Coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken the world by storm fundamentally changing the way we think about work and everyday life in general. Our first thoughts are about protecting our loved ones, the communities we live in, our co-workers and ourselves. The health agencies in both the UK and US are focusing on limiting the spread of COVID-19 and have given the advice that we should work at home where possible.
Many of our clients have already enacted their business continuity plan (BCP), a set of procedures set out in advance of a situation where they cannot work from their normal place of work or do not have access to all of their infrastructure. The BCP is usually there in the case of a fire/ flood or following a major cyber-attack, but it functions in the same way in the current scenario where social distancing is being encouraged by the authorities.
If your organisation does not currently have a BCP, or measures in place for Disaster Recovery (DR), this is the first step to take if you intend for your business to continue running whilst employees work from home.
This part of our guide will help identify the key considerations to include in your BCP regarding how people work as a team when remote from the office.
Collaboration and Communication
The main threat to productivity when working from home is communication. Most of us are used to working in an office environment where we can turn to who we need to talk to or walk down the hall to their office. How does this work when working from home? Using email is one way to communicate internally, but there are much better ways to communicate with your co-workers today. Whether working in the same office or working from home, quick communication fuels productivity.
Business Instant Messaging
The Office 365 suite includes an application called Microsoft Teams, an instant messenger built for business. This is likely something your organisation has licenses to use already so it would just be a case of software installation and getting the team up to speed on the interface. There are also similar offerings from other companies such as Slack, a go-to in the business instant messaging space. Both Slack and Teams offer compatibility across Mac, PC, iOS and Android, as well as offering browser versions so your team can stay connected wherever they choose to work from.
Collaborative Working (documents)
Both Office 365 and G Suite offer ways to collaborate on word processing and spreadsheet files. Team members miles apart can see and edit documents together and in real time. Comments and suggestions can be added to highlighted text, and suggested revisions submitted for approval. Documents can also be shared outside of your organisation, with clients, partners and suppliers so that you can get things done quicker.
Telephony may be somewhat of a sticking point when working remotely. Traditional PBX phone systems will allow you to forward calls to mobiles, and you’ll be charged for the privilege. VoIP phone systems such as RingCentral offer a clean and modern solution via an Internet connection, offering you the flexibility to route calls to a desk phone or mobile app. An automated operator can direct calls with dial options for different departments, the ability to play recorded marketing messages when on hold, and offer the flexibility of switching between a desk phone and smartphone app. You can take your entire phone system on the road with you as it all runs from the Internet.
Video calls/ conferencing is a good way to stay connected to your team and also your clients. There are numerous options here, and again you may already have this functionality at your disposal, as its baked into Microsoft Teams and Slack. If you use RingCentral VoIP telephony, you may also have video conferencing included in your package. If your company uses G Suite, you’ll have this feature in Hangouts. Other stand-alone services exist as well, Zoom being the main one.
In the next blog post, we’ll look at the security considerations of working from home.