Covid-19 has been the most disruptive crisis to impact UK businesses, society and the wider economy in peacetime history. The virus has proven itself more damaging and deadly than anyone had predicted just a few months ago. As a result, thousands of businesses have been given no option but to close office doors and implement a blanket remote working strategy for all staff.
About the author
Sridhar Iyengar is Managing Director for Zoho Europe.
What’s more, due to the extremely rapid rate in which things have escalated, many businesses in the UK have had no more than one to two weeks to overhaul their entire internal operations strategy, shifting to a 100% remote working model.
Whilst it is true that flexible working initiatives have been a growing trend in an increasing amount of companies over the past few years, thousands of businesses are simply not ready to prepare an entire workforce for remote working.
Many are in a position where they do not have the IT infrastructure and apps to overhaul operations. They also lack the collaboration tools and technology to cope with the change to remote working, and they are ill-equipped with the resources to re-train staff on how to use new systems. Additionally, managing tasks like payroll, analytics, finance, sales as well as keeping data safe and ensuring workplace cohesion via video conferences over the course of half-a-month can be extremely time consuming.
A recent survey from private equity firm Leonne International found that more than a quarter of business decision makers believe their company lacks skilled workers to manage “widespread and long-term remote working for staff”. At the same time, four in ten businesses say they intend to increase their IT and tech investment to support their employees working in home isolation and almost half agree businesses should be more open to collaboration at this trying time.
The good news is that there are plenty of services and technologies available to ensure that companies can continue operating relatively smoothly, despite the disruption.
With modern developments in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) capabilities, and cloud technologies, for example, the world has never been in a better position to deal with a crisis which has confined so many to their own homes for the foreseeable future. One of the most difficult periods for businesses which are fortunate enough to survive this awful time and the looming recession, is now. Retraining employees, habituating to brand new services and applications, and recreating a remote version of office culture is half the battle in maintaining productivity and even profitability in your business.
However, engaging a ‘brand new’ remote working strategy does not mean you have to throw your company culture out with the bath water. In fact, web-based business tool providers and software development companies have spent years ensuring their technology runs as smoothly and safely as possible, allowing employees to switch seamlessly between remote and office-based environments, without tarnishing or disrupting company culture or communication channels.
Technology cannot replace culture, but it can complement it. Culture can still be promoted remotely and this can be down to strong leadership setting the tone and ensuring the same cultural aspects are promoted among the entire company. It is still true, however, that adopting a plethora of new services in just a couple of weeks can be difficult, and there are a number of things businesses and employees should look out for when implementing a 100% remote working model:
Understanding the technology
Without teaching TechRadar readers to suck eggs, it’s important that all your employees, colleagues or even managers are up to date on what technology is required for your business operations, and, more importantly, what each type of technology is.
For example, unless already implemented, it’s essential that key decision makers are aware of the difference between Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and which is required based on your company offering and requirements.
Of course, implementing a remote working strategy has to start with the right technology. It can be so easy for operations managers to select a range of different online or software tools from an abundance of different providers based on user ratings. This usually results in a ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ of an IT infrastructure – with different SaaS applications running different departments or functions of a business. This makes it impossible to view data across an organisation within any timescale that is useful to make strategic business decisions.
This should not be the case, and businesses should ensure that all applications and software belong to one provider, on one platform. Usability is also a key factor to consider when selecting any new vendor, especially as staff need to adapt quickly and while working remotely.
Investing in online resources
A recent report from a UK think tank found that one third of employees have experienced their video conference system crashing in the past three weeks. This is unsurprising considering the huge influx of remote workers and the considerable strain this is having on existing home IT resources.
Organisations which are facing consistent IT disruptions have clearly failed to adapt to the online requirement of remote working. This requires a suitable internet bandwidth (a household containing 2-4 remote workers should consider a download speed of no less than 100 to 200 Mbps).
Furthermore, outdated hardware previously used for nothing more than web surfing may not be adequate for home working. Organisations should consider updating employee computers or webcams with a modern equivalent if constant problems are hindering performance or productivity (As a rule of thumb, system specification of at least 4GB of RAM, a modern computer processing unit (CPU) with 1.6GHz processing speed, and a hard drive or solid state drive with at least 100gb of space is ideal).
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK, we have noticed an increasing amount of cyber criminals attempting to take advantage of businesses new widespread remote working policy. A surge in unsecured, new devices and increased home device-use, has given cyber attackers a plethora of new outlets to engage, hack or corrupt, meaning business data is more vulnerable than ever.
Utilizing a platform service provider which prioritizes security and privacy is essential. Things to look out for when considering if a service provider is safe, is: do they run advertisements? – if so, it’s likely that customer data is being used in some way for personalized ads, so your personal and company data is not just stored in your own IT infrastructure, but also in the ad-service providers for your platform.
It’s also worth considering whether the company you work for has their own data center – if so, you can be more confident that the utmost due diligence and security procedures are taking place in maintaining the data security of the services you utilize.
Not everyone can get to grips with new technology straight away. So it’s important that training sessions via video conference are offered to all employees, so that everyone can get to grips with new technology as fast as possible. This will not only assist with productivity, but also company security – it’s easy to forget that the influx of remote working encourages opportunistic cyber criminals to target employees who may not be well versed in simple cyber security or fraud detection measures.
Instant access to online advice and tech support is also invaluable at this time, which is why we at Zoho have boosted our online 24/7 tech support service.