We’re stuck in our homes for… how long?
The Novel Coronavirus is putting a concept that some have been using for years to the test; remote work. For employers and employees that are trying out remote work given the current public health risks, it can be daunting to know where to start.
There’s a lot to consider, from changes to your technology stack to ensuring communication is clear and timely. There are security concerns as well as productivity challenges. As a seasoned remote employee myself, we are going to break down the best strategies and tools for employees and employers alike to tackle remote work.
Staying Productive in a Different Environment
Staying productive as a remote employee is a matter of utilizing two practices: focus and organization.
Setting boundaries for yourself helps you not only work better but helps you to be able to rest when work is finished. Have a dedicated area to work, whether that’s an actual office or the kitchen table. Then when you are done working, you are able to remove yourself from your work environment.
It can be difficult when you are removed from your team to be able to track specific projects between conference calls. To keep projects on track, there are a variety of productivity and team management applications that help align teams.
Click Up is a Project Management platform that integrates with other common applications to keep everyone on track and moving forward no matter where they are.
Similar to above, Trello is a productivity platform that uses boards, lists, and cards to organize tasks, assign pieces to team members, and progress towards a common goal.
“At the end of each day, I make a task list of what I want to do tomorrow. Then I star 2-3 tasks. Mentally, I commit to completing those starred tasks and commit to not closing my computer until they’re done.”
PPC Technical Analyst / Remote Worker
Working remotely shouldn’t make you feel “remote”. 27% of those that work remote say that the greatest challenge is communication, quickly followed by a lack of social opportunities (16%) and loneliness (13%). You are unable to pop into someone’s office to ask a follow-up question or catch someone in the hallway for clarification on an email.
Use A Messaging Platform
Messaging platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams might already be a part of your business’s technology stack. Platforms like these become a vital lifeline for remote work. Immediate access to coworkers and teams ensures that no one is left on an island waiting for an email response that may never come.
As opposed to the isolation of email chains, channels allow you to enter channels and be able to gain context to provide insight faster and with clarity.
These platforms also integrate with line-of-business applications that you’re likely already using, including the Microsoft Office suite and others.
Like messaging platforms, regular team calls are vital to a successful remote strategy. Just like being in the office, regular calls align teams and encourage accountability. Just make sure you use headphones during your call to eliminate an echo, don’t get sidetracked during the call and engage. Make sure to listen and ask questions.
Many of the messaging platforms also offer video conferencing. Zoom and Uberconference offer slightly more enhanced features including recording for calls that may be more important.
If all else fails, don’t forget about having a good old-fashioned phone call.
“A lot of times people tend to neglect the community aspects of work when they are working remotely. With the right tools and mindset, you can increase team and cross-team communication which, in my opinion, helps to further foster innovation and success. “
Business Development / Remote Worker
Exercising Network Security for a Home Network
Security looks different in a remote environment. Because you aren’t working with all your colleagues on a single, secured network, the steps to work securely are different and can be more complex.
Exercise the same caution while working remotely that you would use while working in the office in terms of password/account security.
There are a variety of solutions that can be established by your company such as a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) that can allow your business to work virtually like everyone is “under the same roof”
Without an established business continuity solution, you are left to best practices that you can perform in your own home with some instructions. Enabling WPA2 encryption on your router is a great first step to securing the information going over your network.
To Enable WPA2 Encryption:
- While logged into your router, select the network you wish to change.
- Either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz
- Under Basic or Security, select the encryption type you want to use.
Additionally, you can change the router login as a simple but effective measure to increase your home network security.
To change your login:
- Access the login screen to your router by entering the IP address of your router into the search bar.
- Login using username and password found on the back or bottom of the router.
(Probably admin and admin)
- Under Security Settings, select User.
- This should bring you to a prompt to change the password.
While most routers are similar if you have issues contact your ISP for specific instructions.
The Risks of Personal Devices and Public Networks
Personal devices pose a unique risk to instances of remote work. It’s impossible to know what exists on any given personal computer. When looking at providing remote access to the company systems, take extra consideration to your policy of personal devices and your IT provider’s ability to support them (or lack thereof).
Additionally, public networks pose a security risk as information transmitted over those networks can be accessed by those nearby and connected.
Continuity of Business Solutions
This may very well be the most important consideration to take in the case of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Continuity of Business Solutions provide for a more established strategy that leverages the tools and infrastructure you already have in place in your office. These solutions look to leverage the technology investment you’ve made while operating beyond the walls of the office.
These solutions vary on your line of business applications, existing infrastructure, and other factors.
Virtual Private Networks or VPNs are a virtual “tunnel” that encrypts your data as it is sent from one point to another.
While this option is effective in some circumstances, it does have limited functionality. VPNs are unable to connect you to the line of business applications you are using in the office.
Because VPNs are a tunnel connecting one point to another it’s imperative that each side be secure. Otherwise, it presents potential vulnerabilities to networks that need to remain secure.
VPNs do offer a moderately secure and affordable alternative to the solutions listed below.
Remote Desktop Protocol
Remote Desktop Protocol or RDP is a more robust solution for long term remote work. RDP allows your organization to work on the companies secure network from nearly any computer with internet access. Each employee has a unique user profile on a centralized server that can be accessed remotely.
This provides better security and allows for access to your line of business applications. However, it requires server infrastructure to establish.
In terms of which solution is the strongest for long term remote work, Remote Desktop Protocol is definitely that solution.
For the use case of the Novel Coronavirus, we feel this is the strongest option for companies without the ability to implement RDP or that don’t see remote work as a part of their long term business strategy.
Screen Connect creates a virtual portal on the web that provides a direct connection to the machines set up in the office. This provides access to your line-of-business applications in your business’ secure network without greater risk from your home network.
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