How to prepare your business for outbreaks such as the Coronavirus

As the Coronavirus continues to bring businesses across the globe to a halt, it's never been so important to review your remote working strategy...

Geoff Burns

05/03/2020

An important part of running a successful business is being prepared for the unexpected. In your company, you probably have disaster recovery plans in place in case a data centre in your network goes down. Maybe you even have a strategy for what you can do if a member of staff loses a phone or work device that contains valuable information.

However, it’s easy to forget about preparing for issues that happen outside of the office. Worldwide epidemics and illnesses like the Coronavirus can have just as much of an impact on your company as a flash flood or a sudden data breach.

We’re seeing the evidence of this right now, as millions of people in China have been forced to work from home to avoid the outbreak, and offices employing hundreds have been closed down for safety purposes.

The question for your business is, are you prepared for an outbreak?

The power of remote working in crisis situations

For decades now, Silicon Valley and other major technology landscapes have been fascinated by the possibility of remote working. Although many leading organisations like Google and Apple have spent billions on fancy headquarters with nap pods and in-office table tennis, the majority of engineers would happily swap their office for a work-from-anywhere routine.

The rise of the Coronavirus and lockdowns on businesses around the world has created an interesting case study of how effective remote working can be on a massive scale. Millions are now being forced to work from home, whether they like it or not, and we’re seeing first-hand just how vital remote working strategies really are.

Though many companies have agreed over the years that remote working can help to improve everything from productivity to work satisfaction, it’s in times of crisis that remote work really shines. After all, when natural disasters and virus outbreaks prevent us from going into the office, it’s our cloud technology, collaboration tools, and remote strategies that keep our businesses running.

With remote working, employees don’t have to run the risk of visiting an office that’s in an outbreak area. An entire company can keep the lights running, even if there’s no-one in the office at all.

Of course, not every business is set up for this kind of working.

There are still a lot of businesses out there that have yet to embrace the power of remote working, and that presents a big problem in times of crisis.

Although you don’t necessarily need to go remote full-time with your organisation, issues like the Coronavirus show just how important it can be to have this kind of mobile working plan in your disaster preparedness folder.

How to empower a remote workforce: Crucial technology

Preparing for the possibility of remote working is a lot simpler than it might seem. Thanks to the cloud, you can build an entire virtual workplace for your teams and give them the opportunity to tap into it whenever, and however, they choose.

While the kind of technology you choose for your remote workforce will depend on the style of business you’re trying to run, there are certain solutions that are likely to take a starring role in any remote strategy. For instance:

  1. Video Chat: Maintaining the context and intimacy of face-to-face conversations can be crucial for any remote team. It’s particularly important for businesses that need to maintain the right company culture during a crisis. Video conferencing in the modern workplace can come in the form of simple solutions that businesses can use from their smartphones, like Google Hangouts or Zoom. Alternatively, you can tap into video solutions that are custom-made for your business as part of a complete Unified Communication strategy.
  2. VoIP: VoIP is already one of the most important tools in the digital landscape, making it easier for businesses of all sizes to connect with people around the world. However, in a crisis situation that requires remote working, VoIP will be particularly essential. The right cloud-based phone system will allow your team members to make calls through the internet, which means that they have full flexibility to use any phone or device they choose. There’s no need for your employees to have to worry about using their office desk phone.
  3. Productivity tools: Many managers dealing with a remote workforce will need to make sure that work is still getting done, even when people aren’t actually in the office. Productivity tools, such as G-Suite for online collaboration, or file sharing services like Dropbox, will make it easier to track the work that’s happening from different locations. There are even time management tools available that allow employers to track exactly how many hours their team members are spending on certain tasks.
  4. Remote desktop technology: Remote desktop technology allows employees to access crucial assets from an office computer on the go. Tools like TeamViewer mean that you can create easy office desktop access for remote workers that want to recreate the experience that they have in the office on their home PC or device.
  5. Mobile Device Management (MDM): Trusting your employees to use their own devices during remote work periods is fine, but you still need a way to make sure that work and data is protected on those devices. A mobile management system allows you to access phones and other systems from a distance. That way, you can control the dangerous apps that your team members might download, and even remote wipe devices at a distance if they’re accidentally lost.

Communicating in a crisis: A case study

Here at Nice Network, we’ve had endless opportunities to see how the right technology and communication stack can transform businesses during crisis situations. For instance, working with a healthcare company in the past helped us to see how a complete unified communication strategy could assist that brand in reaching customers throughout all parts of the world.

The company used a video communication system that allowed them to connect with both their clients, and colleagues, to take delivering amazing healthcare to the next level. Through video conversations with clients, doctors and nurses could deliver face-to-face advice on how to deal with things from basic ailments, to contagious diseases, from a distance. This was ideal for patients who lived in rural areas and weren’t able to visit a clinic in person.

Additionally, the same communication system combined with access to readings from wearable devices meant that the healthcare company was able to track the recovery of people who chose to recover from surgeries and other procedures within the comfort of their own home.

On the internal communication side, video collaboration as part of a complete UC service, built on a secure VoIP network, meant that team members could connect with employees and specialists around the world for help dealing with difficult cases.

In a situation like the Coronavirus, the same kind of technology would give companies an opportunity to reach out to specialists halfway across the globe for expertise and insights. This reduces the need for travel to dangerous environments and enhances the kind of service that the business can deliver.

It’s not just the healthcare company that can benefit from this kind of remote-ready unified communication system either, as Geoff Burns from Nice Network says: “A remote working strategy built on cloud technology like VoIP and collaboration tools gives businesses endless opportunities to stay connected in any situation. When disaster strikes, whether it’s an illness, or a natural disaster, communication is crucial to keeping everyone calm, and ensuring that a business can continue to operate.”

Is it time to implement your own remote working policy?

The world of remote work has dozens of benefits to offer, from the option to give your employees more work/life balance, to the ability to benefit from happier, more productive team members. The key to success is making sure that you have the right strategy in place to enable a good quality of remote working.

It’s easy to forget that there are human beings on the other end of your lines of communication, from instant messaging, to email. However, businesses need to think carefully about how they can maintain the right etiquette for their teams, even when employees are working at a distance.

Simple strategies, like training all employees to respect the “Away” or “Offline” status on a collaboration tool when a team member isn’t available could make a huge difference to ensuring that work and personal life don’t bleed together in the remote world. At the same time, remembering to listen to the needs of your employees and deliver the tools that they need for remote working success can also play a crucial part in the success of your company.

If you’re ready to implement a remote working strategy, speak to Nice Network today. We can help you with everything from VoIP set-up, to mobile device management, security, and even disruptive solutions like IoT.