Monday | 04 May | 2020
By Essie Bester
The Covid-19 pandemic is compelling many businesses to face the new reality of a 21st century workplace and to address their vulnerability.
As in many other countries all over the world, lockdown can confirm to many companies what entrepreneurs with young businesses have realised long ago ─ it is possible to keep a business productive, maintain relationships and hold meetings without the physical presence of employees in the undertaking’s office building.
There are, however, a few key factors that have to be taken into consideration when a business moves from a traditional office-based setup to a more flexible technology-supported setup.
Cyber threats are a huge hazard to any company. Even in South Africa, where incidents of burglary, theft and robbery have reached an unprecedented level, cyber threats pose the biggest risks to companies. Plans must be made to counter these key risks as far as possible.
Money in a bank account instead of cash on hand, the use of emails instead of regular mail, and cloud storage instead of hardcopy files have always been regarded as safer options. This is no longer the case.
The arrival of ransomware, phishing and cyber-based identity fraud have turned all these safer options into gigantic risks. Workspaces such as home offices, where technology is heavily relied on, make cyber security even more critical.
To make remote control possible, everything must be accessible via an internet connection, which means that all the systems of a company must be available on the website. A business must also be able to filter connections with these systems in order to make sure that only the necessary members have access to the systems ─ all of this while the influence on productivity must be as small as possible.
All the above-mentioned things put a bigger strain on security systems, a fact that hackers are well aware of and regularly try to exploit. Over the past few weeks businesses have already seen an increase in attempted cybercrime.
The products and services required to support companies in their workspace by means of technology differ from company to company. Not all of them are going to meet your company’s requirements.
This profusion of available options ─ each with its own unique properties ─ make decision-making difficult and have in the past in many cases led to a decision on remote work being postponed.
Consult a suitably qualified person to analyse your business’s needs and to evaluate the solutions on the market on that basis. Meanwhile there are a few basic principles that businesses can begin to consider, which mostly fall into four categories:
If a business cannot communicate it will fail regardless of the industry it is in. Internal communication as well as external communication must be considered. Although most businesses already communicate by email, this method is not good enough for discussions.
Consider platforms such as Skype, Microsoft Teams and Slack or Discord, all of which can help to facilitate discussions and cooperation in your business and communication with your clients.
- Productivity management
The long-time setting-up of specific workspaces resulted in many people struggling to be productive outside those dedicated spaces. Apart from that the most efficient teams are often those members that have well-defined and manageable goals to achieve. This enables employees to approach their work more methodically and allows managers to monitor the workflow and outcomes better.
These requirements can be discussed by means of Skype, Microsoft Teams, Slack or Discord and a weekly team meeting. There are also dedicated software solutions such as Scoro, Impraise and Asana, all of which allows teams to allocate tasks and to manage their progress on a cooperative basis. Industry- or team-specific solutions such as Buildertrend or ProductPlan and SalesScreen or People HR are also available.
- Data management
When it comes to data management it is, over and above adequate cyber security, also important that teams must be able to share the work they do and the accompanying data. Many of the platforms mentioned under the previous point also offer a type of file service that can be shared. Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, etc.) also have built-in cooperation instruments.
However, these options are not always sufficient for the specific requirements of a business. Depending on how much data have to be shared, the sensitivity and confidentiality and essential relevant security protocol that have to be followed, options such as network drivers with VPNs (virtual private networks), cloud storage or some other specific solution should also be considered.
In this case the physical hardware that will be required as well as the importance of internet access for employees will also have to be considered. Once again the specific solution will depend on what the business needs. During this lockdown period many companies have probably learned practical lessons on how to address problems like these. In any workspace where supporting technologies are relevant, the assurance that your employees have access (in the form of hardware, connections and training) to the system they have to use is very important for making a business succeed.
The value of face-to-face consultations in the building of relationships and during interviews with clients may never be underestimated. However, with reference to our economic circumstances remote working is perhaps one of the most underused strategies to keep costs low, especially in big companies.
* All information was correct at the time of publication.