As the coronavirus outbreak continues and work from home mandates are extended, the productivity of remote teams may come into question – in particular, the ease of use, design and utility of the technologies used to perform their work. “People are not machines,” said Wendy M. Pfeiffer, CIO at Nutanix, in an op-ed piece on CNBC. “They have emotions and frustrations; they get overwhelmed — and for organizational and IT leaders, that means offering the right tools for this new paradigm, using technology that enables, not disables.”
While IT teams have been recognized as the top group preparing workforces for remote work during this era, both company leadership and IT executives have to collaborate to think about how they can enable an entire employee population to work from home at scale.
To do this, Pfeiffer offers a few tips:
1. Plan for all scenarios and test network scalability
IT has been planning and delivering tech for remote work for years. However, Pfeiffer says, it’s one thing to have part of the workforce work from home and an entirely different scenario when thousands of people are connecting remotely to a VPN at the same time. It becomes a test of whether the system will scale.
Many enterprise tools were built to only operate internally, so it’s IT job to not only make sure everyone can access data and apps securely from wherever they are, but also provide specific information, tools and processes that people can rely on during a crisis when there’s already so much confusion.
IT teams should think about eventualities and “what if” scenarios, Pfeiffer says. What if your entire workforce suddenly has to work from home? What if your network gets overloaded? What’s your backup plan? What collaboration tools are at your disposal?
Once you’ve accounted for a sizable chunk of scenarios, the next step is testing performance. Plan a practice day where all of IT works from home, for example. What’s that scenario like? Which systems do they need access to? What permissions do they need? How can they communicate effectively with teammates and stakeholders who need their help? Running the motions of how this works and understanding what it feels like to be dependent on your own tech as a team will inform the interaction and workflows that are created as a result, Pfeiffer says.
2. Align on the tools you need – and how to use them
The importance of configuring the SaaS tools you’ll need to perform work at home – video conferencing, desktop-as-a-service, etc. – is paramount when it comes to determining if you can do this effectively. It’s nice if your individual apps work, but if they don’t work together, then that’s a huge problem.
It may be necessary to create some sort of internal hub addressing all your work from home efforts, where employees can go to ask questions about accessing the VPN, logging into company-wide applications, how to connect their mobile phones to your business’s VoIP or cloud-based phone service, etc. This serves as a central place of compiled information on remote work, as well as a resource for any new hires.
You could also invest in a virtual desktop that allows employees, customers and partners to access their desktop, files and networks for work without needing to be in the office securely – all from the comfort of your home web browser – no software download required.
At a time when employees might be isolated from each other and continuing to do their daily work, the way in which IT leaders support and enable them through technology will have a profound impact on the productivity of the company overall.
Lastly, it’s not a bad idea to set standards around engagement. Collaboration is needed more than ever before to make this “new normal” work. As a team, you’ll need to decide things like: Should all meetings be recorded? What video conferencing tool are we using? Should we set passwords to access meetings? Should all conversations be transcribed? While some of these answers are beyond IT, they’re often influenced by the tools IT teams select. It may be time to consult executive sponsors or the teams affected to ensure they can use the tools well and that they meet their needs before being forced to work in an environment where they have to use the tools on a frequent basis – and this goes for work during and outside of a crisis.