10 tips for small businesses wanting to work from home
27 March 2020
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The association of IT professional, ACS, has pooled its knowledge and come up with 10 tips to help your business maximise working-from-home arrangements over a three-month timeline.
>The tips cover sharing your business plans and approach to minimising COVID-19 risk with your customers, solutions to ramp up internet bandwidth at a team member’s home, collaboration tools to maximise efficiency working remotely, cyber security hygiene, and backup plans.
- Take precautions to protect your own health and that of staff and clients. This includes reinforcing regular handwashing; a minimum social distancing of 1.5 metres (continually checking for updates on current Health Department requirements); refraining from the handshake culture; use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing at least 60 per cent alcohol; use of handkerchiefs/tissues when sneezing and coughing; promoting awareness of 14 days of self-isolation for people returning from overseas; maximising cashless payments and online orders. All non-secure doors should be locked open during business hours to reduce contact.
- Share with your customers your business plans and approach to minimising COVID-19 risks.
- Document your chain of command and key person risk. If the boss is impacted by COVID-19, who is the 2IC (second in charge) who will then be delegated day-to-day business decisions? This should be applied down to three levels and ensure every team member is aware. Expand this approach to your subject-matter experts. Who are they, and who do you contact if your primary expert is not available? Again, apply three levels down.
- Understand your mission-critical functions and think through how they could be performed from team members working at home this week. It may require reallocating desktops, laptops and mobile phones across team members. If your primary service is break-fix, think through how you will manage contact with your clients/customers.
- Load testing: Don’t leave it until you’re forced to work remotely to realise your weaknesses.
- Pick a day this week and have as many of your team as possible work from home and see how the network performs.
- If you are expecting staff to log in using their own internet plans, assessments need to be done straight away to test whether the home plans are capable of supporting business applications. Upload speed is more important than download speed. Adding 4G to the business for remote laptop access needs to be decided earlier rather than later.
- This might be the first time that a couple works from home at the same time. Watch out for children coming home from school and jumping onto Netflix, Disney or other streaming services. If your internet is crawling, refrain from video during web conferencing. If the participants know each other, then you may need no video at all.
- Have standard operating times and designated work areas for how the household will function to accommodate working from home.
- Mobility and hardware. If you do not have already, and where financial capacity enables, provide:
- Laptops to team members.
- A headset for audio conferences, and optionally a web camera for video. One tip is that audio and video conferences tend to work better using a phone app than a computer.
- Consider a cloud remote access platform, but make sure, if you opt for this, you’re legally using it.
- Digital daily stand-ups: consistent communication with all staff, what is changing and also what isn’t. Facilitate cross-functional collaboration to problem-solve rather than trying to come up with a solution in a silo.
- Collaboration through messaging technology and tools that will aid tracking team productivity including inbound calls, emails, critical requests and tasks within concurrent projects may also be crucial.
- Specific productivity tools that can be deployed quickly and are intuitive interfaces to aid adoption for new users include Skype, Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Miro, Hubspot, TimeDoctor, Click Up and Microsoft Teams.
- If you are already using Office 365, then use Teams for instant messaging and video conferencing with your co-workers. If your IT partner also uses Office 365, then you can allow Guest Access.
- Business as usual (when business isn’t usual)
- Quality employees will be your greatest assets. Look after them and check in regularly to see how they are travelling.
- Accept normal business operations may quickly become abnormal. Accept that team members won’t be able to achieve the same level of productivity and ergonomic working from home as in the office.
- Don’t panic. Expand your business if your competitors vacate the market. Keep in touch with your clients.
- Directly connect with all your key customers on your preferred social channels such as Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.
- Cyber security
- Company-owned devices are preferred as they should be compliant with your corporate security policy.
- Data on all devices should be encrypted.
- Antivirus software is installed, up to date and monitored.
- A compliant, supported and up-to-date operating system is installed.
- The latest security updates are installed.
- Monitoring equipment so the organisation can respond to identified threats.
- Use two-factor authentication. Enable multifactor authenticator 2 Factor Authentication or Real VNC or TeamViewer.
- Ensure your team has a heightened vigilance for phishing emails and scams.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi.
- Ensure that staff connect to extranets via a VPN (a VPN can also simplify remote access).
- Ensure your team have a working etiquette around password strength and rotation policies.
- Back-up plans
- Ensure any internal servers in your workplace have redundant power supplies so systems stay operational in instances of power outages or other interruptions.
- Data loss prevention (DLP) should include having all files needed to stay productive in the cloud. For example, everyone with a Microsoft Account has OneDrive storage, every Gmail account has Google Drive, every Apple account has iCloud.
- If you have on-premises servers, where are you keeping your offsite backups? Is it time to use two offsite backups to maximise recovery should there be a site closure without notice?