Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and across the world, people have gotten used to working remotely from home.

Being a business owner, a top-of-mind question to be asking yourself is, “Do I have the hardware and security protocols established to support a remote workforce?” The impact of COVID is global, but it doesn’t mean a business has to go under. One thing that many organizations have learned across the pandemic is just how much work can be done from home, and how they can adapt to support sufficient efforts for growth.

Buying equipment for your essential employees should not be viewed as just another expense, it should be considered another component to one’s return on investment (ROI). High-quality laptops, secure virtual private networks (VPN), and updated subscriptions for the latest cybersecurity are an absolute minimum necessity.

A client once told us, “We don’t really need this building. It’s convenient for training, convenient for education, convenient for a lot of things, but we could run everything out of our homes if we needed to – because of our backup plan. If this building was destroyed by fire, our plan isn’t to look for office space and move into another building, waiting for the insurance check. We plan to have our employees work from home, and keep the business running without interruption.”

The challenge is that this pandemic hit us hard and fast without much warning. Now, a lot of businesses may not be able to buy 30 laptops for their team members in seven days, but there are specific individuals that should be on the list who do receive them. Start asking your techs and engineers, “What do we need to do if we had to package up our desktop PCs and send the workstations home with the employees? Is that a possibility? How do we do that? What else is needed?”

For our sales team, if we end up having to convert them into teleworkers, we’re going to package up their computers, send them home with their equipment, and they’ll have the hardware and security to continue working without missing a beat. We expected the high probability of allowing employees to work from home so we were already talking about it. Even if they’re sick, work from home. We want people to be able to earn a living through this. Keeping your employees’ health and financial situations in mind are essential for staff retention during the pandemic. If you don’t want to find yourself struggling to find quality help when things return to normal, try to think of the things you can do to help your staff remain productive and allow them to continue working so they can support themselves. If some employees thought life was hard before, now there are some going without a paycheck because they’re too sick to earn it and don’t have remote capabilities. If that happens, you have compounding issues.

Think about how you would dispense your hardware, and how your software is set up. Is your software set up to allow working from home? Do you need a new IP popped into your software to allow that to work? Does your firewall work and does your network sync? Do you know the network minimum expectations for your home workers? Does your system work off of slow DSL? If it doesn’t, you’re not required to provide it. And right now, internet providers have seven-week waits for network installations for increasing bandwidth in homes. Everybody’s scrambling to try to figure out how this works because it’s touching every aspect of our lives. Taking into consideration reliable network installation is also important because without that it could become a possible weak link, even for your customer support.

And so, one thing we’ll want to talk about now is if one of our employees is working from home, how can you support the team under conditions of failure? Talk about it now, figure out what that looks like. Have a protocol in place now so you won’t be caught off guard. Having a phone system that operates via voice over internet protocol (VoIP) is always useful to avoid the use of personal cell phones which poses a risk to employee safety and confidentiality.

The other thing about communication that a lot of people have asked is, “How do you stay connected and keep your culture strong if your staff is working from home?” Contact your IT department and start ordering webcams. Get Microsoft Teams installed on their smartphones or allow them to connect through the browser version of Teams via their laptop. This becomes their webcam, instant messaging system, and their meeting platform for you to connect with them.

Our team meets every day, multiple times a day through video call meetings using Microsoft Teams. We have scheduled and recurring meetings for different departments and not only does that help us stay organized, but it keeps agendas on track and maintains productivity. If we can see their faces or hear their voice it allows us to get a gauge on how they’re doing. We need to see how our employees are enduring through remote work and being more disconnected from the office. Getting a temperature for how they’re working in their environment will tell us a lot about how the process is working or how it needs to be modified.

I have a teleworker agreement that is 50 state legal, including all the provinces in Canada, that allows you to be able to define the basic rules of the road for being a teleworker. It’s not permanent. It’s not a contract either. It says, “During this situation, we’re going to approve working this way. You have to be available. Here are your rules of the road.” Just have them sign it and we’re done.

Have the same conversation with your clients about their concerns over having a remote workforce. Right now, go talk to your clients. And then, reassure them, “Hey, we’ve got you handled. We’ll be able to support you.” While your organization is figuring out the best way to work around the current climate in the world of business, so is everyone else. The more that we can convey our intentions are there and deliver upon it, the train will continue to run as scheduled.

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