Adjusting to remote working without warning will have proved to be a challenge for many SMEs in the UK and the learning curve is likely to continue for at least a few weeks as businesses settle into new processes. Whether the change is welcome or not, it is non-negotiable for the majority of UK businesses during the COVID-19 lockdown, so your business should take all the necessary steps to deliver its best performance despite the change in circumstances. We have outlined the ways in which to make the transition as smooth as possible below.
Make Cyber Security Your Number One Priority
Unfortunately for businesses, COVID-19 is not the only imminent threat to its immediate survival. With the upsurge in employees working from home follows an increased threat of cybercrime.
The first place to start is by ensuring that every employee working remotely from a device is accessing your organisation’s network via a virtual private network (VPN). By doing so, your business is protecting all data, files, and applications from being seen or tampered with by unwelcome parties. Read this guide on how to set up a VPN for additional clarity on securing your connection.
Additionally, ensure that all devices used by employees for work purposes encrypt data whilst at rest. This will help your business continue to be GDPR compliant by protecting important data should it be lost or stolen.
Phishing attacks on businesses have risen 667% since the start of March as cybercriminals cash in on the worldwide epidemic and it is guaranteed that they will continue to target vulnerable businesses amid the Coronavirus outbreak.
Educate your employees on how to spot phishing scams. The main lessons are:
For more guidance on cybersecurity, read our blog on How To Protect Your Business From Cyber Attacks.
Set Up Tech Infrastructure
Ensuring that your business has sufficient tech infrastructure in place is imperative for effective remote working. Whilst it is hoped that social distancing will be somewhat short-lived, there are no concrete answers or timelines just yet, so your business needs to invest in making it work whatever happens.
If your workers require online access, your business must first gather data on which employees have reliable and fast access to the internet. It might seem obvious, but there are still many individuals that don’t have access to high-speed internet. If so, your business will need to invest some time and money into establishing or upgrading internet access plans for some of its workers.
Next comes the devices required to transition to a fully remote working process for your workforce. There are a few options available to your business.
Communication Is Key
Videoconferencing is already playing an important role for businesses trying to continue with daily operations and firms all over the world are investing in video conferencing apps. There are plenty of options available, such as:
Microsoft Teams: in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, Microsoft will offer a free six month trial of paid Teams plans.
Zoom: this leading video call software will allow your employees to partake in face-to-face video calls with up to 100 participants.
Google Hangouts Meet: Google’s video meetings can be attended by up to 250 people.
Videocalls aside, there are several other great apps that your business can use for real-time chat amongst its employees. Slack and Basecamp are both great apps that will help your workers connect regularly.
Given that your business is now distributed across various locations, there will need to be a fresh focus on managing projects as, despite the pandemic, the show must go on! Trello, Asana, and Monday are some of the most popular project management tools available to businesses and if your business is concerned about productivity taking a blow, any one of these apps could provide the perfect solution.
Flexible working has become far more popular in recent years, but there are still many businesses in the UK that up until the pandemic had resisted the pull to work remotely. If you are feeling nervous about the prospect of having employees work from home, there are time management tools available that can help your business keep track of the productivity of your workforce.
Tools such as Hub Staff and Time Doctor can enable your business to accurately track what its employees are doing during work hours and features included in plans are screen recording, online timesheets, and employee monitoring.
Cloud-Based Software Is The Answer
Cloud computing will be one of the biggest components in enabling your business to work remotely, especially at such short notice. With the help of cloud-based software, your employees will be able to work from any location and they will be able to access all the information they would usually be privy to whilst at the office.
The cloud enables increased collaboration within organisations and thanks to cloud storage, remote workers can easily manage files, share information and collaborate on important projects – all whilst sitting at home with a significantly lessened risk of falling ill to COVID-19. Google Drive and Dropbox both provide ample amounts of storage and they can be particularly useful when sharing large files that won’t be suitable for emails.
Training Is Crucial
Whilst technology serves as the ingredients required to work remotely, it is the recipe itself that will make the whole thing work. Investing in both technology and training is essential if your business is to start operating efficiently once again. It is important that all employees know how to use any newly introduced software, so provide training guides or online webinars to help educate users on how to use the new technology. Screen-sharing is another great way to demonstrate how new apps are to be used within the business.
Working remotely might not be ideal, but for the businesses that don’t have an employee base compiled of essential workers, there is no other choice during the COVID-19 epidemic. By taking the time to implement the right processes now, your business will see the benefits of working remotely and perhaps once the outbreak has finally subsided, working from home might be something your company feels more comfortable with moving forward.
For more SME advice regarding the Coronavirus situation, take a look at the additional resources on our Coronavirus Hub.
1 April, 2020