Homeworking: Your options explored
6th March 2020
What is Coronavirus?
Like the common cold, Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection usually occurs through close contact with a person with coronavirus via cough, sneezes or hand contact. A person can also be infected by touching contaminated surfaces if they do not wash their hands thoroughly.
Originating in China back in December 2019, Coronavirus has now spread to more than 80 countries, including the UK.
Business as usual?
In an effort to slow the spread of Coronavirus, some businesses are asking staff to work from home.
In the coming days, the UK Government may force schools and colleges to close [perhaps for several weeks], causing childcare issues for many parents.
This article aims to help prepare businesses for this.
What key resources do staff need to be able to access?
The rapid rise in the popularity of cloud services means many businesses can already access key resources from anywhere.
However, we strongly advise that you assess the services employees need access to, and whether they are available in the cloud or not. For instance:
- Legacy line of business applications
- Cloud applications
If your business is using Office 365 for example, employees can simply login to: https://www.office.com and access company Email, Teams, and company documents stored on SharePoint & OneDrive. They’ll also have access to online versions of typical Office applications, such as Word and Excel.
Your business may also be using other cloud solutions, such as Slack, Xero, Salesforce or VoIP telephony.
We recommend that:
- You document the web links to the cloud services you use, and distribute these to employees.
- Check that employees have been trained on how to access those resources.
- It’s a good idea to test these services before they are actually needed!
What if you’re still using legacy applications and services?
If you’ve not migrated your applications and services to cloud-based alternatives yet, your options are more limited. You’ll need to allow employees to remotely access resources that are inside your network, whilst maintaining IT security.
Check if telephone calls can be diverted to staff mobile / home phones. Note, if you are using a call centre, they may have their own issues.
Employees that use company supplied laptops should use a VPN client to connect to legacy company resources. Legacy applications will typically be already installed onto company laptops, though any application that requires network access to services in your office will likely perform slower. The same will apply to file shares; opening and saving documents across a VPN will likely introduce some delay.
Remote Access Application:
For those staff working from home, but using their own personal computer equipment, we recommend using a remote access application rather than VPN (otherwise they are connecting a potentially insecure device to your secure network. This itself could spread a virus, though of the digital kind!). There are several tools available on the market to allow this, for example, this remote access tool from MSP360.
This solution does require having a computer available in your office for staff to ‘remote onto’ though.
In an effort to help businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak, Microsoft are offering a free, 6 month trial of their Office 365 E1 product. This gives you Email, Teams and online storage (also, Office apps can be used via a browser):
If you’re using Microsoft Teams for the first time, take a look at one of our previous articles.
Whilst Microsoft Teams won’t help with legacy applications, it will at least enable your staff to communicate and share files with each other efficiently.
What resources do employees have at home?
Check if employees have access to a desktop PC, laptop or tablet device. Test that their equipment supports the applications your business uses.
Enquire about Internet connectivity? Does the employee a suitable internet connection at home? If they don’t, can they tether to a mobile phone, or will they need a 3G / 4G mobile dongle?
For most cloud-based apps, employees can logon using a web browser. However, it’s still important to check if they have the correct equipment at home.
What if employees can’t work from home?
If employees can’t work from home, take the following advice provided by the NHS:
- Wash hands for 20 seconds or more using soap and hot water. If that’s not available, use anti-bac gel.
- Remind employees to avoid touching their faces.
- Cough / sneeze into a tissue, then immediately wash hands.
For further information on Coronavirus, visit the the NHS website.
Clean your IT equipment.
GROSS Alert!! Your computer keyboard is 20,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat!
Sanitise items such as:
- Keyboards, mice, desks, mobile phones & ID Cards!
If you need help…
If you need help preparing for employees to work from home, or are interested in any of our products, contact us today.
PC Comms Ltd
Tel: 01278 458558