Remote Workforce:
The New Normal

How to create, manage, secure and connect a partial or total remote workforce

Because of the COVID Pandemic, we have all been tossed into the world’s largest work-from-home experiment. And with it looking like this crisis will not be over soon, managing and supporting a partial or full remote workforce is the new normal.

In the past, remote workers have had a mixed feeling about working remotely. Companies have also experienced mixed results, and many began disbanding their remote workforces over the past few years.

But COVID-19 has changed everything!

As one of the largest Managed Services Providers in the Twin Cities, a good share of our team has been working remotely for many years now. And over those years, we made our mistakes, and learned a few things along the way.

We’ve learned that working from home can be a tough transition for both management and employees.

Not handled correctly, working remotely can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, decreased productivity, and lack of team morale.

Building and sustaining a remote workforcee

Having the right technical infrastructure to allow secure access to the information and services you need to support and manage remote workers is vital.

Most companies and their employees are familiar with technologies like cloud computing, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google. However, the right infrastructure is the key to a successful transition, and many small to medium-sized companies fall a bit short in this area.

Recommended Guidelines:

necessary to handle employees accessing systems remotely

for critical systems and information access

to manage each employee's access needed for their specific role. Every employee must have access to the technology they use at the office, at home, including laptops, printers, phone apps, an reliable internet connection, WiFI, and a dedicated space to work

must be clearly communicated by management

all of the remote worker's endpoints must be secured, and employees must have a clear understanding of cyber-security policies regarding remote work

Implement Office 365/Microsoft Teams to allow users to work and collaborate efficiently from home.

Technology-savvy companies are working diligently to replicate their office cultures virtually.

Deploying secure dedicated virtual desktops that users can connect to from home computers and then function as though they are in the office.

Utilize online meeting software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams that have video conferencing solutions that encourage face-to-face interaction

Set up a "virtual water cooler" to allow employees to exchange ideas and "be together."

img-employers-and-employees

Employers and employees need to understand that "we're all in this together."

There is a shared responsibility to make remote work succeed!

The Company Side of Remote

Going remote can feel like a radical disruption of how your company works. To help, here are things to consider:

  • Ensure you have one synchronized communication tool

    Team members require a way to talk to clarify things quickly, in real-time, with management, fellow team members, and customers.

    Tools available include: Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, Hangout Chats & Skype

  • Meetings and Videoconferencing

    While collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and G-suite have out-of-the-box tools, there are scenarios where choosing a 3rd party provider could work.

    Tools available include: Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom, Hangout Chats & Skype

  • Ensure you have one storage communication tool

    Having a proper storage tool is critical for the long term success of a remote workforce. You need somewhere that allows content to be written and stored for the long term.

    Tools available include: Dropbox, Microsoft Teams, Google Drive, GitHub

  • Cybersecurity

    As the Coronavirus has changed the way we work, it also has opened up more opportunities for the “bad guys” to hack into your system through remote workers. You need to protect every endpoint of your remote workforce.

    Tools available include: The Shield (Imagine IT), Norton, Google???

  • Create a list of company-related activities that happen in person

    Creating this list will provide you the foundation to make sure your remote work plan is successful. Write the list, prioritize it … and, most importantly, get your employees feedback!

img-the-company-side-of-remote

The Individual Side of Remote

You are now required to work from home due to the Coronavirus crisis, and it could be a longterm situation. How can you set up to be successful at home?

img-the-individual-side-of-remote
  1. Create a private workspace at your home
  2. Have that room configured and dedicated for work only
  3. Create a business looking background for online meetings
  4. Set up your camera
  5. Start and end rituals for the day
  6. Limit distractions
  7. Don’t do things online at home; you wouldn’t do at work
  8. Staying connected with team members daily or weekly
  9. Make your presence felt!
  10. Be accountable

Supporting Remote Workers

What happens when remote workers’ computers crash?’ Or their email goes down, or laptop breaks? What do they do?
Supporting remote workers for many of you didn’t begin until you were mandated to do so because of the Coronavirus crisis. And when this crisis began, many smaller IT companies could not keep up with the demand for an entire workforce going to a remote. And the problem persists today!

