Stefan Spendrup from business mobility platform SOTI explores how to use technology to engage, connect and protect your employees when they are working remotely.
With an increasing amount of people having switched to remote work because of COVID-19, it has never been more important for businesses to understand best practices when working from home. Since mid-February, 88%  of global organisations have encouraged or required their employees to work from home.
The shift to remote working is one that is here to stay, with the 1.7 million people in the UK  who previously worked from home, before the pandemic, leading the way in supporting those who have never worked remotely. Lockdown restrictions have caused a seismic shift in working habits and methods, with an estimated 20 million people having had to relocate to the safety of their home offices. Even in Japan, with its traditional corporate culture of “showing up to the office,” 18%  of businesses have implemented a work from home policy.
Everyone is talking about the ‘new normal’ and how there is destined to be a significant shift in the behaviour of business culture around the world. The short-term changes that have taken effect during the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to longer-term adoption. One thing remains clear, keeping remote workers connected, engaged and productive is vital to a business’s success, particularly during this challenging time/.
1. The three Cs: connect, communicate, collaborate
When executed poorly, remote work can harm a company’s productivity, effectiveness and culture. With one of the most cited issues with working from home being the inability for spontaneous collaboration among colleagues, the danger of an ineffective workforce could lead to significant consequences in terms of operational inefficiencies, lost revenue and even reputational damage.
When ranked by type, ad hoc brainstorm sessions were the number one most challenging meeting type for remote workers to participate in, while pre-planned collaboration meetings were the fourth most challenging.
As we transition into a new normal, we still need to weigh the benefits and the negatives of remote work. One being that it does not easily allow employees to feel connected to each other or the company. It is therefore crucial for organisations to take the right steps and provide effective systems and processes to ensure their workforce feels empowered.
Maximising technology goes beyond allowing remote workers to just communicate with each other. It encourages and fosters collaboration in a variety of ways:
- Virtual white-boarding where workers can see, annotate and contribute to a master document together.
- Using a centralised digital workplace where remote employees can ask questions, share ideas, post helpful blogs and articles, and generally share information as if they were sitting next to each other.
- Storing and sharing documents and images in a cloud-hosted app, ensuring everybody has access, and nobody feels “left out” or “out of the loop.”
2. Saving your business from security flaws
In the wake of large-scale global events, cyber-criminals are among the first to attempt to sow discord, spread disinformation and seek financial gain. With the sudden surge of remote work, cyber-criminals are using the pandemic to target people and companies.
In fact, coronavirus-related phishing email attacks have increased by 600%  with Microsoft reporting that approximately 2%  of all email spam is using COVID-19 related content to lure people in to click on malicious links.
At one point, the World Health Organization (WHO) tracked 2,000  COVID-themed websites online daily, many of which were malicious. Organisations like the WHO are also not the only ones at risk of being impersonated.
To properly protect data and devices, the responsibility must be shared between the employer and employee.
- Work with your security teams to protect the health of your business-critical mobile operations. This includes closing data leak points and securing highly sensitive information and essential apps.
- The network security being used in your enterprise environment should extend to all remote locations for your corporately owned or managed devices.
- Protecting all devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets) and IoT endpoints, including printers.
- Enforcing multi-factor authentication (MFA) to boost mobile security in a work-at-home environment.
- The most common, and easily hacked password, is 123456. Use complex, hard-to-crack passwords and update them frequently.
- Install patches and updates when they become available on any device, whether it’s corporately owned or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).
- Change your Wi-Fi settings and passwords to prevent unauthorized access to your home network.
- Be wary of suspicious-looking COVID-19 based websites, emails and apps. If it looks strange or feels odd, don’t click, open or download it.
There is one thing companies and remote workers can do together to stay secure during COVID-19: communicate with each other frequently.
Whether it’s the business sending safety tips to its at-home workforce, or employees asking questions or seeking guidance, ongoing communication is crucial.
3. Supporting remote workers in the transition to the "new normal"
The biggest ever work from home experiment has been conducted across the world and looking into the not so distant future, many will point to their achievements while working remotely to argue that they should be allowed to continue working in this way.
In fact, there is the suggestion that lock-down measures have changed how people want to live their lives in the long-term. Out of the UK adults now being forced to work from home, 53%  have revealed they would like to work from home more after the crisis ends, and 31% of those unable to work from home say they are now more likely to seek a job that could allow them to work from home. The flexibility, reduced commute and savings that can be made by employees working remotely have never been more attractive and organisations are going to have to pivot their business models to facilitate this new approach.
As the mobile workforce grows and stabilises, so will the need for a reliable and secure Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solution. With many businesses being caught off-guard following the sudden shift to remote work, taking control of your mobile operations has never been more important.
An integrated mobility strategy enables businesses to manage and control their mobile devices, instantly diagnose and troubleshoot device issues, gain detailed insights into the performance of their mobile deployments and even take control of their IoT initiatives. As a result, remote workers are kept engaged, productive, connected and secure through COVID-19 and beyond.
Stefan Spendrup is VP of Sales, Northern and Western Europe at SOTI
Main image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com