business Maintaining an Agile Workforce amid Coronavirus Concerns March 26, 2020 How do you maintain a productive workforce amid the coronavirus outbreak? Here are some technology considerations from our sister company Envision Technology Advisors. The rapid spread of COVID-19, and the recommendations that people should practice “social distancing”, has created a situation where the ability to “work from home” has quickly gone from a nice-to-have company perk to an essential need for organizations of all sizes. What is an agile workforce? The idea of an “Agile Workforce”, where employees can be as productive working from home or the road as they are in the office, is a key element of a successful Digital Transformation strategy. For companies who embraced the idea of Digital Transformation early, the need to suddenly support a mostly, or even totally remote workforce is one for which they are likely already prepared. Other companies won’t be as prepared, and some may be scrambling to figure out how to best support their employees during this unprecedented time. Regardless of where your company falls on this Agile Workforce preparedness spectrum, you will likely have some concerns. Here are some of the most common questions that we are hearing at Envision Technology Advisors. Is it too late to roll out a remote workforce solution? While the ideal time to prepare for any emergency situation is before the emergency rather than after, it is not too late to take steps to better support your employees’ efforts to work from outside of the office. Because your efforts will be reactionary rather than proactive, compromises will need to made as you trade ideal solutions for ones which you can roll out quickly. At Envision, we are actually hearing from a number of companies who need to rapidly deploy solutions to support their employees’ need to work remotely. To help make that as easy as possible for them, we’ve done the legwork to determine exactly which tools are most critical at this time and we’ve created a process to help deploy those solutions for companies in as little as 1 week. Contact us if you are concerned about your company’s ability support a remote workforce and you need some guidance at this time. We already have ‘remote access’ tools in place. Are we all set? Not necessarily. While the ability to remotely access company resources, including files and applications, is an important part of Agile Workforce, it is only the beginning. In most cases, these solutions were put in place in order to support a handful of employees working remotely for a day or two at a time. They were never meant to power an entire company’s employee base accessing the resources remotely at the same time and for an extended period of time. A few things to consider: Is your current bandwidth sufficient to support an entirely remote workforce? It is likely that your bandwidth was established based on employees accessing those resources locally from inside the office, not fully remote, and your infrastructure may crawl to a halt once your employees are all offsite.What are your organization’s Tier-1 applications and can they all be accessed remotely using the tools you have in place? For example, Quickbooks will not work over a VPN, so if that is how you are powering your “remote access”, you will run into problems there. This is likely something you’ve never even realized because there may be only one employee in your company who needs Quickbooks and maybe they never work from home. This is a common hole we see in “remote access” plans as companies try to move to an Agile Workforce. There are ways to solve this access challenge, and the right answer will depend on your specific circumstances, but the larger point is that simply having “remote access” tools does not mean you are ready to support a completely Agile Workforce.What should we be concerned about from a security standpoint as our employees shift to remote work? A remote workforce creates a whole new mix of security headaches to consider. One common one we see is when employees are fearful that they will not be able to access the files they need to do their job, so they add those files to a thumb drive or they upload them to a platform like Google Drive or Dropbox. Even though these employees may have been trained in the past on how to safely access or transfer files, in times of high stress and panic, people can make poor decisions and neglect to follow your company’s security protocols. Stressful times like these are also when scammers ramp up their efforts. Knowing that people are so focused on the crisis at hand, they expect that their guard will be down and they will be easier to compromise with phishing scams and other attacks. This is a time for you to reinforce your company’s security policies and remind your employees of what to look out for to protect themselves from scammers. Make sure those employees know which tools have been made available to them to allow them access to the resources they need and remind them what to do if they feel like they have been the victim of a cyberattack of any kind. How do we best collaborate as a company when everyone is remote? Tools like Microsoft Teams will allow your company’s employees to maintain strong communication and collaboration, even if your people are all working remotely and are not in the same physical space. From a communications standpoint, Teams allows your people to connect via video meetings, which is incredibly important when you are unable to call for an “in person” meeting. Video communications also help your team to remain connected in a way that email or text messages simply will not allow for. On the collaboration front, Teams provides an ideal way for multiple contributors to work on documents or files together. Multiple authors can be working on those files at the same time, and since the same platform you are using for this collaboration is also being used for communication, the interactions happen in real time as if you were working side by side in the same physical space. Microsoft teams To help support companies during this time, Microsoft has actually announced that they are offering 6 months of free licensing for Microsoft Teams. This will allow organizations to deploy these tools without having to worry about licensing costs right away. Of course, licensing Teams is only the first step. To truly use it as an effective platform for your companies communication and collaboration needs, there are certain options you will want to have configured from the start. If you need help deploying Teams for your organization, or if you have any questions about how your company can best support a remote workforce during this time, Envision can help assist with these needs. Contact us and let us know how we can help. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Center.