Essential Technology for Remote Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 outbreak has forced millions of workers around the globe, across different industries, to work from home. Companies like Amazon, Facebook, and Google have all asked employees to work remotely for the foreseeable future, in attempts to curb infection rates. Smaller companies have also followed suit, as most countries order employees from non-essential businesses to stay home. While before the outbreak, remote work was considered a perk, the virus has now made it a daily routine.
A large-scale experiment has followed, whereby companies are having to adapt to having all their employees in separate locations. Moreover, companies have to deal with new forms of communication and generally disjointed processes.
That said, there are considerable advantages to having remote employees. A 2015 experiment conducted by Stanford professor, Nicholas Bloom, found that people working from home were more productive, took fewer breaks, and less time off. Companies with remote workers also saved $2,000 per employee on office space costs.
Still, the rapid onset of Coronavirus has meant companies haven’t been able to plan accordingly, and many are finding themselves (and their technology) unprepared to cope with an entire workforce being remote. Beyond simple Project management tools like Trello or Basecamp, companies are enacting a ‘learn-by-doing’ approach in the sudden work shift.
However, there are a number of technologies that can help your company continue to be efficient and support your employees while working remotely.
Invest in or Upgrade Your VPN
VPNs are secure web connections that protect information sent between employees and businesses, plus encrypt data, and prevent cyberthreats. During a pandemic, a VPN can be a lifeline for companies, as it allows your staff to access the same information they would at the office. Currently, more than 400 million companies worldwide use a VPN, and the coronavirus is predicted to increase VPN use by a staggering 150 percent.
It’s worth noting that the wave of remote work has meant some VPNs have crashed due to being overloaded; so if you are a large company, update your VPN as soon as possible to relieve the stress of everyone logging on at the same time. If you haven’t used a VPN before, take into consideration how long your team is online for per day and what kind of work they are doing before deciding on a suitable one. Some of the best business VPNs include Perimeter 81, NordVPN Teams, and VyprVPN.
If a VPN isn’t right for your company or you can’t afford a subscription at the moment, be sure to use Cloud-based shared file storage like Google Drive, OneDrive or Dropbox, to keep all your work safe.
Download Teleconferencing Tools
Maintaining day-to-day communication is vital to continue the workflow at your company, and luckily, there is plenty of technology to support it. Teleconferencing tools enable conversations in real-time, just as if employees were face-to-face at the office. Plus, many of the best teleconferencing tools are free. Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, UberConference, and Slack are a few of the most popular ones at zero cost. And, because of the recent surge in teleconferencing, companies like Microsoft, Cisco, and LogMeIn are offering their services for free.
If these types of tools are new to your company, create a clear outline for how to use them, and regularly update the document based on questions your employees have. At the same time, set standard practices for all your technology. For example, cameras always have to be on during calls or certain channels are designated for conversations about a particular project. This way, communication stays streamlined and relevant.
If you’re already using teleconferencing tools, upgrade your WiFi for faster, clearer connections. This can have a huge effect on communication – people’s attention spans drop rapidly if a call is blurry and has broken sound. AmpliFi has a WiFi system that’s easy to install and is ideal to quickly boost employees’ home internet.
Find a PTO Tracker
A new law in the U.S has granted employees two paid weeks of sick leave, as well as 12 weeks of family and medical leave, to cope with illness and school closures. The government’s decision has big repercussions on how companies deal with employee paid time off (PTO).
Remote work doesn’t stop employees requesting time off, in fact, the physical distance means knowing when your staff are working is more important than ever. The logistics, however, naturally become a little more tricky to organize when your team is spread across different locations. A simple fix is to use a tracker for PTO.
Firstly, send a message reiterating your PTO policy companywide – this can be via email, instant message or video announcement, so long as it reaches everyone. In your message, emphasize if anything has changed due to the current situation, and give employees a channel to ask questions about these changes.
If you plan to continue with your current PTO system, ensure it’s up-to-date and there are no concerns about accuracies. Whether you’re using spreadsheets or an automated system to monitor PTO, confirm who is responsible for the ownership, and check that they are still able to manage the task from home.
If you don’t have a system in place, some PTO platforms are following the example of other business tools and giving free access during the pandemic. A perk of the no-cost platforms is that your company can sample different systems to test which is best suited to your needs. You may even find a long-term PTO solution by trying something new.
Technology to Stay on Track
Technology can be a uniting force in business: it can serve as a virtual water cooler, where people can gather, talk, plan, and feel like part of a company wherever they are in the world.
As the coronavirus continues to restrict movement, remote working is set to be the norm for a while. Thankfully, in the modern age, technology is sufficiently advanced to keep many businesses functioning. VPNs, teleconferencing tools, and PTO trackers are key to make a swift transition from office to home. Companies that integrate this tech are more likely to survive the disruption, as well as be better-equipped for an upcoming generation of employees expecting remote work options.