As the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads around the globe, companies are working fast to put together action plans to deal with the crisis. Many are banning international travel and figuring out how to keep supply chains and delivery models running in worst-case scenarios. In its latest coronavirus guidance, the Centers for Disease Control recommends businesses emphasize sick employees should stay home, and organizations have flexible policies to allow workers to stay home to take care of ill family members. In cities already dealing with outbreaks, many companies are telling their entire organizations to work from home to slow the spread of the virus.
Is Your Organization Ready to Work From Home?
Before coronavirus, many companies were already moving to work from home flexibility for their workers. The most recent annual International Workplace Group Workplace Study shows 50 percent of global employees work outside their office 2.5 days a week. While U.S. companies lag behind much of the rest of the world on remote work, coronavirus is likely to accelerate acceptance and lead to permanent change.
When communicating to staff about the potential for remote work and offices to be temporarily closed because of coronavirus, emphasize the planning they need to do. Typical questions to think about include:
1) What tools will I need to work from home? What software, information, and other resources are required?
2) How will I access the contacts, bookmarks, and additional information saved on my work PC that I need to do my job?
3) Do I have my coworkers outside-of-work contact details so that we can continue to collaborate?
If your organization doesn't already allow remote work and have access to collaboration tools, this is a good time for managers to think about alternatives. They should learn how to set up conference calls on their mobile phones, how to get access to work email on mobile devices, and tricks for sharing documents and other information.
Evaluate Your Technology
Few organizations are ready now to have the entire operation work remotely. Some jobs simply can't be done that way, and the majority lack the needed technology. Now, they're looking hard at what they have and what they need.
Good remote strategies leverage applications and information in the cloud so workers can connect with them seamlessly from wherever they are and on any device. Examples include Microsoft Office 365 and Google G Suite. In O365, Office applications like Word and Excel run in the cloud, and documents are stored in OneDrive for easy access and collaboration.
Other collaboration tools like instant messaging in Slack or Google Hangouts, combined with video conferencing solutions like WebEx and Skype, can erase the need for physical offices in many cases.
The cloud is not always a complete answer. Many organizations have business applications that cannot run in the cloud, or they're in industries where regulation requires data to be stored on-premises. Legacy databases and systems are also a common hurdle. In such situations, a VPN/remote desktop combination or virtual desktop systems may be the answer to getting access while still maintaining an acceptable security posture.
It's a Worthwhile Long-term Investment
While it's still very unclear how long the coronavirus crisis will last, investing in remote work and collaboration tools now makes sense for organizations anyway. Smartphones, laptops, and other mobile devices have long-since erased the line between "work" and "home." Employees want to be able to contribute from wherever they are whenever they need to. Studies show flexible working policies lead to improved employee engagement and documented productivity improvements. The Global Workforce Study found 80 percent of respondents would select a company with flexible working arrangements over one without.
The best workplace experiences drive productivity, efficiency, and end-user satisfaction, which, in turn, make for agile organizations that are more open to change and can deliver better business outcomes.
CompuCom Can Help
If you're evaluating your remote work strategy and what collaboration tools are available, CompuCom can help. Some of our most fruitful and longest-lasting relationships with customers started when they called us in to help deal with a crisis. As an industry leader in providing workplace solutions, we can quickly get you set up with what you need to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on your organization