How prepared is your business to deal with unforeseen disasters? This question has become incredibly relevant over the last few months, and in light of recent events, businesses are reevaluating existing business continuity planning and work from home policies designed to protect them from natural disasters, health threats and so on.
Although markets in China and around the world have taken a hit, the full impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has yet to be fully felt by businesses. As employers across North America begin to consider what precautions they need to take and how best to address the spread of the disease, a whole load of new considerations come into play.
Schools have already been forced to close their doors in the United States, and the likelihood is that companies will be asking their staff to work from home as much as possible. Enbridge Gas have already started to advise their staff to take their laptops home with them, in case they need to work from home with little notice, while Google and Twitter in the US have already implemented home-working protocols. While for some this will be a welcome break from the daily grind, plenty of businesses are not properly prepared for a fully remote way of working and will need to get up to speed pretty quickly.
Additionally, the outbreak is expected to have a relatively serious impact on the global supply chain, with the FDA warning of potential medical supply shortages, and the Harvard Business Review predicting that thousands of companies in Europe and the US might have to scale back or shut down manufacturing completely by mid-March.
Thankfully, technology can provide a number of practical solutions available to help companies with home working and in mitigating supply chain problems. With the latest technology, we are providing quick deployment solutions that can help businesses protect staff and keep their doors open.
Working from home
Get planning in early
A vital piece of the puzzle both for employees and employers. Working out what you need to get your job done remotely allows everyone more time to sort out potential fixes. Setting up contact databases, mirroring desktops, and ensuring that staff have the appropriate software and hardware to work effectively from home should be done well before time.
Research the proper tools
Working remotely can actually often be more, rather than less productive for staff, but companies need to know what tools to use to get the best out of their remote teams. Tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Airtable and Zoom allow teams to stay connected wherever they are in the world, and the extra hours employees gain without having to commute can be a huge benefit for organizations. These solutions and others like Office 365 will provide easy online programs to share data and collaborate with others on any device, anytime, and anywhere.
Remote and Mobile Security
Thinking about security is vital when it comes to remote working, as taking work outside the office, particularly in hard copy, understandably increases risk. Companies should look into multi-factor authentication (MFA), mobile device management (MDM), and secure online portals as security measures they can take. A conversation with your IT departments or providers about what extra security is necessary during this time is crucial to protection. What gaps are in the existing infrastructure to support a company-wide work from home initiative?
Staff education on security awareness training is also incredibly important, to help everyone understand best practices and the increased risk of working on potentially confidential documents in a remote environment.
Replace in-person meetings with teleworking
One simple thing that businesses can do right away is to replace as many, if not all in-person meetings with video conferencing. The tech in the shape of Microsoft Teams, Skype and Google Hangouts already exists, so options are available for people to come together for a meeting no matter where they work, as well as again often increasing productivity.
When you aren’t just a few desks away from your colleagues and your bosses, good communication can get lost quite quickly. Using remote communication tools like Microsoft Teams can help, but staff and employers will need to be mindful of the need to be extra clear when it comes to communicating. Being transparent about workloads and schedules, and using shared calendars is also an important step, as not everyone will work from home in the same way.
Embrace the Cloud
Cloud-based working can be an excellent tool for collaboration even when not in the middle of a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. With line of business applications offering online alternatives, businesses can function entirely in the cloud, handling client relationships, orders and fulfillment, accounting, and operations. From accessible storage to shared documents and joint working, moving to a cloud-based system can make a huge difference for businesses, and will certainly help with a much larger remote workforce.
The good news is that software-as-a-service should be able to weather the coronavirus (COVID-19) storm without too much trouble. The bad news is that global supply chains will be seriously impacted. Apple recently reopened their factories in China in order to deal with the problem, but even risk-averse companies like Microsoft have reported that quarterly sales will drop as a result of the virus’s impact on global supply chains. Luckily, companies have been more vigilant about inventory since the SARS epidemic in 2002-03, and most organizations trading around the world have increased the inventory they stockpile.
The best thing to do is to speak to your technology provider early and find out what your business can do to mitigate any negative impacts that delays or problems up the chain might cause you. Innovative technology and AI can help businesses prepare themselves for a huge variety of unforeseen occurrences, and even simple things like advising customers and being ready for an increase in customer service queries and complaints can make a difference.
When it comes to a global disease outbreak, being prepared as early as possible makes all the difference. While supply chain problems may be inevitable, technology can help provide innovative and reliable solutions for your business when it comes to security and remote working. We hope the above ideas and advice can help you protect both your employees and your business during this uncertain time.