Four things every enterprise needs to consider to emerge healthy
The technology industry has always moved quickly, but COVID-19 is putting companies’ flexibility and adaptability to the test. Although employees are increasingly working remotely, few organizations were prepared to go 100 percent virtual within the matter of a week or two while attempting to understand what life in a pandemic looks like.
As the shock and awe of self-isolating practices and quarantines wears off, there are some things enterprises need to consider in order to not just remain in business but ultimately emerge "healthy."
Support Your Employees
First and foremost, establish policies and practices that show your employees that they matter and you’ve got their back. Less than a month ago, we had historic unemployment rates and massive talent shortages. You valued employees then. It should not change now. If anything, your employees’ expertise will become even more essential in helping to ensure your company stays on course.
We’ve all seen or heard stories of disgruntled workers being forced to work in conditions with which they are not comfortable or that made them feel unsafe. Don’t be that company. Now is the time to band together. You are undoubtedly concerned about the bottom line, but employees are scared too -- about their paychecks, about how they are going to homeschool their kids and work at the same time, about what is going to happen to their parents who refuse to self-isolate or that have underlying conditions.
Show your employees that you care about their well-being by letting them know that their job is secure -- even the people whose positions might need to change or that may not seem as in demand. In positions like corporate event planning, there is still much difficult work to be done, whether it’s moving events online and canceling reservations or weighing factors, timelines and scientific guidance to determine if you should postpone or cancel in-person events altogether (think of the complexities associated with prepayments and refunds). If your company’s leadership fears that layoffs may be inevitable, be transparent and let employees know that the organization is trying its hardest to avoid this scenario for as long as possible.
If your company is in a strong fiscal position, consider covering some of the expenses of setting up productive home spaces and getting employees the supplies they need -- be it monitors and a docking station or a decent desk chair -- without the typical red tape; or if that’s not feasible, provide simple, helpful tips on how to establish a functional workspace. Offer online training for applications or systems that employees may not be used to leveraging that are now called for; get them up to speed quickly.
You may also want to think about providing online counseling or group meditation sessions to help employees cope with challenges that are likely completely foreign to them, or perhaps establish medical funds to help employees better manage their personal situations. Take a moment to think as a human being to determine what your staff needs in order to function at its best.
Yes, programs such as these have costs, and it may mean reallocating resources or delaying certain initiatives. It could entail checking in with your VC to see if they will help shoulder some of the burden or provide a cushion should your organization need it. But by investing in employees now, you will have a more loyal and functional team later.
Establish Your Protocols
It is essential that teams be able to communicate seamlessly and that everyone has a plan for how their group or team will collaborate. It’s incredibly frustrating when some people are using Slack and others rely on email or phone calls. Colleagues are inevitably left out of the loop. If this was a problem in your office before COVID-19, it will only get worse under the current conditions. In addition to becoming a productivity sink, it hurts morale.
Decide as a group how you want to handle communications: e.g., Slack groups for immediate updates and questions, and email for longer tail issues. Be sure to include all relevant parties and add or subtract as needed.
Maybe you use Zoom for your weekly team meeting. Stick to an established time and record the meeting so that anyone who couldn’t attend can watch it back. Note: Be forgiving of background noise or "visitors" who might make a surprise on-camera appearance, be they canine, feline or human. Despite even the best plans for meetings, conferences can go awry. And no judgments about the background in a video conference. People are doing the best they can to connect -- whether it’s from their studio apartment, a garden shed, or a parked car sitting in the garage to avoid the chaos in the house.
Project management software also might become more important to your team to keep everything on track and in a consistent place where all team members can easily find it. Again, train them as necessary. Shared, clearly marked folders for Google docs, slides and sheets might prove helpful as well. It doesn’t matter what tools your team decides to use. What is important is ensuring that everyone is clear on exactly how the team will function and what is expected so that the company can move forward as painlessly and normally as possible.
Protect Your Infrastructure
On top of looking after your people, you also have to look after your infrastructure. With an unprecedented number of employees working from home, the number of devices that have to be secured and maintained escalates considerably. Not only are employees likely viewing websites and downloading apps for their personal use while self-isolating, which poses greater risk, it is also harder to deliver software, patches and updates over a VPN. This leaves machines vulnerable to outside attack. So, if a bad actor were to gain access to a device, through a VPN they have access to corporate resources which could prove to be devastating.
Bandwidth is another significant issue. Big packages are coming through that are necessary to keep machines running well. How do you get every machine updated without saturating bandwidth as infrastructure is strained? Most employees have already experienced slower machines, the inability to get onto a call or in a meeting on the first try, and websites that won’t load. This is because enterprises didn’t design their infrastructure with the idea that thousands of employees would be working remotely at the same time. Content delivery becomes problematic.
Machines break. They have glitches and performance issues. Typically that happens when you are in the office and can walk down the hall to IT or an admin comes to you and they can fix it. It might take a little bit, but generally employees are not left to their own devices. Now we’re looking at a whole new ballgame as admins try to check the state of a machine without touching it.
All of these things place an even greater strain on IT departments charged with keeping systems and networks running. Scaling oversight to cover potentially tens of thousands of devices under less than optimal conditions is a bit daunting. Will servers support that many incoming interactions and web-based applications? Will requests time out? While organizations have supported remote work, the sheer quantity of remote connections is something that was not expected. Automated products exist that solve these issues, and while most organizations are looking to trim costs instead of incur new ones, these options could ultimately drive down costs as they protect networks and maintain machines while freeing up IT resources.
Help Your Customers
With so much changing over such a short period, most organizations are still trying to find their footing. There are undoubtedly issues they haven’t thought about yet which could impact their business down the road.
You are the expert on what your product or service does. Use cases are what you are trained to think about, and you know your solution inside and out. Reach out. See what your customers need and how you can help -- not to try to upsell something but because it is the right thing to do. Customers will remember that.
This is also a great time to think about new ways to serve your customers and prospects. Listen to their needs. Just because you can’t interact or serve them the same way that you usually do doesn’t mean that you can’t come up with a different way to deliver value. Dig deep and get creative -- for the short and long term. Use this time to flesh out details.
Harkening back to Plato, necessity is the mother of invention. Be bold. Think big. We are all in this together, albeit virtually, and together we can emerge stronger, healthier and more inspired than before.
As vice president of solutions and support at Adaptiva, a leading, global provider of endpoint management and security solutions for enterprise customers, Dan Richings oversees the management of the company’s world-class support team and technical solutions group. Dan has an extensive technical skill set and has been working with SCCM since it was still "SMS." He has been performing operating system deployment since 2001, and his diverse background includes technical and leadership roles in the retail automotive, multinational engineering, and international project development and construction industries. Dan holds a computer science degree, BSc (Hons) Computing, from Swansea University. For more information, please visit https://adaptiva.com/, and follow the company on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.