Published on May 08, 2020
With thousands of businesses forced to close or abruptly setup shop at home, network access and online communication between employees and customers is more important than ever. Many businesses understandably cobbled together a means for employees to work from home when the pandemic hit.
But what’s next for business owners? Business as we used to know it won’t return for some time, even as we come out of the shutdown. Is your technology poised to support efficiency and productivity in a remote environment?
When the pandemic hit, businesses across the board scrambled to get their employees setup to work from home. The owners of many of those businesses are now asking how to bolster their work-from-home capabilities because of the changed business environment. Here’s some of the advice I give our clients:
Fortunately, many of our clients were forward-thinking and had an idea of what they wanted to accomplish with remote work setup.
We also talked with some business owners who had never had a single employee work remotely — but now they had an entire workforce that needed to be productive outside of the office.
It wasn’t too hard to get businesses working remotely. We put things together pretty quickly and kept a close eye on security issues along the way.
The biggest misconception I see among business owners is that their employees will be as productive at home as they are in the office. For seasoned remote workers, this is realistic. But when you send an entire workforce outside the office for the first time, it is unrealistic to expect the same level of productivity from them.
So, the biggest mistake business owners make is that they don’t manage expectations — either their own or their employees’ expectations.
Employees who aren’t too tech savvy, for example, might have trouble logging on or navigating to network files, because they might do those things differently than if they were sitting in the office. Or, an employee who has a slow internet connection in their home is inevitably going to work at a slower pace. These are situations that call for a business owner to have realistic expectations of employees.
On the flip side, business owners should remind their employees that working from home won’t be exactly the same as working from the office. For instance, we have several high-end architectural design firms as clients. They often work with huge files on powerful computers in their office. The owner of one of those firms reminded employees that things would be a bit slower due to the large file sizes while employees are working from home. Their overall experience working from home would be different from working in the office. That simple reminder from the owner went a long way in managing employees’ expectations and heading off frustration.
Many businesses went from having a few people working from home to a 100% remote workforce. This opened up a slew of cyber security concerns overnight.
You can’t just plug in someone’s five-year-old PC to your network and expect smooth sailing. This opens up your business to potential threats.
This is where it becomes extremely important to work with an IT professional — either your in-house IT department or an outside provider (here’s how to hire a good one) — who is well versed in the latest cyber security best practices.
Regardless of whether your employees are using their own devices or equipment supplied by your office, all of those devices should, for example, have the latest antivirus software and Microsoft updates — just to start.
We have one client, for example, that never had remote workers until now. They’re a distributor with an e-commerce site, so they already had some decent security measures in place. When their employees began working from home, the business adopted a BYOD (bring your own device) policy. The business already had a VPN that provided network access, but with the BYOD policy, the network was more vulnerable than if they were using company-issued computers.
We put remote desktop access into place for the distribution business and locked down the VPN so each employee could access only their work PC. This was done with a firewall and software they already had, along with existing computers in the office. This setup didn’t require any investment in equipment.
There’s no better time than the present to revisit your organization’s technology plan. Being forced to work remotely makes you think of a lot of things. What’s going well? What isn’t going so well? What would you like to do that you can’t do right now from home?
The easiest time to strengthen technology is to do it before a crisis occurs. And if you don’t already have one, there is no time like the present to put together a written technology plan.
When you’re busy running your business, especially if you don’t have a technology background, it’s easy to miss red flags. We find that business owners often don’t know where their problem areas are with their technology. They just know something isn’t working correctly.
Here are just a few red flags that your remote setup might have a glitch, or your employees aren’t fully understanding their setup:
It comes back to having realistic expectations. If you go into remote work knowing that you won’t be able to work exactly the same as you work in the office, your expectations for output will be reasonable.
Our team at Gross Mendelsohn shared their own experiences working from home during the pandemic. Microsoft Teams is a collaboration tool that we are using here at our firm to help make communication between remote employees better.
So, what now? As we come out of the shutdown, now is the time to take a thorough look at your business’s IT plan and remote work setup. Take steps to make sure that your business can withstand the next crisis.
As much as we don’t like to think about it, there will be bumps in the road — hopefully nothing as huge as this pandemic — that hinder your business’s ability to work efficiently. Talk with your IT expert now to evaluate how your current remote work situation is going, and how you’d like to improve it for the future. Also, check in with employees who aren’t being as productive as normal. Technology can often help solve efficiency problems.
Even if you are working from home with semi-success, this is still a prime time for you to shore up your organization’s technology. Technology is never one-and-done.
Contact us here or call 800.899.4623.
This is part of our What Now? series, where we consider what business owners should do now to keep moving forward in a drastically changed business landscape.
Published on May 08, 2020
Bill, our lead networking guru, loves showing clients how technology can be worked into their existing processes to improve efficiency. His expertise includes high level planning for internal and external networks, research and selection of hardware and software products, and hands-on installation and configuration of networks. Normally a pretty easygoing guy, Bill thinks there should be a law against wearing a Bluetooth headset when it’s not in use.