Remote Work Series: Part One: From Business Continuity to a Normal Part of Business

Remote Work is Key to Business Continuity 

The way we work is rapidly changing as businesses and governments around the world are dealing with how to respond to COVID-19. Remote work is one of the most publicized business continuity and public health measures being encouraged and implemented by an increasing number of businesses. Regardless of your thoughts on the policy, employees having the ability to work remotely from a safe location with the required tools and data is paramount to keeping a business operational.

US Government Response to COVID-19 Encourages Telework 

As an example, the United States federal government released new guidance on remote work (aka telework) as a response to the current COVID-19 outbreak.  In a March 3 memo from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Director Dale Cabaniss requested that agencies include telework in their continuity of operations plans – “to ensure that telework has been fully incorporated and that as many employees as possible have been identified as telework employees in the plan, and are telework capable (or ‘telework ready’).”  The memo also requests that agency leadership reduce non-essential employee travel “as appropriate” and noted that those who have been in countries designated by the Department of State as level 4 (meaning do-not-travel) should self-isolate themselves for 14 days after returning to the United States.

Considerations for Implementing Remote Work

If you are thinking about how to support remote work, a remote work policy may provide more benefits than just business continuity. It could be a normal part of business going forward to make your organization more resilient, efficient and competitive.

If you are contemplating implementation of a remote work policy, there are two key considerations that should be addressed as follows.

  1. Capability for your organization to support remote work – infrastructure, policy, and culture
  2. Transformation of your workplace to enable high performing teams working from anywhere

At Vyopta, we embraced the concept of remote work over 10 years ago. Today, approximately 90% of our team works remotely.  Our policy has evolved to support remote work by our team regardless where they reside, be it the Austin, Texas metropolitan area — home of our headquarters — to other US states and countries.  We equipped the Vyopta team with the tools to perform their job from anywhere. On an annual basis, we evaluate our remote work policy, protocols and tools used by each team to ensure they remain equipped to perform their individual job responsibilities, including in times of crisis.

What do employees need to work remotely?

From our experience, we recommend the following as a minimum requirement to support each remote worker.

Standard High Speed Internet Access: Broadband wired (>1Mbps – up and down), or Wireless (>4G/LTE)
System and Application Requirements:

  • A modern computer for optimum video call and screen sharing performance
    • Speakers and microphone that are built-in and USB plug-in or wireless Bluetooth headsets (preferred)
    • HD webcam; built-in or USB plug-in
  • Secure and reliable access to company intranet and business applications
  • Collaboration applications to engage effectively with customers, partners and internal teams

Ensuring Continuity at Home: Mobile phone or landline phone as backup in case the quality of a video or voice call using the selected collaboration application is inadequate

Infrastructure Capabilities

Business Critical Applications: If your business critical IT applications are hosted on your premise inside your Wide Area Network (WAN) or by a managed service provider, then you must ensure you have deployed sufficient network (service provider to business and/or managed service provider) and edge capacity (firewall, web server, VPN, remote access, etc.) to support remote work.  

Collaboration Tools: Likewise if your collaboration applications rely on hosted infrastructure on your premise (inside your WAN and/or a managed service provider as a host) then you need to have additional network capacity and adequate edge capacity (session border controllers/gateways, conference bridges, etc.) to support employee communication and collaboration. 

Monitoring & Analytics: You will need to have adequate tools to monitor and analyze performance of your network, IT business applications and collaboration applications to ensure there’s adequate capacity, maximum reliability and quality of service, and to track active users and usage to continually make needed adjustments to best support remote work.

Security. Security. Security.

A critical area of concern that should also be addressed with remote work is security. Businesses should always work on secure networks and secure access to critical company applications and data.  However, when working outside of the office or enterprise WAN, security is not guaranteed. All employees need to be extremely careful when working in public places and utilize proper means such as VPNs, to create secure connections.

Customizing Protocol

You will also need a protocol customized for your business that not only strengthens effective team engagement and collaboration, but also supports your culture for your teams to perform their work successfully.  

  1. Document clear goals and expectations, including:
    1. Accountability for completion of required deliverables
    2. Availability during normal or typical work hours
    3. Frequency of communication with team and team lead
  2. Institute effective meeting and collaboration etiquette
    1. Use live video team meetings to foster relationship building until meeting in person is possible
  3. Define clear boundaries between work and personal life
  4. Empower remote team members to be productive during the hours when other team members might not be around to answer questions.

Remote Work Policies Are Evolving

In conclusion, remote worker policies, protocols and tools are evolving, but are becoming a mainstream part of business operations and not just a business continuity measure. I welcome input from you about what you and your organization are doing today to support remote work.

Until my next post, be a responsible citizen by following the interim guidance and staying abreast of the updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alfredo Ramirez
CEO
Vyopta Incorporated