Now that the Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) has been declared a pandemic, more and more organizations are looking for ways to keep their workforce safe and continue operations running for their clients.

While the technology industry has embraced remote work for decades, other companies are now considering how to let their employees work remotely if necessary, in response to COVID-19. US Census data shows that fewer than 5 percent of US workers are not self-employed work from home at least half the time. So, working from home may be foreign to many employees.

How Should Your Organization Prepare for COVID-19?

This shouldn’t be a technology only conversations for any organization.  Leadership, Human Resources, Information Technology, and other key areas must come together and agree on a response framework. This plan should enable each functional area to fill in detailed actions they would take to ensure everyone is prepared. Once you have the details completed you can move to the technology questions:

  • Does your plan have the flexibility to allow employees to work remote?
  • Does your current technology allow these options or is upgrading necessary?
  • Is your organization ready for remote work in the future?

Do Your Employees Have the Flexibility to Work Remote During a Pandemic?

You will need to analyze your staff’s tasks, responsibilities, roles, and resource utilization to determine what can be completed remotely and what will require on-site staff.  If working remote is an option for some or all of your employees, you can encourage them to carve out an area in their home to be their dedicated office space to increase productivity.

If working remotely is not an option, you can reduce the spread of contagions in other ways and redefine current employee interactions.  For example, you can replace in-person meetings with video or teleconferencing. Unfortunately, this also means reducing large gatherings planned such as team outings, potlucks, or company-wide meetings. While this isn’t the best for team morale it’s important to keep your team safe. Be open in communication as to why these events are being postponed or changed to keep your staff healthy.

Does Your Current Technology Allow These Options?

Technology places a key role in establishing a remote work policy. Even if your foundational security is adequate you want to ensure your employees are trained in how to use your cloud-based productivity tools and other employee-facing technology and equipment. Many companies pay for a Microsoft 0365 license that includes Microsoft Teams.

Teams provides your users with company-wide chat as well as conference capabilities.
While Teams and Email communication can be effective you also want to encourage your team to pick up the phone and call a coworker for those times when you might have just walked over to their office and talked to them in person. You do not want working remote to discourage positive collaboration amongst your employees.

Here is a brief checklist that might be useful when evaluating if you have the proper technology in place to support your Business Continuity Plan:

  • Which employees need the ability to work remotely?
  • Do they have the appropriate hardware (work provided or personally owned)to access resources remotely?
  • Verify available systems capacity to allow those users to work remotely
  • VPN licensing/capacity for any resources that can typically only be accessed from within the office.
  • SaaS licensing/accounts for any purely cloud-based resources
  • Are there any bandwidth-intensive resources that may present a problem on a non-business internet connection?
  • Are there any sensitive resources that should not be accessed remotely or via BYOD devices?
  • Can in-person meetings be replaced by video/teleconferencing?
  • Most businesses already have O365 licensing which allow access to Microsoft Teams.

Are We Ready to Work Remotely In The Future?

In addition to the checklist above, policies must be in place for employees working from home as your data and client data could be at risk. We encourage you to consider these additional solutions in your policies going forward:

  • Technology that effectively, efficiently and securely allows remote access through a traditional on-prem solution or Secure Access Service Edge.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication requirements on all devices.
  • Remote access monitoring using Security Event Incident Management (SEIM) to avoid unauthorized use. Put in place additional security measures in the event escalation is required.
  • Communication with your team regarding the heightened risks around phishing and ransomware campaigns. Social engineering attacks are often increased around times of natural disasters and pandemics. For example, there is currently a map of the Corona Virus outbreak being spread that is ransomware.

[Review Our 9 Signs of Phishing Attacks]

If you would like help in developing your business continuity plan during times of a viral outbreak, pandemic or natural disaster OR if you want to ensure your technology is sufficient for remote employees, we are here to help. Give us a call today at (706) 941-5773or reach out to us here.

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