Managing a Remote Workforce

In an attempt to protect their employees and minimize the impact of COVID-19, small businesses are struggling with work-from-home solutions. The following ideas and suggestions will help you transition quickly and safely to a remote workforce.

Develop a Contingency Plan

At the very least, make a list of all necessary processes and all related tasks. Assign a lead person and list all personnel required. Document all the tools needed.

Then, determine if and how each process could be performed remotely. Document the tools required to go remote. Include simple, brief policies and procedures for completing each task remotely. For example, explain how to forward phone calls and answer voice mails from home.

For every mission-critical task, do some research. Include phone numbers for all vendors required if employees are not available. Examples are temporary staffing agencies, telephone answering services, IT professionals, payroll companies, and data entry services.

NOTE: Use an online tool to develop and your entire plan and give access to all team leaders. If you have a Gmail account, you should have Google Sheets, which is perfect for creating an online spreadsheet that can easily be shared.

Enable Your Teams to Work Effectively From Home

Conduct an Inventory

Once you have identified the tasks that can be performed remotely, and the necessary tools, inventory the tools at hand. You may send equipment home, or you may need your employees to use their computers and/or mobile devices. Find out what's available to you and make plans to fill any gaps.

Determine How Your Employees will Connect

Using Third-Party Access Systems

Small businesses sometimes use services such as RemotePC to provide access to work computers. When choosing an access tool, ask questions, and double-check their security policies. 

Computing in the Cloud

Some businesses could move their entire server to the cloud and solve the work-from-home problems. Cloud servers can provide remote access quickly and remove the IT burden from your shoulders to some degree. Cloud servers may not be the best last-minute option, as there is a learning curve, and there are security risks. This article will help you choose.

Using Simple Collaboration Tools

Some smaller businesses will only need collaboration tools such as Office365 to give employees access to specific files. Google Drive is another choice for smaller companies and comes with a host of compatible cloud-based tools and features.

Securing Your Remote Workforce

Unfortunately, since criminals do not take a break when disaster strikes, cyber-security is a risk and should be a top priority.  

 Knowledge is Power

The most crucial step toward securing your system is to inform your employees of potential threats.

Example Threat:

A Coronavirus-themed email targeting healthcare workers was sent, supposedly, from their IT teams. The subject read, "ALL STAFF: CORONAVIRUS AWARENESS." The content accounced that the institution was organizing a seminar, and employees should click a link to register. And as you may have guessed, clicking the link allowed malicious software to be installed. In one case, a Czech hospital's system was shut down after a Coronavirus-themed attack.

Example Solution:

Inform your employees to be on the lookout for Coronavirus-related scams. Communicate regularly and in a fashion that lets them know your emails are legitimate. If you use social media (not recommended), use private groups and other security measures to keep scammers out.

Logging In Securely

If you allow employees to log into your server or computers remotely, prohibit them from working in public places, such as coffee shops, where the WIFI is open to the public. Use only trusted and password-protected connections.

If you have an IT specialist, speak to them about security and ask if the data on your server is encrypted. They should conduct a thorough audit, document, and report any risks back to you along with a plan for resolution.

Enforce Multi-Factor Authentication

Some systems will allow you to require two types of authentication when employees log in from home. 

Disable Administrative Privileges

Review user accounts and make sure no one has administrative access unless it is necessary. For IT managers and team members who require administrative rights, consider two multi-factor authentication. 

Protect Your Endpoints

Make sure laptops and other devices used to access your server remotely are secure, whether they are company-owned or personal devices. All software on endpoints should be up-to-date and anti-virus and malware protection installed. If you have an IT specialist, they should inspect and sign-off on all endpoint devices.

Run Automatic Updates

Hackers often use outdated software to access computers. Again, make sure all software is current and check your settings to make sure servers and computers allow automatic updates.

Make a Daily Backup

Depending on the size of your business, you may have redundant servers and daily backups running. Many small businesses do not. Consider using tools such as Carbonite to backup your valuable data. 

Communicate Effectively

Stress may be high, so try to avoid all unnecessary confusion. Make your expectations clear up-front as far as work hours and requirements. Once your employees are out there on their own, you can help boost morale by sending informative emails to your employees at least once a week. You can use our Employee Portal to help share health tips. Keep them informed of any new developments to help them feel connected and more secure.

All of our clients have FREE access to ThinkHR, where live support is available to help you take good care of your employees. You can find sample policies and procedures, communication templates, and more in the Compliance Library. It is mobile, and you can access if from any WIFI enabled device.