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This past week has been a busy one for us, and not just because of the coronavirus, which is impacting every person on the planet. In the Technology field, we have found ourselves shifting our resources to answering questions about how to move employees from their office to their personal homes and have them work most effectively. Putting aside how to most productively use web meeting services, the questions we’re being asked include, “How do I allow my employees to have the same setup at home as they do in the office?” or, “How quickly can you have a remote work environment ready, with the proper hardware, to start working ASAP?”

Even for companies that already have a remote working setup, this can be stressful due to the sheer numbers of employees that have to be “spun up” with their specific computer configuration ready to go. IT departments simply aren’t able to order, configure and send out new setups quickly enough. For companies that have never had their employees work outside of their offices, knowing what to do first, and how to do it best, can be a daunting and scary task. So what are the best practices to engage when looking to get your workforce to work from home most effectively, and what are your options?

  1. Assess what will be most essential to work remotely, with highest efficiency. If you look around your office there are tools that you use every day in order for your team to work well. From conference rooms to the postage meter, from Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce and Quickbooks, to the simple ability to walk down the hall and chat with a co-worker or visit the break room, all aspects of your office environment and culture may seem necessary for your success. But how can you replicate that to the best of your ability? The truth is that some aspects of your workplace simply can’t be replicated. Having face-to-face interactions can be “simulated” with a web meeting, but it doesn’t take the place of being able to sit down with a co-worker and have a heart-to-heart. But you know what? That’s okay, in these times. First, you must determine what’s most essential for your business to keep running. Then ask and find out what can be used to emulate these aspects of the working day and see what can be used as a surrogate.
  2. Determine what facilities your employees have in place at home today. Most employees, it has been assumed, have high-speed internet access available to them. But as one of our clients shared, an employee claimed to have internet, only to find out that it was his cell phone plan which didn’t have the capability to become a “hot spot”. For specific answers, create a survey and ask what each employee has available, and make sure you get detailed. For example, ask what internet speeds they have and if they have a comfortable place to work for several hours during the day, or do they need some additional tools to make this easier for them?
  3. Make sure you understand how each employee feels about working from home. While some workers have expressed that the idea of working from home is exciting and a time for celebrating, for others it feels incredibly stressful. Some people find work to be a respite and others a “holy place,” where work is work and home is home. Though remote working is not mandatory everywhere at this time, that could soon change. So find out if your employees need anything extra that will help relieve their worries, letting them know that working from home, isn’t working alone. Being supportive to your employees will go a long way to making the transition much easier.
  4. Start NOW. Experts are saying that we’re looking at having our workforce at home for a minimum of 8 weeks. to that end, manufacturers are stressed and not able to keep up with demand for new computers and other equipment that every company is asking for. We are hearing it could be 4 weeks before some equipment can be shipped out to be readied for configuration. If you need to order extra hardware, you may be looking at a long wait. If your employees have desktops or laptops, they need to be ready to go.

What are my options to start moving to the WFH environment?

A. In-house, you can make sure your IT staff can easily replicate your services quickly and efficiently. Tools such as Intune and Autopilot will help make it move quickly. You’re able to install software and policies, and remove local admin rights at setup rather than have to give each remote worker the ability to manually do their own setup or give administrator permissions unnecessarily.

B. Outsource hardware configuration, setup and maintenance. Companies that have found themselves having to take care of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of laptops may find that the right solution is to work with a company that specializes in that task. They have the ability to scale quickly and send necessary tech out faster than an in-house staff that is not setup to handle a sudden deluge of configurations. Be warned, the above two options may run into a lack of available equipment so as our previous warning, start now!

C. Virtualization. Rather than building a laptop or PC for every employee, including customizing, supporting, upgrading and refreshing hardware and software to meet individual demands, IT administrators can quickly provision a virtual workspace with pre-licensed software in literally minutes that meets individual employee’s requirements without the need for each to have expensive computers. This solution can be a godsend to companies that may not have the resources or are unwilling to provision capital for employees to work from home. The ability to use a web browser and have access to every application needed to do their jobs quickly can make sense for some companies. Having the ability to turn off and on services and terminate access on the fly can be essential for many. For companies that may be “trying this out” and want to observe if having a remote workforce is something they want to pursue long-term, Virtualization can be the best choice today.

Each solution has it’s merits and if it’s right for you, we can help. Let us know if you’d like to understand your options and how each might would work best for your company.