Category: Tips

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed business for millions of us. Lots of our workers have been sent home to work.

This creates a new dilemma:
How do we make sure that everyone is productive even when they’re not in our offices?

In truth, it’s not hard as long as you have a plan and know how to follow up with your newly out-of-the-office staff.

What are some steps I can take?
  • Create clear goals, every day. Every day, start with an expectation of what will get done. Look at your year’s goals, then break that out to the month, then the week, then to days. There will always be changes in the plan, but that’s the best place to start.
  • Start every day with a meeting. Every morning, the whole team should be on a call to talk about the day’s plan. If your staff is too large, break out by department. The most important part is that everyone gets a chance to talk about challenges and the day’s goals. Remind everyone of the week’s goals as well.
  • Post goals on the group chat board. Put the goals up on the group chat or management boards. That gives everyone a place to go if they get sidetracked. You can also put up the future goals and the goals that were missed recently.
  • Have a Project B. There should be a second project that your team can work on if they get stuck on the main one. For example, if they’re building an app for a client and suddenly need to know something, they need to email the client (or you) and wait. Have a second project, maybe a website or another app. If you have a law office and your paralegals are at home, have a number of documents in the queue to work on. If one hits a roadblock, they can start on a different one.
  • Use the cloud. Keep documents in the cloud so everyone can access what they need, no matter where they are or when they’re working. The cloud is only as secure as your passwords, so institute a strong password policy. Make sure files are neatly organized so everyone can find everything, but the cloud is the place to work.
  • Encourage collaboration. Using Zoom, Skype, or any number of other meeting apps, your team can work together. Invite everyone to a group lunch one day a week to just grab a bite and chat. The more your people feel connected, even remotely, the better they’ll work together.
  • Everyone in. Keep everyone in the loop. No one can be left out of meetings. If it’s completely outside their purview, make sure they’re invited, but their attendance isn’t mandatory. It’s very easy to feel shunned when you’re not face-to-face. It can even make people feel paranoid. Invite everyone, but only the essential personnel to any project needs to be there.
  • Be available. Make sure that you’re available to answer questions as much as possible. Have your chat function open. Make sure your phone is on. Get email notifications. Schedule “office” hours where you’re available to help people grow and learn.
  • Assign mentors. If your team isn’t used to being remote workers, mentors can help them stay on task. Simple things, like prioritizing the day, staying focused, even setting up a desk, can seem daunting when you’ve been working in an office for decades.
  • Use video for new projects or skills. Create instructional videos that show your team new skills or introduce new projects. This will let them feel like you’re right in front of them and will give them something to look back at if they get lost.
  • Share contracts and customer documents. Letting your staff see what’s been promised to a client makes it easier for them to have buy-in. It lends clarity to their work. When they’re in an office and can simply ask the boss, it’s easier. When they’re at home, often working by themselves, seeing what the whole project is supposed to look like can help a lot. It also conveys trust.
Productivity Software

There are literally thousands of programs and web based apps to help your team work together. The big ones, like Microsoft Teams and Google G Suite, are everywhere, but any search for collaboration tools will get you endless pages of companies that have solutions for you.

The key is to look for what your team needs. If you’re dealing mostly in documents, Google is great. If you’re creating apps or doing graphic design work, you might need a specialized collaboration tool.

If you’re not sure, ask some business contacts or look in trade magazines or on trade websites. Even a Google search, like “collaboration tools for app designers”, should get you some options.

Keeping It Secure

Start right from the beginning with a strong password policy. There are lots of random password generators and vaults in the world such 1Password and LastPass, some of which have free packages. Otherwise, set down some rules and teach your team to create tough passwords.

It might be important to put everyone on a VPN, especially if they’re sending sensitive information back and forth, such as accounting data or medical office records.

Staying Organized

The most difficult part of working in an office, let alone remotely, is keeping the files, images, documents, and more all neatly organized is difficult.

Take the time to create a set of standards for creating anything. What to name files, how to date them, how to record versions, etc. should all be in your policies. Write the policies out and speak to your team about them. This way, everything is standardized and will make it much easier to find things if you’re not the person who created the original file.

A Note on “Productivity Trackers”

Some bosses like “productivity trackers.” These are programs that take a snapshot of the employee’s screen randomly, track what websites they go to, and more.

Many employees find these offensive. They are, essentially, spyware. They allow the employer to see everything that an employee does. They’re only supposed to work when the employee is “on the clock”, but many of these jobs are salaried or flat rate contracts.

