The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) a global pandemic, with over 200,000 infected cases. As of writing, Australia has over 300 coronavirus cases, leaving many organisations wondering how they should respond.
The coronavirus disease is highly contagious and shows symptoms similar to seasonal flu. The virus can be transmitted when one person breathes in droplets that are produced when an infected individual coughs or sneezes. There’s also a possibility that people can catch it by merely touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.
Due to growing health concerns, many countries have already implemented nationwide quarantines, advising companies to work remotely if possible. While the Australian government hasn’t initiated such lockdowns, it’s only a matter of time until they do. Social distancing and staying home are the best ways to deal with the coronavirus right now.
However, before you tell employees to work from home, you must take the necessary measures to prepare your business for a pandemic.
1. Identify who can work remotely
The first thing you should do is identify the roles that are crucial to your operations. Find out what each department and employee does on a daily basis, and decide whether working from home is feasible for them. Job roles that only require a computer and a stable internet connection have the flexibility to work anywhere. For example, analysts, writers, and programmers are perfect candidates for remote work.
Keep in mind that not all roles are best-suited for remote work. Certain staff like warehouse managers and front-desk personnel must be physically present in a facility to do their work.
In these cases, you may have to wind down their daily responsibilities and have them focus on work they can safely do at home. This may include developing business processes, providing online customer support, or doing back-office paperwork.
2. Reduce contact risk
If it’s absolutely crucial for specific staff to be in the office, some extra precautions are necessary. Place hand sanitisers in high-traffic areas, provide protective face masks, and perform temperature checks before staff enter the building. Additionally, thorough cleaning services and handwashing facilities are required to reduce the risk of infection.
In-house employees must also minimise physical interactions and face-to-face contact — at the very least, stand two metres away from other people. If employees are showing symptoms of coronavirus disease, tell them to seek medical attention and conduct self-quarantine until they’ve cleared the virus.
3. Provide tools and support for remote workers
Take inventory of your staff’s home office setups and make sure they have access to the right tools. Generally, a mobile workforce needs the following:
- Company-registered PCs that meet your business’s minimum system requirements
- Peripheral devices such as mice, webcams, headsets, printers, scanners, and a second monitor, if required
- Fast internet for high-quality voice and video calls (100 Mbps internet broadband plans)
- Reliable telecommunications and collaboration software like Microsoft Teams
- User accounts for other cloud-based productivity software
If your staff is underequipped, you should offer stipends or reimbursements, so they can procure the necessary resources. It’s also a good idea to proactively monitor the systems and networks supporting your organisation during the pandemic. This allows you to identify and resolve bugs or bottlenecks preventing your remote workers from operating smoothly. Managed IT services providers (MSPs) like Empower IT can help you in this regard.
4. Consider what security measures are in place
The problem with working off-site is that employees don’t get the same level of protection that they do in the office. Perimeter security like firewalls and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) only safeguard devices that are within the confines of the corporate network. However, most households tend to have unmonitored and unsecured Wi-Fi networks, making remote workers an ideal target for cyberattacks.
To mitigate these risks, you need a security infrastructure designed to protect your company’s user accounts, apps, and devices. This includes:
- Multifactor authentication (MFA) – verifies user identity with two or more methods of authentication such as passwords, one-time SMS activation codes, fingerprint scans, and facial recognition
- Virtual private network (VPN) – hides web activity from prying eyes by encrypting internet traffic
- Endpoint protection software – inspects user devices for any outdated software or potentially malicious programs and quickly remediates the issue
- Mobile device management (MDM) – allows system administrators to monitor and regulate access restrictions of company-registered devices
- Data backups – create copies of company data and store them in the cloud so important files remain intact after a cyberattack or unexpected data loss incident
5. Establish ground rules for remote work
Don’t forget to communicate what’s expected when employees work remotely during a pandemic. Should they be working on a fixed schedule or do they have the flexibility to set their own hours? How frequently do they need to check in with managers, and what’s the preferred platform for collaboration?
You should also clarify your company’s security policies regarding remote work. Specifically, employees must enable MFA, regularly update their software, and look out for phishing emails.
Last but not least, make sure staff are aware of health and safety procedures, such as washing hands and avoiding crowded areas. The number one thing you should convey to employees is that they play an active role in keeping your organisation and other people safe.
If you are planning to send your workforce home to work and are not sure where to start, we have created the Working from Home Checklist to help you plan for a successful transition. Pandemic outbreaks can be scary, but a solid IT infrastructure and a well-planned remote work strategy will guarantee your company’s survival. Empower IT is a leading Australian MSP that can customise a remote work and business continuity plan just for you. We make sure your employees are safe and your operations are running optimally at all times. Call us now.