Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the push to remote working

Mandatory self-isolation and remote working for millions of British office workers is becoming increasingly likely as the government looks to curb the spread of Coronavirus. It is important that businesses prepare for this eventuality by testing their disaster recovery systems in advance, to ensure that any fundamental flaws are identified and addressed before going into lockdown mode.

The right tools for the job

It is fundamentally essential that all workers have access to the data and systems that they require to do their jobs proficiently. For workers who don’t work on laptops or don’t have the required hardware to work from home, it is advisable to invest in suitable laptops. Many ranges are inexpensive and can be delivered next day to ensure remote-readiness.

Microsoft Teams is the most effective collaboration software to utilise in the case of full remote working, as it creates a virtual office environment that supports one-to-one messaging and meetings, team calls (voice and video), job interviews, file sharing etc. It is free to download and use, with only a few minor restrictions that get lifted with an active Office 365 subscription.

Another key aspect for any IT department is to ensure that all other operational tools and procedures are all set up in such a way that they can be accessed and worked upon remotely, i.e. desk phones should be routed through mobile apps, and a VPN should be ready to access.

Getting people onboard

In most cases, problems with remote working do not arise from tech, but from people unaccustomed to working from home. Remote working requires a mindset. It involves trust from management and engagement and discipline from staff.

In some cases, people need to overcome their anxieties relating to video calls, which can seem intimidating at first, however, it is essential to good communication, just like face-to-face conversations are in the office.

Another important aspect of remote working is sharing decisions in a public forum. When people make a decision, whether working remotely or not, they are encouraged to share their direction with the people that might need to know, to replicate the general awareness that office workers normally get due to their physical proximity. This is a tough one to foster but can be achieved through the abovementioned steps and is crucial to the effective running of a remote workforce.

Finally, remote workers should look after their personal wellbeing — take regular breaks and give themselves stop times to ensure they maintain a healthy work/life balance.

Unlock future benefits

With so much uncertainty around the future impact of Coronavirus on the economy, it is essential that businesses proactively encourage more staff to work remotely when required. This also has the added benefit of unlocking the potential of hiring more remote teams, who may even improve future productivity and efficiency.

[Cross-posted on Medium here] 

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