COVID-19 is rapidly changing how organizations work. Managers and employees are working from home offices and separated from one another, often for the first time. This is a drastic change to business culture as a whole. Typically, employers transition to remote work policies gradually. Some large companies, such as Yahoo and IBM, have disbanded remote work policies in recent years, citing challenges around speed, collaboration, and quality of work. How do we avoid these kinds of pitfalls, especially under rapidly changing circumstances, to support remote workers? In this blog, we look at ways in which IT teams and Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) leaders can help support a seamless remote work experience.
Supporting Remote Work Practices
Let’s break the type of support necessary into different topics to address them one by one.
Start with the Basics
- Does your remote team have the hardware it needs to work from home? People have been forced to adapt to remote working conditions quickly, so it’s worth ensuring they have a desktop or laptop with the required software to fulfill their responsibilities. Personal laptops or desktop computers may be compromised security-wise or have inadequate resources, such as low CPU. Do they need a corporate device sent over? Also, are there employees who would benefit from a work phone?
- Do your employees need specific devices for virtual communication, such as a separate webcam or functional microphone and speakers?
- Being understanding and flexible as employees set up their home working space can help people with the sudden transition to working from home, potentially with new challenges to deal with, such as having children off from school with no childcare support available. Encourage staff to establish clear work/life boundaries as far as possible, including setting up a separate workspace in the house with a comfortable chair, external monitor if needed, and a stable high-speed Internet connection.
Getting the Right Technologies in Place
- Identify what technologies your workforce needs to be successful. Are the major SaaS apps that are relied on in the office available to remote employees?
- Ensure there has been clear communication between management and employees about which SaaS apps will be used and for what purpose e.g. Microsoft Teams for group chat and IMs, Zoom for video conferencing, etc.
- In its recent report “Three Future of Work Strategies Can Help Your Company Adapt During The COVID-19 Outbreak” (Gownder P., Forrester, March 4, 2020), Forrester recommends “embracing the right technology,” which they define as “employee device and app management that leverages cloud-based APIs, self-service, automation, and analytics.” The goals are to improve user experience, simplify IT management, and enhance security.
- Get ready to handle corporate VPN-related issues. A VPN is important for security purposes because it will encrypt files on company devices and any data being exchanged over the Internet. Will your VPN be able to handle the strain brought on by thousands of teleworkers? What will you do if it crashes? Develop a back-up plan if you don’t already have one.
- Consider implementing a remote training program specifically around telecommunication, security concerns, and compliance regulations.
Ensuring the Performance of SaaS Applications and Services
- Once you have the right technologies in place for supporting remote workers, you’ll need to ensure they are reliably working on a real-time basis. This is where performance monitoring comes in. Catchpoint can help you answer the following important questions:
- Are there performance issues with the SaaS apps my employees are relying on?
- Do consumer ISPs impact employee experience in contrast to the normal business ISPs, particularly at the last mile?
- What kind of recommendations can the corporate IT team provide to help remote employees have a positive digital experience? Are they helpful?
- Monitoring SaaS applications – monitoring your SaaS tools gives you the benefit of knowing if your services are performing reliably or not from an outside-in perspective. Get immediate insight into performance degradations or outages, reduce MTTR and create workarounds in the meantime.
- Endpoint monitoring – Catchpoint’s Endpoint Monitoring gains its visibility directly from an employee’s device via a browser extension and lightweight companion application running in the background. It provides visibility of the exact experiences that employees have as they interact with SaaS or proprietary applications.
Implementing Robust Communication Practices
- Establish good communication practices – set up structured, regular check-ins and ensure that any expectations around how to communicate outside of this are put in place. The Harvard Business Review recommends that managers set “rules of engagement” for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication between teams. This can include remote IT support protocols.
- Encourage a culture in which people can discuss any distractions they may be reckoning with and be transparent about optimal times for communication. Trust is essential during a fast-moving work transition. People need to feel supported to stay happy and productive.
- Encourage management to create opportunities for online social interactions or develop initiatives yourself, such as a digital happy hour or an online lunch break, to replace those important face-to-face times.
- As research has shown, maintaining mutual knowledge can be challenging. Ensure your employees know how to access the data they need to share with IT if they are experiencing slowdowns or outages so that issues can be quickly resolved despite the challenge of distance.
The Future of Work
Implementing a remote working program, particularly at speed, requires a flexible, forward-thinking mindset from IT, I&O leaders, and management.
There are benefits to remote working for both the employee and the manager, which may still be felt despite the circumstances, hopefully making it an easier experience during these challenging times.
Indeed, perhaps some of these advantages will prove sufficient to make the enabling of more widespread remote working practices worthwhile going forwards. In January of this year, Gartner launched its DWI&O initiative to encourage those responsible for building organizations to support digital experience and help “drive market disruption by building digital business solutions to succeed in an ever-changing and increasingly competitive world.”
As we face the challenge head-on of enabling a huge shift out of the office to help slow the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, perhaps there are long-lasting things we can learn for building a more robust, supportive, and innovative workforce going forwards.
Catchpoint stands ready to help. We are offering enterprises a free Remote Employee Support Program for however long your workforce is remote due to COVID-19 concerns.