As Coronavirus spreads throughout the UK, businesses up and down the country are now working remotely. Here’s what you need to know and do to enable an effective strategy.
Following recent updates in the COVID-19 outbreak, many workforces are now working remotely where possible in line with the government’s advice. This is putting increased pressure on business leaders to ensure their staff are ready and able to carry on their duties as normal, in order to minimise impact on operations and ensure business continuity.
Whether you’re just getting started or need to bolster existing policies, this article will help you put the right foundations in place.
New law promoting self-isolation
The UK Government has set out plans to support businesses who may be impacted during this period. This includes measures to provide statutory sick pay (SSP) relief for SMEs, small business grants, and a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
For further advice and guidance on Coronavirus for employers, please refer to the following websites:
- ACAS – Coronavirus advice for employers and employees
- Gov.UK – COVID-19: guidance for employers and businesses
The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is also urging employers to encourage their staff to work from home wherever possible – whether they’re sick or not. It is also advised that any person showing symptoms should be sent home from work to self-isolate for 7 days, and anyone living with a person showing symptoms should also isolate for a further 7 days.
With this in mind, your businesses should ensure staff are able to work from home where possible to minimise disruption.
What is remote working?
Remote working refers to the increasing practice of working from a location outside of your physical business premises. It is closely linked with the concept of flexible working, which gives employees the ability to work anytime from any location.
In recent years, there has been huge rise in the number of firms and people working flexibly and remotely due to advances in technology and changing attitudes within the modern workplace. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 1.5 million people in the UK now work from home – compared to just over 600,000 in 2009. Furthermore, studies repeatedly show that companies who adopt remote and flexible working enjoy greater staff satisfaction and increased productivity compared to those who don’t.
What systems and tools will you need?
Every business is dependent on its people and access to systems, files and data. This means you must have a business continuity plan (BCP) in place. This should detail how your business can remain functional in the event of disruption due to unforeseen events, along with steps you can take to minimise impact.
To enable an effective remote working strategy, you will need to make sure your employees have sufficient internet connectivity at home. If not, mobile broadband devices such as mobile broadband routers and dongles are easy to set up and use. With flexible plans and short-term contracts available, they’re great as a temporary and affordable alternative to a fixed internet connection. Alternatively, you may consider using or upgrading mobile data plans for any workers with a 4G enabled business mobile.
If your IT infrastructure is already in the cloud, then your employees should be able to access systems as normal. However, if any of your systems are physical and located on site then you may need to install a VPN to ensure your corporate network can be accessed securely. With many different VPN service providers available, you should look for a business grade solution that can handle multiple users at a time.
Lastly, you need to think about how your staff will communicate with stakeholders such as your customers and each other. If you’ve already made the move to VoIP telephony, then keeping in touch with the outside world can be done from virtually anywhere that has an internet connection. Unlike traditional phone systems, VoIP allows you to make, answer and transfer calls via your desktop or mobile – which means you can carry on working seamlessly whether you’re in the office or on the road.
For internal communications, collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams provide text, voice and web conference facilities in a singular desktop application. This means you can make calls, send one to one or group messages, and set up virtual meetings almost instantly. You can also create to do lists, assign tasks, as well as being able to share and edit documents in real-time. Plus, there’s a free version of Teams available for up to 300 users, even if you don’t have an Office 365 subscription. The application is quick and easy to set up and can be downloaded here. Alternatively, Microsoft have released a free 6-month trial of Teams that lets an IT Admin roll out the application to users. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we can help you get started.
Supporting your users
If you’re implementing new technology or different ways of working in order to provide your team with the ability to work remotely, you may want to prepare some FAQs and guides to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Whether you’re new to remote working or not, allowing employees to work from home may present some IT issues as each user set up will vary. You must be ready to respond to these to ensure they can work effectively, and support their productivity.
Contact us today
As specialists in IT and Communication services for SMEs and IT teams, we can help you prepare your business continuity plan, implement flexible working arrangements and provide expert IT support for your users. To find out more, please get in touch with us today and we will be more than happy to advise you further.