IT technology advice for businesses preparing for coronavirus
There are more than 60 known cases of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Australia and this number is rapidly growing. This week, a school in NSW and Victoria have been forced to close, as has a medical practice in Melbourne. It is only a matter of time before some businesses will be forced to close their doors and order staff into 14-day isolation.
The decision to close your office may happen quickly and without notice. It will likely follow a confirmed case of COVID-19 in your office (from an employee, visitor or client) and potential exposure of your staff to an infected person. You cannot predict if/when this will happen, so readiness at all times is essential.
VISITS is well placed to continue supporting your business during this potential crisis. The technology and systems we use allow our entire team to work securely from any location.
Our Service Desk and all other teams can continue to answer your calls and provide full support even if our office needs to close and staff are required to work from home. We have also implemented additional hygiene practices to reduce the risk of our staff spreading infections.
Practical preparation advice for your business
At this stage, there is no suggestion COVID-19 will cause power or internet outages. This advice assumes your office IT systems are still operational.
Advice 1 – HR policies and practices
If your business does not allow staff to work from home, now is the time to urgently review your HR policies. If your office is forced to close, you will need to make a decision to either shut your business down for at least two weeks or allow staff to continue working from home.
HR Legal (our HR lawyers) have allowed us to share their legal advice for employers in relation to COVID-19 and employment rights: Read the advice here.
Advice 2 – Assess your remote working capabilities
Review each of your business tools and applications to determine which ones can be used remotely. Make sure your staff know how to remotely use these tools.
- Phones – Can staff use your business phone system from home (receive and make calls)? Do you need to divert your phone lines? Do you know how to do this?
- Email – Remote access to email should be possible on all current email systems. If you haven’t turned this functionality on for all staff, now is the time to consider doing so. Make sure staff can access email from their phones and home computers.
- Files – If your files are stored on local servers, review whether your remote access systems permit staff to access files (see Advice 3). It may be too late to implement a full cloud-based file solution, but consider moving current working files into such a solution temporarily (see below for further advice).
- Business Applications – Review each business application (accounts, payroll, CRM, practice management, project management, ERP). If these are not cloud-based, assess what remote access you have to the system. Explore options for urgently improving remote access if it doesn’t already exist.
Advice 3 – Check capacity
Many remote-worker systems (VPN or remote desktop) are designed for a small number of staff working remotely. Review if these systems can handle your entire company working remotely? Is it fast enough? Is there enough internet bandwidth?
Advice 4 – Make sure your staff are always ready to work remotely
Do staff have a suitable computer at home that can be used to perform their work? Remember that it’s quite likely that other members of their household (spouses, partners, children) will also be isolated at home. Does your staff member have a computer dedicated to them?
If staff have a company laptop, they should take the laptop and charger home with them every night. Check that staff know how to use their laptop with their home internet and WiFi, or know how to tether their laptop to their mobile phone.
If staff record important working notes in paper notepads or files, they should also take these home nightly. Now is a good time to get staff into the habit of digitising their working notes.
Don’t leave other important devices such as banking-authorisation tokens in the office.
Advice 5 – Remote collaboration tools
If your workforce is dispersed, how do they communicate? Email and basic 3-way mobile-phone conference calls are easy, but there are some great audio, video and screen-sharing conference tools available. If you’re not already using these tools, now is the time to subscribe to one and train staff in its usage (see below for details).
Useful Technology Tools
If you have Office 365, you probably have and are licensed for Microsoft Teams. A full implementation takes some planning to get it right. But it’s easy to get started with a basic setup.
Use Teams for:
- Cloud sharing of files, so staff can work from anywhere on any device. Move your most relevant files to Teams now.
- Collaboration with instant messaging, internal voice and video calls and team meetings. Share screens and run virtual meetings with your staff at any time.
- Slack is an alternative to the instant messaging features of Teams.
- Zoom is an alternative to the voice/video/meeting features of Teams.
- Dropbox is an alternative to the file features of Teams.
Record notes in a digital notepad, rather than using a physical paper notepad. Access to OneNote is available from anywhere on any device.
Need advice or help?
Give us a call on 1300300979 to discuss your specific situation.
We’re able to rush through basic Microsoft Teams installations in the coming days/weeks. We can also give advice on your current remote-working systems and their ability to handle a remote workforce.