Suddenly, a remote workforce isn’t the outlier, it’s the norm. The organization’s processes, culture and tools must adapt accordingly.
There’s a big difference between employees occasionally “working from home” and having a true remote workforce.
In the first case, you need a VPN, company-issued laptops, a conference call number or two, and some basic ground rules. In these cases, it’s the exception, not the rule. But when a company fully embraces remote work–which many firms are suddenly finding themselves doing whether they wanted to or not–there are additional considerations. Suddenly, remote workers aren’t the outlier, they’re the norm. And the organization’s processes, culture and tools must adapt accordingly.
For MSPs, the recent switch to remote work in light of COVID-19 was either jarring and disruptive or it was more of a natural evolutionary step in its flexible approach to work. Either way, turning the new reality into a workable, long-term solution requires some tweaks–if not wholesale changes–in how MSPs run their day-to-day operations.
Properly Equipping Your Team
Remote workers can’t be expected to do their jobs day after day with an inappropriate home setup. Working in bed might be fun for a day or two, but it’s no way to live for months on end.
To be successful, you must ensure your team is kitted out with what they need to ensure maximum productivity. Everyone has a professional-grade laptop or desktop setup, including a monitor they won’t mind staring at for days on end. And while you may not have the budget for home office furniture, encourage everyone to create a dedicated workspace providing them with proper ergonomics in as quiet of an environment as possible.
Beyond the “stuff” they’ll need to do their jobs, the remote workforce also need guidance and protocols around how to work remotely and their employer’s expectations. Whether it’s mutually agreed upon working hours, a dress code for videoconferences or ensuring redundancy in case someone gets sick, MSPs shouldn’t take it for granted that everyone will approach long-term remote work the same.
There’s obviously a need for flexibility, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of professionalism or productivity. Having those conversations early on and periodically checking in with staff during the transition is crucial to avoiding bad habits from setting in. A refresh or additional training around security protocols may also help reinforce things.
Getting Comms Squared Away
Communication is going to be critical during this period, so workers need a reliable system for staying in touch with colleagues and customers. If possible, they should be using the business phone system and having calls forwarded to their remote office. They should also be able to check their voicemail remotely.
To ensure they sound professional, they should be using headsets. Even better, a dedicated VoIP phone line can create some separation from personal calls and device usage, not to mention superior audio quality.
Videoconferencing and screen sharing are also paramount during these times, so make sure there’s a solution in place supporting these functions. It not only helps with maintaining human relationships, but also makes it much easier to support customers struggling with their own remote work IT challenges.
Securing Client Systems
Depending on the nature of their business, many customers might not have embraced working for home before recent events. Even those who did might have still expected certain staff to always be onsite, which is no longer the case.
Opening up what used to only happen in the office to a fleet of remote workers requires a new level of discipline regarding security and remote monitoring. MSPs should be sure clients have proper defenses in place to defend data and systems while allowing seamless access to those requiring it.
Multifactor authentication is imperative given how many employees will be logging in from unfamiliar devices, as is secure VPN access to servers. And any device a remote employee uses for work should be running current operating systems, applications and browsers, along with having the latest security patches and upgrades installed.
Some people also need remote access to systems that can’t leave the office. In these cases, MSPs can use endpoint management tools to easily enable those workers to do so from their devices at home. Creating automated scripts for common tasks like these will streamline the client support process.
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