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Work From Home in the Time of COVID-19

The circumstances of the coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak has prompted an unprecedented, major shift in the work experience of the entire globe. For those of us at companies large and small able to do so, the next few weeks will have us working from at home longer term than we would have first imagined and may reshape office work for years to come. As an IT support company, mac-tech, is well versed in managing the work from home (WFH) experience as it’s been an office policy for some time. That said to suddenly find yourself and your company in the position of having to manage your day to day work from home can be daunting. We took a little time to research some of the best practices and suggestions of companies for whom WFH is core or even fundamental to their business for guidance. Here’s what we’ve learned that we believe can help you:

Organizing your virtual workspace is the best way to start. There are many tools available that help you manage your access to your company’s communications, projects, and associated workflows remotely. It’s important to establish guidelines for how to communicate and what updates you’ll share with the team.

DEFINE WORKING HOURS

Establish an expectation for your team of the specific hours they are expected to work from home (for example, between 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.), adjust accordingly if time zones will impact your team’s working hours.

If it makes sense for the work and your team’s dynamic, set the expectation that working hours will be on a case-by-case basis given the employee’s responsibilities and manager’s preference.

SET COMMUNICATION, RESPONSIVENESS AND AVAILABILITY EXPECTATIONS

Given the circumstances borne of the Covid-19 outbreak many employees will find themselves in situations where they’re attempting to balance care for their children or other family members who are also at home. Consequently, their attention may be divided between their work responsibilities and outside factors.

This may be the best opportunity as a company and a manager to be as understanding as possible of the various circumstances workers find themselves in to set clear expectations so employees can better coordinate their personal matters alongside their work responsibilities and be still productive throughout the day.

This can be helped by establishing a particular set of guidelines for responsiveness and preferred modes of communication. Doing so holds all parties accountable and sets more realistic expectations. If WFH employees aren’t expected to respond immediately to requests from their colleagues, in-office team members will know not to contact remote coworkers regarding time-sensitive matters.

For example, plan to start the workday with a 15-30-minute call as a team if possible. This provides a more direct and clear communication channel where employees can get specific questions answered before diving into work and managers can adjust the individual’s priorities or deadlines without creating unnecessary confusion.

If you haven’t already invested in tools that can smooth out indirect communication over the course of the workday. Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Google Hangouts are great tools for instant messaging, while Skype and Zoom enable face-to-face video conferencing for conversational meetings and updates. Project/task management tools like Monday, Microsoft Planner or Asana can help keep track of assignments and monitor productivity.

SET TECHNOLOGY SUPPORT AND REQUIREMENTS

In some cases, employers may require that employees have access to specific technologies — software, internet speed, personal computers — in order to be eligible for remote work. Within your work-from-home policy, outline any prerequisites so employees can coordinate their tech needs ahead of time.

Additionally, outline the procedure in case an employee is experiencing technical difficulties while working from home. You likely have tech support onsite, but if a computer stalls or a program won’t run, how do you expect WFH employees to respond when they can’t readily access your support team? Consider investing in remote desktop sharing software so tech support representatives can access an employee’s computer remotely.

GET INPUT FROM YOUR TEAM

There are many ideas of how to manage the work from home experience out there — and we’ve tried to lay out standard guidelines and practices here — but it’s important that your company develop a plan that’s tailored to your team and organization. Allow it to evolve as needed.

Ask your team to weigh in on your plan as you go along to help improve both their experiences and any productivity and performance metrics, communication expectations and approval processes they provide feedback on.

TRUST YOUR TEAM

Working-from-home under these circumstances, you simply must trust your employees. Avoid micromanagement at all costs. It will only serve aggravate employees and make contact and communications more difficult.

Trust your direct reports to uphold expectations and adhere to the guidelines you’ve laid out together. If they don’t, consider whether that means adjusting the policy or addressing employees individually.

For more resources on work from home management please check out the following:

  • https://builtin.com/company-culture/work-from-home-policy
  • https://monday.com/blog/remote-work/
  • https://www.business.com/articles/create-work-from-home-policy/
  • https://www.investopedia.com/personal-finance/work-from-home-guide/

Is your e-mail domain secure?

In recent months we have seen an increase in phishing and spoofing emails. It’s possible that you may have seen them in your inbox! These are some scenarios you may have come across:

  • Spoofing: If you’ve seen any messages in your inbox from what seems to be a colleague but is from a different email address, you may be target in a spoofing scheme. Maybe you received an email from your boss asking for money or someone else’s contact information, but the email address that is sent from is only a letter or two different from your actual domain. For example, if I received an email from user@nac-tech.net, I might be in trouble!
  • Phishing: If you’ve seen any messages looking for you to log in to a website, or possibly asking you to re-enter a password, this could possibly be a phishing attempt. Most websites and services will not ask you to ever re-verify a password. Double check any messages that ask for financial, personal and/or confidential information. A recent example is an email from office@office365.com that is floating around saying that your account will be de-activated unless you log in again with your credentials. This email is not legitimate.
  • Compromised account: If you’ve seen an email from a colleague that seems suspicious but you have verified is from the correct address, it’s possible the account was compromised. This is arguably the most dangerous position to be in as an account within your organization is in the hands of third party with malicious intent (in most cases.) A compromised account has access to all of that user’s contacts, past emails and may set inbox rules to obfuscate the fact the account has been compromised.

The good news is that there are ways to mitigate the three above scenarios and we are here to help. Some tools you can use are:

  • Multi-factor Authentication
  • Anti-Spoofing policies as a part of domain administration
  • Team trainings on spoofing and phishing examples
  • DNS-level changes
  • Cisco Umbrella

Feel free to reach out to outreach@mac-tech.net and we can schedule a meeting or phone call to discuss how to best protect your organization. We are here to help!

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