
- Reduces travel costs required for meeting with faraway team members or clients.
- Enables teams to celebrate their successes or moments that matter, such as birthdays, baby and wedding showers, and other important dates.
Common team collaboration use cases
Organizations in all industries can benefit from collaboration solutions. Many schools and universities already offer online classes and some healthcare providers offer video consultations and telehealth opportunities.
Healthcare – With the added patient demands on clinical teams during a crisis, healthcare organizations can ease the burden and reduce risk with secure, face-to-face collaboration between and among providers, experts, and patients—no matter where they’re located.
- Allow sick patients or patients in underserved areas to access healthcare without leaving their homes.
- Improve patient care with access to primary care, remote specialists and real-time care management.
- Speed treatments and improve outcomes by enabling clinicians and specialists to collaborate on patient cases.
- Enable clinicians to consult face-to-face with patients or meet with their clinical staff, central nursing station, or any other remote office.
- Reduce physicians’ unnecessary travel to partnering clinics for consultations and meetings.
Education – With the right tools—secure remote access, file and content sharing, web and video conferencing, etc.—schools and higher education institutions can:
- Develop individualized learning plans, delivered online and on demand, enabling students to learn at their own pace wherever they may be.
- Find and “bring in” experts from around the world to improve the learning experience.
- Streamline online communications and enable class-, project-, and activity-based student teams to collaborate in one place.
- Enable distance learning to bring educators and students together, no matter where they’re located.
- Create distributed, virtual classes with instant access to remote experts.
- Attract and retain students and increase student engagement by incorporating video into learning.
Other organizations – State and local governments, industrial and manufacturing, and other organizations can use collaboration and video to set up command and communication centers, resolve supply chain issues, accelerate innovation and increase operational efficiency.
- Improve team dynamics and collaboration with face-to-face interaction.
- Meet with key suppliers more frequently and reduce travel time and costs.
- Collaborate using rooms and workspaces and create a “boundary-less” organization.
- Bring dispersed groups together in secure virtual rooms.
- Call on experts no matter where in the world they’re located to reduce equipment and business downtime and accelerate resolution to production issues.
- Enable BYOD and other telecommuting initiatives.
- Facilitate real-time issue and conflict resolution and boost productivity by ensuring workers are always connected.
- Support real-time connections with supply warehouses, production facilities, and field teams.
Logicalis: Your remote work expert
In any crisis, trust Logicalis to help you minimize business impact and keep employees safe and productive, while supporting your goal to return to normal business operations as quickly as possible.
We can help your organization develop a remote work strategy that can be implemented now as part of a business continuity plan—or as part of normal business operations—that includes secure communication and collaboration among and between remote workers.
Or contact us for help with your remote work initiatives.
Troy Sempsrott is Director of Architecture at Logicalis, responsible for go-to-market strategies and solution development for networking and collaboration.
 “Business Continuity Management: Pandemic Planning Briefing,” Gartner webinar, 2020.