From our perspective, if you distrust your staff that much, you need a new staff. If you create a list of daily goals and those goals are met, that’s really all you need to worry about. If you think that staff can get more done, add more goals.

This type of software is a very clear sign that you don’t trust your people. That’s not going to create the loyalty you need to make remote working successful.

The companies that sell this type of product will tell you how innocuous it is. Consider, do you want someone to be able to take a screenshot of your computer any time they want?

It’s easy to keep your team productive and working well together. Over-communicate, give them lots of tools, and trust they’ll do the very best they can every time.

Everound has been successfully engaging and supporting businesses to adapt to this new era of remote workers. From every facet of a company’s IT, we can assist, from employee experience to data center to cyber security and much more. If you need assistance transitioning your company to a work from home environment, we can help. Contact us today using the contact form below or by calling us at +1 717.312.5890!





    COVID-19 hit, and all your employees went home to work. We all thought this would be temporary, last only a few weeks, maybe a month… Employers are now seeing remote work is possible. Users can be efficient from a spare bedroom. What does this mean for IT? How can we make sure our company is secure? How do we optimize our budget? Let’s talk.

    Define what will need to be accessed by employees within the LAN.
    Step 1: What and How are employees accessing work data since COVID-19?

    Let’s review what will need to be accessed by employees. Commonly, file servers are still used by many small to mid-sized businesses for their low cost and easy management. While this is ideal when employees are onsite, you are now over utilizing your firewall with VPN and slowing transmission speeds from your users downloading and constantly accessing large files. Solutions such as Egnyte, Dropbox and SharePoint can offload your data to a secure cloud while retaining IT security and disaster management over the files.

    Next, you have applications on local servers. Consider VDI or Remote Desktop to minimize access. By using VDI, we can narrow down VPN access to one entry point and control the traffic. VDI will also give you the ability to increase resources to the backend of the infrastructure to, you guessed it, improve your user experience!

    The key to success here is to keep thinking, constantly review your environment. What do your users need access to? Ask why. Shutdown, remove or lockdown the areas that will not need to be accessed remotely.

    Decide what applications can be moved to a cloud environment.
    Step 2: Did COVID-19 strengthen our move to the cloud?

    Can we offload old applications? How many times are we hanging onto legacy apps or databases for no reason other than lack of time or the disruption to users? Well now disruption is everyday! Now is the time to review these systems. Is there a better cloud app out there? In most cases, a couple minutes of “Googling” lands you a solution someone with the same problem decided to fix and sell.

    Selling these applications to the CEO can be easy. Remind him how Joe spends 3 hours each day connecting to VPN, opening an SRSS report, running a report, exporting to CSV, formatting, and saving to PDF only to email it to 30 colleagues. This new app automatically emails the report every morning and there’s a mobile app! Sold! Another server decommissioned and more users off VPN.

    Spend the time to understand what your users need to be successful. Use this knowledge to present new solutions.

    Review your security and device management. Do you still have the same control?
    Step 3: Review security and management since COVID-19

    Are you still in control? How are you handling group policies and windows patching? The traditional SCCM build isn’t going to work if no one is connecting to VPN. Consider solutions such as Azure Admin Center, Datto, PolicyPAK, ManageEngine or VMware Workspace One. All provide many tools to help with RMM, group policies, software installs and windows patching for your remote users.

    What can you reduce or remove from your internal network which is no longer useful?
    Step 4: Reduce from COVID-19

    Identify areas of your network that are no longer used. We’ve just looked at areas where you will need to spend money to improve the experience of your employees and also to keep them secure. Now we need to identify where we can reduce cost.

    Look at your circuits, do you have empty offices or servers with less applications that can be combined. Review the use of your PRIs and VOIP platform. Finding areas to reduce cost and using that budget to optimize your infrastructure with new technology is proof of a successful IT professional.

    Speak with your CEO. Understand the long-term vision
    Wrap up

    Key to any changes you make, is to be aligned with your company. Speak with the President, CEO or board. Understand the needs and direction they plan to take long term. Your agility to adapt to their vision will solidify the success of your department.

     

    Additional reading can be found here https://www.cio.com/article/3545534/sharp-it-budget-cuts-expected-in-wake-of-covid-19.html.

    Everound has been successfully engaging and supporting businesses to adapt to this new era of remote workers. From every facet of a company’s IT, we can assist, from employee experience to data center to cybersecurity and much more. If you need assistance transitioning your company to a work from home environment, we can help. Contact us today using the contact form below or by calling us at +1 717.312.5890!