What you should expect from your IT support regarding remote workers:

img-remote-it-support-for-all-users

Remote IT support for all users

The most critical piece of IT support is the ability to access all users' workstations and resolve issues remotely. If your IT support company cannot resolve 95% of all issues remotely, then you need to learn why.
img-a-network-of-techs

A network of techs to support your people

Most IT emergencies can be resolved remotely. But there are always times when hardware needs to be replaced or fixed, and you need a team that is large enough to be there when you need them
img-strict-security-protocols

Strict security protocols

As entire companies are moving to remote workers during this crisis, securing all of these people can be a nightmare for many IT companies. All users must be set up with antivirus software, malware protection, and spam filters. We also encourage the use of a secured virtual private network (VPN) for access to company resources and the use of data encryption on all devices.
img-a-large-and-robust-it

A large and robust IT support Team

Your people can be hindered if their computers aren't working or their email or internet stops connecting. It is critical to have an IT support team that is available 24/7 for emergencies that remote workers can rely on.
img-it-insights-and-roadmap

IT insights and roadmaps

It is critical that your IT support company is not just a break/fix solution. Take the Coronavirus crisis as an example. Companies that weren't supported properly saw major disruptions in their services, especially regarding remote workers. You need to have your IT company be a business partner and help you create a roadmap to weather any crisis.

Let’s Chat


Shifting to Online Meetings

With online meetings being critical during this COVID-19 crisis, choosing the right tool and training your team is vital, both internally, and externally when customers are involved.

How do you translate the approach and effectiveness of your in-person meetings to the online space?

Here is a list of functions you want with your online meeting software:

  • Security and encryption
  • Recording options
  • Text chat
  • Screen sharing
  • Mobile app
  • Integrated calendar
  • Video chat
  • Technical support
  • Video quality
  • Audio quality
  • Dial-in options
  • Web-based application
  • Flexible and user-friendly

Tools available to help: Microsoft Teams, G-suite, Zoom, Skype, and Slack.

img-shifting-to-online-meetings
img-technology-challenges

Technology Challenges with a remote workforce

Creating a remote workforce was not a planned business decision for most companies … the COBID-19 crisis forced them to create one. Because of this, most companies were not equipped internally or externally to handle this situation. And the struggle continues today!

Companies are quickly catching on to the importance of thoroughly assessing their capabilities to assure that workers are both secure and efficient at home.

The main challenges we’ve seen during this COVID-19 crisis …

  • Securing all endpoints of remote workers
  • Daily IT support
  • Shifting to online meetings
  • Tracking work and productivity
  • Accountability
  • Keeping your people connecting
  • Budgeting for the long term, as more employees go remote

What Successful Remote Teams Look like

Successful companies create a culture of trust, collaboration, and productivity. Here is a quick list of what they do:

What is going to happen with the labor market is anyone's guess during this Coronaviurs crisis. But the companies that invest in remote technologies so their employees, especially Millennials, can work remotely is a huge advantage.

How does your team communicate best? Just ask them! A quick conversation with each employee or even a survey will give you a clear direction. Once you uncover those answers, create a communication playbook that all can follow and understand.

Setting expectations is critical for any successful team, but especially important for remote teams. They need to be on the same page when it comes to deliverables, timelines, and metrics for success. Managers must have a clear picture of success for each employee and then communicate that properly.

There are countless software tools available for you to choose from. When selecting software, keep in mind the size of your team, your communications preferences, and the ease of use. Talk with colleagues to learn what has been successful with them. We use the Microsoft suite of project management, including Microsoft Teams, which has changed the way we communicate.

During this COVID crisis, as our teams have been apart, we have created weekly "virtual happy hours" to relax and stay connected. Especially during stressful times like now, creating team retreats keeps everyone connected.


Next Steps …

The COVID 19 crisis prompted this remote worker change within companies, and is a perfect time to make a full and comprehensive assessment on both your infrastructure and your cyber-security measures.

Companies must use this time to prioritize investments in the technology and infrastructure of a remote workforce, as it will be a critical part of doing business for many years to come.

Let’s Chat