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Enabling your remote workforce in the face of COVID-19

Enabling your remote workforce in the face of COVID-19

Enabling your remote workforce in the face of COVID-19

COVID-19 has caused a major shift in how employees and employers embrace working from home. Currently, working from home in most cases is now a must. As we eventually get through this pandemic, the new normal will most likely include a greater number of employees working from home than we previously experienced. Enterprises of all size are now learning how to support a remote workforce with technology and management practices that in many cases did not exist before.

Let’s look at some of the best practices on how to enable your remote workforce as we find our new normal.

FROM THE EMPLOYEE PERSPECTIVE

Working remotely has its ups and downs for employees.  It’s not all bad nor all good. The positives of working at home include no commuting time or expense, flexible hours in some cases and fewer disruptions than may occur in an office setting. Employees can also save expenses on clothing and “eating out for lunch” in a work from home environment. On the downside, there could be problems that arise while working from home which may include family member distractions, lack of an appropriate and/or comfortable work space, pet distractions and issues with not having the right technology and connectivity or access to tools to support the employee.

To be successful, each employee must understand their own situation and design the best available work from home environment. Enterprises need to review and revise work from home policies and the support available for an employee to perform their work efficiently, securely and in a cost effective manner.

REMOTE WORKFORCE POLICY

Having a Remote Workforce Policy that support employees working from home is important.  This policy must address the different liability model for mobile devices that your employees are using.  Whether corporate liable, individual liable or a BYOD environment exists, it is paramount to ensure the devices and the apps running on them meet your company’s information security standards.  This should include all smartphones, tablets, desktop and laptop devices. The policy should also address expectations and guidance to empower each employee to have the best possible experience.

Reconsider your liability model and determine if that provides your employee with the appropriate tools that meet performance and security standards.  For corporate liable environments it is important to optimize your rate plans and features monthly to ensure usage changes are effectively aligned to the best available carrier rate plans.  There are often steep increases in usage when an employee works remotely, especially in terms of data usage.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a change in usage patterns already for employees with increased video calling, increased use of payment apps, people playing more games on their phones, increased WiFi calling and increased use of social media. Many of these present security challenges for the enterprise, especially if the device is corporately owned.

SUPPORT

Providing your employees with pre-configured wireless devices when needed will allow them to immediately connect to critical systems and applications to be a productive remote worker.  Whether a smartphone, Tablet or MiFi device it should be activated on a carrier network, loaded with security software and required business applications, and fully assembled with screen protectors and a case. Shipping the device with added documentation on mobile policy and usage instructions will also increase the customer experience as they transition to a new work environment.

It is unfair to assume that every employee is an expert when it comes to troubleshooting their own mobile device. Staging and kitting may add an additional day or two to the deployment but the employee will receive a working device that is ready to go with step by step instructions that are easy to follow.

SECURITY

Employees need to be in possession of basic security advice, and it is also important that your company has an emergency response team in place. People need to know who to contact in the event they detect a security anomaly.

Some devices may need to be upgraded to meet current security standards.  Weather corporate liable or individual liable an older device will pose risks.

Make sure up-to-date security protection is installed and active on any devices that will be used for work. That means Mobile Device Management (MDM, virus checkers, firewalls, and device encryption should all be in place. Having a policy around use of gaming apps and social media or other apps is also imperative from a security perspective to mitigate risks of malware that could be downloaded to the devices when the app is downloaded or in use.

An enterprise needs to audit employee passcodes. That doesn’t mean requesting people’s personal details, but does mean passcodes used to access any enterprise services are reset and redefined in line with stringent security policy.

Alphanumeric codes, use of two-factor authentication should become mandatory, and you should ask your people to apply the toughest possible protection across all their devices. You should also ensure all your business-critical passwords are securely stored in the event anything happens to key personnel. An enterprise-focused password manager may help here.

Encourage your teams to upgrade their software to the latest version supported under the company’s security policy. (Some enterprises lag the release schedule for Apple software, though most don’t.) Activate automatic updating on all your devices.

One way to protect your employee end points is to ensure your confidential information is not stored locally.

Content storage should be cloud-based where possible, and employees should be encouraged to use cloud-based apps (such as Office 365). It’s also important that any third-party cloud storage services used are verified for use by your security teams. This is particularly important if your business requires use of critical personal data.

Not every employee will have reset the default password for their Wi-Fi router.  If you have an IT support team, then providing telephone guidance to secure home routers should become a priority. You do not want your information being subjected to man in the middle, data sniffing or any other form of attack.

MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES

Now that your employees are working securely from home having practices in place to keep employee productive and morale high is critical for a successful remote worker program. Core to a successful remote worker program is to over communicate. This can be accomplished through several approaches.  Remember to use as many of these as possible and not to rely on just one.

  1. Build Teams. One thing you can do is create teams. When your remote workers know that they are expected to communicate and interact with their coworkers, they can feel just as engaged as in-office staff members.
  2. Plan Face-to-Face Time. Face time also helps. Phone calls and emails can accomplish a lot. Add in video conferencing and remote collaboration. A simple connection like this can make the gap between remote and in-house employees feel a whole lot smaller. While face-to-face meetings do have their purposes, a video call like this can bring similar values. They help remote workers understand their respective roles in company and team hierarchies, as well as help with conflict resolution.
  3. Provide Mentorship. Another action you can take to motivate and empower your remote workers is to provide mentorship. People communicate in different ways, so a one-size-fits-all approach rarely works. Take the time to tailor your coaching strategies to each individual by his or her duties. Provide positive reinforcement, as well as constructive feedback, and position yourself or another team member as a contact person for your remote staff.
  4. Gamify your team. Gamifying your team can make the sales process more fun and it doesn’t take any extra effort. Activity tracking can be completed automatically and instantly translated into graphics and charts that update in real time — and it works. Digital signage and real-time updates on performance statistics can keep employees motivated and engaged to increase the number of closed deals or boost whatever activities by which their performance is measured.
  5. Share Your Victories. Gamifying performance also helps remote workers share victories. Watching the sales activities increase for your team as a whole can be motivating because it is easy for your remote workers to conceptualize how their efforts contribute to team goals and to see how their efforts stack up against their peers. In this way, sharing victories encourage employees to cheer one another on or engage in friendly competition. Sharing performance updates in real-time on leaderboards can bring together different teams, departments, and offices in different locations.

Working from home during this COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges when it comes to keeping your employees connected and engaged while keeping your enterprise secure.

Remote employees need to have clear expectations and responsibilities outlined with secure communication devices that enable them to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. Employees are using their smartphones and tablets at a higher rate than ever before since their smartphone may have replaced their desk phone. Overall, it’s the now the remote management of all these end points that an IT manager now has to consider and how usage of them will affect the enterprise.

Consult with OVATION today for a no obligation discovery session to identify key areas in your mobility program that may need a lift with our comprehensive Unified Endpoint Management services.