With the outbreak of the coronavirus, working from home has been offered to many employees where possible. Companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook have asked their employees to work from home if they can. Some jobs require in-person workers, like retail and service businesses. But if you are part of the workforce that could work remotely, or have employees that could work remotely, then you will want to take into consideration some security practices. Use this opportunity to test the scalability of your work from home policies.
For everyone, encourage healthy and preventative behavior to decrease the spread and exposure of COVID-19.
For the Employer: The Center for Disease Control recommends strategies for employers to use now:
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Just as you would ask any employee with any flu symptoms, staying away from work helps prevent spreading illnesses. Employees who have symptoms can check out the latest information at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/covid19.
- Separate sick employees. If employees do arrive to work with acute respiratory symptoms, ask them to return home immediately.
- Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette, and hand hygiene by all employees. Place posters or signs that encourage employees to stay home when sick, covering their mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and to wash their hands frequently.
- Perform routine environmental cleaning. At this time, the CDC confirms that regular cleaning routines are adequate, but for high use areas such as doorknobs, countertops, and workstations should be cleaned before use with a disposable wipe.
Advise employees before traveling to take specific steps. For employees who travel as part of their job, have them check out the latest CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest updates and guidelines.
Additionally, as an employer, you should ensure that your remote work policy is flexible and invite some employees to participate in developing the plan. Check with your human resources department about policies on sick leave, flexible schedules, and available benefits. You will want your company policy to be consistent with what the public health agencies recommend.
For the Employee: As an employee, you can also take many steps to remain healthy during this time:
- Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. Alternatively, you could use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick!
- Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue. (Then throw that tissue in the trash!)
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Even with prevention, the options of remote working from home will present some challenges to ensure the following security and privacy laws.
As an Employer: Productivity can still thrive through the use of video chat, conference calls, virtual private networks, and more. To avoid the stigma and discrimination in the workplace, activate policies as a preventative, rather than reactive, measure. Also, be aware of any legal concerns that could arise due to this policy. Here are some helpful guidelines:
- Write a policy: This may seem obvious. Write and distribute a policy that clearly explains to all parties the expectations of working remotely. If this is a temporary policy, like in reaction to COVID-19, state that in the plan as well.
- Test your policy: After you have a written policy, test it with employees to see if it is valid or if it needs to be adjusted. Testing could be half-day, all day, or even just a few hours.
- VPN and privacy: Depending on your company’s needs, and if you deal with private and confidential information, you may need to set up a VPN connection to help you maintain your security requirements.
- Instant communication: Communicating with your employees and also between employees is crucial to having the workflow continue. Instant messaging platforms like Slack, Teams, Skype are essential for quick discussions. However, make sure your employees are all using the same platform! If one department is using Slack and another Skype, the communication becomes tricky.
- Phone Calls: To avoid missing office phone calls, have your employees set up their desk phones to forward to a line they will be able to answer. With the popularity of VoIP services, many of these companies already have simple solutions in place for rerouting calls.
Setting up the proper system and protocols will help your employees be prepared for success when working remotely.
As an Employee: Now that you have been allowed to work from home, you will need to set yourself up for success. Here are some tips to help you:
- Over-communicate: Because you are no longer interacting with your coworkers, you will need to be diligent in your communication. Make sure you are an advocate for yourself as you communicate the progress you have made, tasks you have accomplished, and the help that you need.
- Use video calling: Whether you have a meeting or just a regular phone call, that face to face interaction via a video call will help you feel more connected to your office. For a long-term remote working situation, setting up a weekly call is beneficial rather than just relying on email.
- Set-up a routine: If you structure your schedule like you are working in the office, you will more likely be productive. You can segment your time into tasks like responding to email, reading industry news, making outbound calls, and more. Setting reminders in your calendar will help you stick to the schedule.
- Create a workspace: Whether you work from home, shared office leasing, or a coffee shop, create a workspace that is “yours” for the day. (Hard to do in a coffee shop, but hey, you could try!) This space will train your brain to know that when you are at this workspace, it’s time to work. You may want to turn on Netflix, take a nap, fix some snacks, run errands, but plan so you are ready to work in your work zone instead.
- Respect the policy: Honor the policy that your company has set in place. Employers fear that without the physical presence of a manager, productivity will decline.
Overall, whether you are the employee or the employer, remote working options may be something to consider during the COVID-19 outbreak seriously. Whether you extend this policy and offer more flexibility or allow employees to work remotely is solely a business decision for best practices for your company.