With the most recent announcement from the Prime Minister confirming that the UK is in lockdown, businesses who weren’t already set up for remote working are scrambling to get this potential logistical nightmare solved. It means juggling hardware, software (and in some cases furniture!) as well as setting expectations with staff, and providing adequate support in times of confusion.
We thought it might be useful to share some of the areas that may not have been considered in the rush to get everyone set up to work from home. Our hope is that this will allow you to make the best of this situation and enable your staff to stay safe, your customers looked after and, potentially your business going.
So, here is a list of what we like to think of as “lockdown essentials”!
1) Good, strong communication is the starting point for ensuring your business remains operational during a lockdown.
Being able to maintain open lines of communication with your staff and customers is vital for a number of reasons:
- Being able to discuss difficult tasks or ask questions is important, you still need to be delivering a quality service or product;
- Staff wellbeing is equally important. Anyone living alone is likely to be feeling isolated, letting them know that there are people around to talk to will help with that;
- Customers will be concerned, they need to know that they can contact you directly with their questions and worries – and they need to know how to do that.
Our communication weapon of choice is 3CX and we’ve written recently about the massive benefits this tool has given to us in these uncertain times. It means for us that it really is business as usual. Staff are on the same contact number as they would be in the office so they can be easily reached, without having to give out private mobile numbers or needing to source mobile phones for 70 staff at short notice. It provides video conference facilities so staff can remain in face to face communication with their teams, and meetings can continue, just at a distance.
Additionally, communication on a regular basis from your management team is good business sense – everyone is likely to be feeling some nervousness and anxiety, not least about the status of their role. If your management team are able to keep open lines of communication with your people you will go a long way towards giving them some confidence and reducing worries. We use our own bespoke administration system to ensure we keep in touch with staff, manage workloads and much more.
Your data protection responsibilities remain in place, no matter where your people are based, so you need to ensure that they have the facilities, and know-how, to keep your client data secure.
We strongly recommend having 2-factor authentication (2FA) set up on your client data. 2FA will prompt those logging into your systems to verify themselves with more than just a password. This added layer of security will mean you are less at risk of someone stealing your data.
Additionally, you need to reiterate the importance of good data protection habits for your staff whilst they are away from the office.
- We still need to lock our screens when we are away from our computers – this is a good habit to maintain at all times
- If you are dealing with confidential issues you should move away from where you might be overheard
- Remain vigilant around scams and potential scams, without someone to sense check whether that email you received was legitimate you need to be extra careful when you click a link or open attachments
- If staff are at all worried about their data security they need to feel secure enough to contact the necessary people within your organisation for advice and support. It is important to remind them of the protocol and processes.
3) Support for your IT support
If you have an internal IT support function, then they may need to have their ranks boosted. With the best will in the world, the chances are your people working from home will experience more IT issues. Whether this is slow home internet or being unable to connect to various pieces of software it is possible that your IT support team will need to deal with more and different calls.
A small team may feel overwhelmed. You have a few options open to you here.
- If funds permit, then have you considered whether you can make use of an external IT support company? Knowing that there is someone you can call on is an excellent safety net.
- If funds don’t permit, are you aware of what skills are already within your company?
- Do you have additional people that you can call on within your team to help with extra support?
- It may not be their day job, but you may have someone already on your staff that is particularly tech-savvy. In a crunch, they might be able to help you out by providing additional support.
- With the right training and understanding from your IT support team, they might just be that additional pair of hands you need. It is important that these IT champions are still able to manage their own workload, so some flexibility might be required.
4) Do you have the technology?
Of course, all of the above presupposes that your people have laptops, or the ability to log in remotely to your systems. If your staff are predominantly working from desktop computers, then you need to think about options. Some questions you may need to ask include:
- Do you have the funds to purchase laptop equipment for staff?
- Is there a possibility of allowing staff to take their set up home?
- Can staff access your systems remotely from their own machines?
Nothing is insurmountable, but depending on your current set up there may be some investment needed, whether in the purchase and set up of new hardware or possibly the software needed to allow staff to safely access their work from home.
5) The right attitude
No one can really supply you with the right attitude, but it might well be one of the most useful tools in your toolkit. We all need to understand that this is an unprecedented situation that we find ourselves in.
As employers, you need to heed the advice of the government and provide your people with the tools and ability to keep themselves safe during this difficult time. This may mean a shift in attitude with regards to the flexibility of their work – you need to be mindful of the fact that this is an odd situation for staff and you need them to feel trusted to get on with their job. Additionally, it is important that if they are struggling they feel able to speak to you openly.
Many businesses have resisted the idea of remote working for a long time, with it now being forced on them, for some business owners it is going to mean the difference between saving their business and not. Embracing the change and empowering your staff to work without close supervision will do nothing but build the strength of your workforce. In a difficult time, this is a positive point to focus on.
These are unprecedented times, and they have highlighted for many businesses how underprepared they are. If you are still struggling to find a way to accommodate remote working, Netmatters may be able to help you, please don’t hesitate to contact us.