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Working Remotely: How to Stay Productive in Uncertain Times

In an unprecedented response to the Covid-19 outbreak, most of the United States and Europe have been quarantined. Schools from California to Florida have been canceled, non-essential businesses have closed their doors, popular tourist destinations like New York City and Miami have become hot zones, and many businesses have instituted company-wide remote working. The following are some key tips to ensure that your staff and customers remain safe during these uncertain times.

Communication is key

Team members who are used to working in an office setting may feel too disconnected from the support tools, information, or collegial connections to effectively perform their work. Therefore, businesses should incorporate more conference calls and/or virtual meetings via ZoomGo-To-Meeting, or similar platforms. Incorporating some socializing into team meetings will strengthen team cohesion. Managers will have to be diligent about productivity, which will require frequent discussions because there will no longer be opportunities for spontaneous brainstorming or casual conversations in the breakroom.

The team needs to hear from management on a regular basis, especially as economic tensions worsen, to maintain their business connectivity. Communication should be kept open, honest, and inclusive. There should be frequent email or video postings highlighting the company’s expectations, ongoing plans, and updates to help staff know important operational details, as well as encouraging employee feedback and concerns.

Using the right tools for remote work

It is important to make sure you are using reliable digital tools to help you connect with coworkers. Popular collaboration tools are Zoom for video conferencing, Google Drive for file sharing, and Slack for instant messaging.

Forwarding calls from your office phone to your cell or mobile device

Telephone calls can be easily forwarded to another phone using the Call Forward feature from your work phone to any location of your choosing. The call forwarding feature on the VoIP telephone system effortlessly forwards calls from your work phone using various applications. Specific processes will vary depending on the telephone model and communication system that your business uses.

Make sure you have remote access to your company’s data

Most data can be accessed from anywhere, however, some information is restricted to the business VPN (Virtual Private Network) when working remotely.

VPN is a remote access system that enables you to securely connect to the company network mimicking your office environment. This makes access to secured or confidential data possible and coordinates private synchronization between your device and the company network.

As long as you connect to the correct URL to access the data, many network operations and programs are accessible from your work device or from any of your mobile tools.

Support your workers

Going digital is difficult for workers to adapt to quickly. Management should give them support, during what is likely to be a difficult transition. Invest in employee development and coaching ahead of the budget plan, and be affirming about the circumstances and understanding about renewed deadlines. Just remember, your workers need to know you have their back — but never more so than during these uncertain times.

Stay safe

Workers who already work from home, are most likely familiar with the increased risk of infiltration of malware and suspicious entities in company data communications.

Employees will be increasing the risk to company data as they begin remote work. Devices should be equipped with special security protection options such as:

Setting a strong password protocol – use robust passwords to log-in, set automatic inactivity periods, and ban sticky notes with passwords on them.

Logging out when not using a device will prevent an unintended email to be sent to the manager – or a client – and will avoid access to your device while you are occupied elsewhere.

Accessing the company network and systems

The company should establish if the employee needs access to their internal network or if the worker can manage accessing the widely available email and cloud-based services. Companies should also determine if their staff require the same level of access to discrete data than they were able to use from the office.

If access to company internal system is needed

When staff work remotely, businesses should decide if they require access to company-owned devices so that full control remains under the management of the IT team and its technology security.

For workers who are conducting business from home, the company needs to provide a VPN to connect them to their internal network. This prevents malicious attacks from unknown sources: since you’re now working remotely, communication is open and susceptible to public access and possible attack.

There are several scams that are currently targeting remote workers:

1. Phishing/Spoofing Emails

Emails that pretend to be from your company, using your company’s owner or logo but ask you to enter or confirm your personal information.

2. Tech Support Scam

You get a pop-up on your computer or a call claiming to be from or Apple or Microsoft about a problem on your computer. They say if you give “tech support” access to your hard drive, they can fix it. Instead, they install malware on your computer and start stealing your confidential information.

3. Click Bait Scam

There are several variations of this type of scam, but a popular example is- the latest Coronavirus updates (“click here for video”). Other click bait schemes use fake news, celebrity images, and other sensational stories to fool you into unknowingly downloading malware.

4. Phone scams

It has become increasingly common for telemarketers to disregard the Do Not Call list, Robodialers, scammers calling up pretending to be from a bank or credit card company. The National Do Not Call Registry (U.S.) offers consumers a free way to reduce telemarketing calls. 

Scammers call anyway, of course, and they’ve even found a way to scam consumers by pretending to be a government official calling to sign you up or confirming your previous participation on the Dot Not Call list! A good example of this is the “your Microsoft license key has expired” scam call. 

Looking Ahead

A significant number of workers have already begun working remotely. Gallup found that the number of remote workers grew by four percentage points — representing millions of employees — between 2012 and 2016.

Workers are also spending more time working remotely than ever before. Also, a larger percentage of industries are putting remote work policies in place (primarily finance, insurance and real estate, followed by transportation, retail, and manufacturing). “Remote work is no longer a privilege,” Forbes recently reported. “It’s become the common practice for at least 50% of the U.S. population.”

That percentage is about to explode, whether companies are prepared for it or not. So if you have to send people home to keep them safe, develop procedures that can help your teamwork productively during this crisis. But keep this in mind COVID-19 won’t be an issue forever, remote work is here to stay. 

What you learn about leading a remote workforce now will likely become the future direction for your company moving forward. For more information about keeping info safe, contact us at 904-855-8885 or visit our website.

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