Like many companies, you may be figuring out how to keep critical projects on-track as a potential quarantine looms on the horizon in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). For employees, some may already need to self-quarantine due to recent travel or are requesting to work remotely to limit their exposure. For companies, maybe you’ve decided to encourage employees to work remotely or temporarily shut down offices and ask teams to be fully remote.
Managing a remote workforce can be challenging. It’s critical to ensure that employees have the IT support they need to securely access and utilize corporate systems and the resources to stay productive at home.
Below are five best practices we’ve learned over the 20+ years we’ve been managing a remote workforce and providing remote IT support. We’ve found that these practices can help minimize the IT challenges that can hurt productivity when employees work from home, whether there’s a COVID-19 quarantine, or not.
Prioritize Remote Accessibility to Core Systems
The number one issue for remote workers across all organizations is getting access to systems, applications, and knowledge sharing portals while at home. We address this by enabling remote password resets, automated account management workflows, authorized access controls, identity management, and IT support staff that are easily accessible via chat, email, or phone.
This ensures quick and easy resolution to any accessibility challenge — an important consideration especially in our line of business — providing remote technical support to both businesses and consumers.Putting these processes and tools in place proactively, if they aren’t already, and having a clear communication plan posted of how employees can access help for similar technical issues will save everyone a lot of time and frustration.
Setup Strong Security Protocols for Remote Access
Position critical systems and data behind a VPN that all employees must access when working remotely. Additionally, leverage multifactor authentication to validate employee identities and prevent unauthorized access. If your company does not already have a VPN in place, there are many economical options available in the market that are relatively easy to implement.
If implementing a VPN isn’t an option, then encouraging strong password requirements and providing two-factor authentication options for cloud-based applications can provide additional layers of protection.
Ensure Up-to-Date Anti-Virus Protection
Require that any device that connects to the corporate network has the latest anti-virus, spyware, and malware protection; this includes any personal devices that employees may use when working remotely. If employees use their own computers, you want to ensure they are using a strong endpoint protection solution. You may be able to secure additional license(s) at a low or no cost as part of your corporate agreement. We also recommend providing software licenses or reimbursement to your employees who may need to use their personal devices to complete job-related tasks.
Clearly Communicate Telecommuting Policies
Once access and security concerns are addressed, you should document and proactively communicate your telecommuting policy. The policy should outline expectations on core working hours, working environment, tool and ISP requirements, and non-taxable reimbursement, if any, for any use of personal equipment, etc.
For example, our policy for tech support teams requires that that all work locations must be in a confined area with a door, and prohibit anyone other than the employee to be in this area while the employee is working in order to ensure a disruption free customer experience and added information security. We also provide a variety of scheduling options so that employees have the flexibility to attend to personal needs. For an immediate implementation, companies should communicate a few points of expectations to ensure that everyone is on the same page and feels confident in their ability to keep working effectively.
Companies should plan on developing more extensive policies that incorporate the protection of information and expectation of privacy.
Provide Access to Virtual Collaboration Tools
Virtual collaboration tools can help make working in teams seamless, regardless of location. We use a variety of web conferencing tools such as Zoom, messaging tools like Slack, and document sharing portals like Confluence and Google Docs to allow for real-time collaborative editing and knowledge management. Over 98% of our workforce is spread across the United States, but with these tools in place, teammates are able to collaborate on projects as easily as if they were sitting around the same conference table.
See also: AVB’s Checklist For The ‘New Normal’
An increase in employees working from home can place extra demands on your internal IT organization. With a fixed amount of technical support staff usually located onsite at a local office, responding to fluctuating demands can be difficult for IT teams, especially if that staff also ends up working remotely. Organizations may need to consider ways to supplement their internal IT teams to ensure they have the capacity and flexibility to support remote employees as needed.
In light of this current increase in remote work and changes to the way people are accessing work and learning, make our remote tech support free to anyone who may be working remotely, to help communities stay connected and productive during the COVID-19 outbreak. Users can access TechSolutions to get 24/7 support and troubleshooting, for any device or software, regardless of where or when it was purchased.
While the current environment is forcing many companies to consider new telecommuting policies, we firmly believe that, once implemented, many companies will continue to evolve and offer flexible work arrangements as a part of their normal course of business. By following the five best practices above, your company can also be prepared to weather the current threats without disruption and provide a valuable benefit to your employees.
About The Author:
Kevin Ruthen is the Chief Technology Officer at Support.com and is responsible for product, engineering, information technology, hosting and critical systems. He is focused on spearheading innovation and growth strategies for internal, enterprise-customer, SMB and consumer use, harnessing his extensive experience in digital transformation and delivery excellence. Kevin is a technology thought leader who is passionate about providing a stellar tech support experience for all customers.
Kevin holds a Master of Science in Information Resource Management and a Bachelor of Arts in Information Management from Syracuse University.
Support.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPRT) is a full-spectrum leader in outsourced call center and direct-to-consumer and small business technical support solutions. With more than 20 years of providing high quality technical support services to well-known brands through white labeled partnerships, Support.com has the expertise, tools and software solutions to troubleshoot and maintain all the devices in the tech ecosystem. The company’s skilled U.S.-based live agents and rich self-support tools troubleshoot more than 10,000 technical support issues customers face on an ongoing basis. Support.com delivers high quality, turnkey technical support solutions and digital support experiences that enable customers to get the most out of their technology. For more information, please visit www.support.com.