Emergency-Induced Remote Work: Is Your Organization Ready?

by Aware HQ, on 3/12/20 1:52 PM

More than thirty of the largest global companies like Apple, Box, Twitter are now limiting employee travel or asking employees to work from home to reduce the spread of the headline-topping strand of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

While the remote work trend is steadily growing, most benefits of remote work (e.g. increased productivity, decreased turnover) occur when organizations adopt it as a strategic tactic. However, emergency situations may warrant an immediate remote work mandate. In these cases, telling employees to work remotely isn’t as simple as sending an organization-wide email.

Organizations must consider important variables like security, privacy and compliance, yet fewer than 10% of global leaders believe that they have the right skills to thrive in the digital economy. If your organization is traditionally a work-in-the-office environment and now faces the requirement of a telecommuting scenario, it’s a fair question to wonder if your organization is truly ready for a remote workplace.

Your organization should quickly pull together a cross-functional team that includes business-line leaders, IT, HR, legal and compliance to plan for different scenarios and optimize execution. Here are some critical, baseline questions this team should consider:

Do your employees have a secure and private manner of working?

When working remotely, employees can't easily stand up and walk to a colleague's desk with a business question. As a result, they rely on digital communication tools to connect with one another, share ideas or find answers to business problems. 

Audit the available IT hardware and software for employees, close any existing adoption gaps and ensure previously excluded employee populations can gain access. Make sure your employees have access to a VPN solution and a suite of endorsed digital tools that prevents them from turning to shadow IT solutions.  

Sharing information and resources greatly impacts employee productivity and efficiency, but organizations must take critical steps to protect sensitive or confidential information from getting in the wrong hands. Ensure that a data loss prevention (DLP) strategy exists for all of your digital tools, including collaboration solutions like Workplace from Facebook, Yammer, Slack and Microsoft Teams.

How will you maintain healthy productivity levels?

Remote work can feel isolating, especially to employees who typically work in an office setting. If emergency situations are long-term, this isolation can affect a worker’s engagement with their job. Build a communication strategy to ensure teams not only share information and collaborate, but—most importantly—connect with one another.

Hunting for information or resources can also drain productivity. Without the ability to ask a peer in the cubicle next door, remote workers often struggle with where and how to find answers or resources. In fact, 39% of remote workers say that they struggle accessing important documents or information. Leverage digital tools like Workplace from Facebook, Microsoft Teams, Yammer or Slack to connect colleagues and empower efficient, real-time information sharing.

Additionally, take steps to proactively manage your employee community. Remote or not, workplace distractions like toxic employees or workplace gossip affects employee productivity. As an organization leader, remote work makes it even more challenging to keep keep a pulse on the sentiment and health of your employee community. Consider choosing a content moderation and qualitative insights solution for your digital collaboration tools. Tools like this help you quickly identify inappropriate or toxic conversations, as well as gauge overall employee sentiment and understand topics of concern so you can respond swiftly and appropriately in order to maintain healthy productivity levels.

What is your strategy for managing regulatory risk with increased use of digital tools?

In the recently published Harvard Business Review article, What’s Your Company’s Emergency Remote-Work Plan?, organization leaders are asked to…

“Note which roles and duties: 1) Can be done, even partially, without a physical presence in the workplace, 2) Cannot be done, even somewhat, outside of the physical office, and 3) Not sure.”

At first glance, legal or compliance concerns may keep some duties in the second or third bucket—meaning they cannot be completed remotely. However, by ensuring that your digital communication tools have a searchable archive, retention capabilities, compliance monitoring, and the ability to hold data of interest; you can empower your employees to complete their tasks at home while remaining compliant to industry regulations like HIPAA, PCI or FINRA. This protects both your organization’s level of productivity standards and manages potential risk exposure.

Emergency-induced remote work can create anxiety—especially if the requirement comes with limited time to prepare. However, well-executed remote work strategies have many proven benefits for both the employee and the employer. So, time spent working through these strategies will pay off in both the short and long run.

Topics:Enterprise Collaboration