What’s the impact of the new reality on businesses – an assessment by Hani Zeini

Many companies have been forced to adapt to the work from the home model for their employees. It is to ensure safe health during the coronavirus pandemic and prevent the spread of infection by complying with the lockdown requirements. The sudden change from an office-based working environment to work from the home model has caused many companies to struggle due to a lack of proper infrastructure and support as they were not ready for the transition. The COVID19 pandemic has put to the test the resilience and flexibility of the business models because the more flexible the business is model better it will be able to cope with the unforeseen changes, says Hani Zeini.

Fixed model companies face the most significant threat, feels Hani Zeini

The coronavirus’s biggest adverse effects will impact businesses with a fixed business model of workers. In facilities like brick and mortar retail companies that depend on foot traffic, fixed call centers with workers on the phone, and in front of terminals and service organizations that require on-site interactions, the impact is more. Transportation and logistics companies that have yet not gone mobile and finance, healthcare, and other highly regulated companies that choose to adopt a centralized model of the database that is not accessible from any location outside the corporate premises will be hit hard.

These companies will find it most difficult to switch over to a work from a home model, and most will not be able to do it at least not within an acceptable timeframe. However, the pandemic has allowed companies that depend on an in-house model to reassess their present way of working and what to do to stay flexible as they move forward.

Let us now look at what organizations must do to create a productive and safe work from home environment.

Have policies in place

Companies that are already practicing remote work, even though due to compulsion, must make the employees understand what the company expects from them. Having a policy document in place will help set the limits of work from home by establishing the right expectations. It should not happen that moving over to the work from home model puts them under stress as they might have to work at any hour of the day because of increased availability. The policy could be a concise one-page document instead of a book that runs into many pages. It should highlight the do’s and don’ts in bullet points that are easy to understand. 

Collaboration tools

Maintaining good teamwork is vital to ensure productivity, but it all depends on creating a collaborative work environment where the team members can engage in sharing and collaboration. The company must use the right technological collaborative tools like Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Cisco Webex, etc. for co-working, video conferencing, file sharing, etc. However, it depends on the organization having the necessary license and capacity to enable all users who work from home to collaborate. Many users might prefer to use non-corporate collaboration tools like Facebook, WhatsApp, etc. when working. Even if allowing non-corporate collaboration tools, organizations must have a policy for communication to explain what kind of communication is appropriate to message and what is not acceptable. This will prevent the posting of personally identifiable information or sensitive corporate data in the public domain that could be susceptible to data leak.

Security requirements

Security is paramount, and there can be no compromise when people are working from home. Unless your company follows a BOYD policy, employees must not use their own devices. Organizations implementing BYOD must ensure that everything flows to a browser on which the company has control to prevent data loss. The security policy that includes automated monitoring must expressly prohibit downloads, especially in data-sensitive and regulated industries sensitive to personally identifiable information. The security architecture should fully support the needs of those who work from home.

SLA and support

Supporting people to run their systems smoothly is an important aspect when adapting the work from a home model. To ensure proper support from the helpdesk, many companies have service level agreements (SLA) that outline the kind of response that the helpdesk will provide. Interestingly, the helpdesk people themselves might be working from home, and they must have the tools to engage with everyone located remotely. There must be clear guidelines about how to handle equipment failure and replacement. This could entail creating a cloud infrastructure for providing all-round support to remote workers that work on virtual machines that eliminates the need for physical replacement of equipment.

When embracing the work from a home model, organizations must investigate the HR and legal angle to assess the organization’s liability if an employee meets with an accident when working from home or causes an issue while working. 

The type of business model and the organization’s capabilities can help decide how much it will be possible to adapt the work from home model.

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