More employees are working from home now than ever before thanks to social distancing practices their employers have adopted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Faced with this new remote work reality, though, businesses and organizations that can operate this way are having to get creative on how they keep their employees connected and productive. It’s a process that is easier said than done.
Company networks can quickly suffer from the added strain of everyone normally in the office now working from their homes. Too many networks were not initially set up with the sufficient infrastructure or to the needed scale to handle this many employees trying to access the same networks all at the same time.
However, the leaders of these businesses and organizations do have options available that can help them keep operations on track and employees as productive as possible. With a little bit of research and investment, employees in work-from-home situations can connect to networks in simple and stress-free ways, making sure customers and clients never see a dropoff in services provided.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, remote work was starting to grow in popularity, but was by no means a go-to practice for companies and their employees. Only about 7% of people working in the United States were given the option to work remotely on a regular basis.
Of those people, more worked in the private sector rather than in the government sector. Those employees could be referred to as knowledge workers. A knowledge worker typically does most of their work on computers. Think those who work in management, financial and business occupations, such as corporate executives, IT professionals, accountants, insurance underwriters - those lines of work. Certain professional workers, such as lawyers, scientists, engineers and software designers also are more likely to be able to work from home.
It is also more common for large employers to offer their workforce the option to work remotely. For example, at U.S. businesses that employ more than 500 people, 12% of workers can elect to work from home. At employers with fewer than 100 workers, that percentage drops to 6%.
Now, though, those percentages have likely exploded no matter the sector or industry an employee works in.
Big banks and financial institutions have notably instructed as many employees as possible to work from home. Employees at other large corporations, including Amazon and Microsoft, have also instructed corporate employees to work from home until any social distancing requirements and stay at home orders applicable to their physical office locations have been lifted.
In its March story about Microsoft’s decision to have employees work remotely, the New York Times noted that company executives had “blunt conversations” mirrored the talks other large corporations within the country were also having or later had. That was whether the business’s technical infrastructure could withstand the immense workload that it would be put under with so many employees working outside the office but still logging on to networks.
It’s not just large corporations that needed to ask themselves that question, though. Properly prepared small and medium-sized businesses that thought ahead were wise to ask the same questions and participate in similar discussions with their IT departments or managed IT services providers.
If a business has not had those conversations, then they are likely facing network issues that are limiting connectivity for employees and reducing their productivity. At a time when businesses need to watch their finances more closely than ever, this is not acceptable.
There are ways to prepare your business for better network performance, though. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, for instance, will be under a lot more pressure, as will certain cloud computing services. Without the right investment, these services may not be as accessible to employees as they need to be.
Businesses that use either of these services should contact their providers to have conversations about whether their networks can withstand the workload they will face in the coming weeks.
In addition to covering their own bases in the office by investing in network infrastructure there, forward-thinking business owners will also do what they can to ensure employees can stay connected while they work from home.
By investing in hardware that employees will use to access company data and software, companies can make sure every remote worker can better adjust to their new work environment without worrying about whether or not they can do their job.
Hopefully, businesses have remained on top of needed hardware upgrades and have machines and devices available to employees that can handle the extra work. If not, now is clearly the time for those upgrades to occur.
Employees and their employers will also have to decide on teleconferencing software that will allow them to communicate via virtual meetings or conference calls.
As CNBC stated in a recent article, the teleconferencing software needs to be screened to make sure it does not place too much stress on employee internet connections or VPNs if the software is accessed through that type of service.
More computers accessing and transmitting company data means more opportunities for security threats to rear their ugly heads. If your business deals with any sort of sensitive data, then you need to have security conversations with people working from home.
Make sure employees are keeping their passwords strong and updated. Also, instruct remote workers to keep devices stored in secure locations so that nobody has unintended access.
Businesses would also be wise to keep antivirus software updated and email messages encrypted to even better secure data and communications.
Preparation is the best strategy for dealing with adversity. This is true in business and technology as much as anywhere else.
That’s why the expert team at Advanced Network Professionals is focused on assessing your company or organization’s needs and delivering solutions that are tailored to each entity. From hardware and software, to network design and security, to a broad range of managed IT services, we are prepared to help you focus on your business and getting work done - not worrying about technology.
Request a quote today to discuss your employees’ remote work needs.