Managers Guide to Logistics for Remote Workers and COVID-19
Updated: Mar 24, 2020
This article is not meant to be a step by step guide for information technology professionals. This article is meant to assist managers and executives in creating a plan for which the Information Technology team can then implement.
Logistics planning in an event such as this current pandemic is crucial. The goal of this article is to provide material that will allow you as a manager to quickly ascertain your organization's needs, disseminate information, and execute the plan that you put in place.
Item Request Policy - What is your policy as to spare computers and peripherals such as monitors, keyboards, mice, printers, docks, etc.. It is recommended that one person is assigned the responsibility to manage the decisions as to whom is allowed to take home what. Once this decision has been made that person can communicate to the IT group what the needs are. This is important not only so that you don't have devices walk out the door but so that you can coordinate which staff members have priority over others. Then, of course, communicate this policy to your team.
GATHER THE INFORMATION
1. Who will be remote? How many staff members will need to work remotely? Some of our partners' staff, due to the nature of their work, must remain onsite but not all. So, can you protect some workers by allowing them to work remotely, if so who? It's time to go through the employee roster and decide who you would like to be able to work from home.
2. Internet Access - Do staff members who can work remotely have internet access at home? Survey your users.
3. Devices - What devices should staff use?
Company Issued Device. The staff members that you have identified as needing to work from home AND which have internet access which of them has a company-issued device, such as a laptop for which they can use. (It is always preferable that staff members utilize company-issued devices).
Employee-owned devices. As stated above this is generally not recommended. Some of the reasons to choose not to allow employee-owned devices include that they are not managed, patched, have the correct or any security software, or may already be infected, etc... In this type of emergency you may choose to allow this but be aware of the potential consequences. If your organization decides to go this route you will need to identify these users as they will need assistance getting connected.
4. Communications - Phone System. What is the plan for your phone system and how is your team going to handle calls? There are many options here; General voicemail box that emails a group of users so that they can call back; A dedicated forwarding number to a cell phone; VOiP phones that can be taken home or extensions forwarded. Many VOiP systems utilize an app that can be downloaded to a mobile phone to provide users access. What makes the most sense for your organization?
5. Communications - Chat/Conferencing. It is going to be important to be able to communicate quickly and effectively across your organization with so many folks spread out and trying to function as they are used to doing onsite. Many of our partners are already utilizing Microsoft Teams for conferencing and chat. If you are not already using Microsoft Teams there are several good options out there but we are recommending Skype (not for business) at this time. Zoom is another option that some of our partners prefer to use. Zoom does have a 45 minute time limitations when using the free version which may have an impact on your teams' ability to use it.
As an organization, it's a good idea to determine what chat application your team will use. If you don't your staff, to their credit, will try many options and you can end up with many different flavors of chat and conferencing. Make a decision. We can always change it after this is over.
6. Applications and Access - Applications and access to those business-critical applications are crucial. List these applications and determine if they will be accessible during this time and to whom. Generally, if your organization has already planned for remote access in the past these applications will be available to your team. This is still an important exercise to go through if you haven't.
In cases like these working through the paperwork may be the last thing you and your team want to do but if you don't already have policies in place that relate to remote workers it is going to be a good idea to create expectations at a minimum.
Some examples: Can employees email company data using personal email accounts; Can they print company documents at home; Can they copy data to their home computers; are they allowed to connect from their home computers;
In many cases, they have probably never thought about these things so providing them guidance and rules allows them to think about these issues and why they matter.
This is probably the most important step and also seems to be the one that falls through the cracks. You and your team have spent a great deal of time putting a plan in place but nobody knows what it is.
We suggest very direct emails from management that cover each of the items listed above. Explaining how the organization is planning on operating during this pandemic, How staff members will be notified if they are able or need to work from home, instructions for how they will do so, explanations of the phone, chat, and video conference solutions being used, and finally what policies they should be aware of during this time. Lastly who they should lean on if they have questions.
Good luck and stay safe and healthy!