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article imageQ&A: Maintaining a remote work model post-coronavirus Special

By Tim Sandle     May 13, 2020 in Business
In the transition to remote work, development teams at many organizations worked overtime in rapid response to coronavirus by ramping up software implementation. Now we are in the 'new normal', what are the longer-term issues?
Most businesses are still months away from a potential return to the office, the next step for many organizations is maintaining remote capabilities for a post-coronavirus world, especially if more employers begin to offer work-from-home benefits. With this in mind, what needs to be considered in terms of building new security defenses and monitoring applications to ensure operations ran smoothly.
To learn more, Digital Journal caught up with David Snider, VP of Marketing at the company CloudCheckr.
Digital Journal: How have businesses had to change their work relationships in recent weeks?
David Snider: The day-to-day routines of nearly all professional employees have dramatically changed as offices shut their doors and sent employees home. Businesses now must rely exclusively on technology in the age of remote work, whether it is to communicate with employees, access business applications, or hold video conferences and virtual events with customers. For a typical marketing department that relies on these connections, having a digitally native structure is crucial to maintaining a remote work model. Organizations that have a culture built around technology are able to shift to remote work more quickly and are better equipped to function in unusual times like these.
The ability to subscribe to and access high quality communications platforms hosted in the cloud has been critical for our marketing team to maintain our daily activities and to use data-driven insights to continue delivering value to our customers. This includes video conferencing and collaboration tools for cross-department communication, as well as virtual event hosting tools for our customers and prospects who we would have normally met with at upcoming conferences. While some aspects of working relationships have been challenged due to the current situation we are all in, others have been strengthened by digital tools. In many ways, technology is a positive enabler of communication and company-wide teamwork.
DJ: What are the general challenges with remote working?
Snider: Team collaboration, clarity of communications and interpersonal dynamics are challenges teams face when working remote. However, these challenges may be mitigated with effective technology tools that enable collaboration one-on-one and in groups. With cloud-native services like project management tools and video applications that are easily accessed anywhere and with any device, marketing professionals ensure projects are tracking and coworkers are communicating constantly about deliverables. This translates to shared visibility on project status and facilitates business continuity despite the current crisis. Having lively and transparent communication throughout your team also promotes empathy for co-workers and helps to ensure everyone is doing well and helping each other during this challenging time.
DJ: What are the general benefits, especially prior to COVID-19?
Snider: Organizations that accommodate remote work are clearly well positioned in times of crisis, but more generally they expand the pool of talent and signal commitment to a healthy work/life balance for employees. Organizations that are specifically in the technology space must rely on remote talent to fill critical roles and must satisfy the needs of tech-savvy workers when competing for talent.
Further, it is important for both employees and customers to be able to access applications from anywhere in the world. This is especially evident for online events and webinars. Remote work allows people to come together online across the world and discuss like-minded topics. Our team has created a new virtual event format called CloudCheckr Live that runs at the same dates and times as our cancelled sponsored conferences. The format includes sequential presentations that are moderated and panel discussions with people in different locations -- all to promote interactivity and engagement. With video conferencing tools, engaging content and talented speakers, we’re able to make connections that otherwise might have been lost.
DJ: What risks have emerged since COVID-19 that need to be mitigated?
Snider: There are two new risks that have emerged since COVID-19 -- employee isolation and data security.
When we see employees in the office every day, it is easy to keep a pulse on people’s moods and professional progress. Through regular one-on-one meetings and team meetings, in addition to program reviews, it is easy to track progress and to react to slipping performance. Performance decline may be the result of personal issues which are easier to detect during face-to-face discussions. It is even more important when working remotely to redouble your commitment to regular meetings with employees and to be empathetic to their particular situations (possible feelings of isolation, stresses associated with having young children or aging parents at home, or financial strains). Frequent check-ins, plus team meetings, project reviews and even virtual “happy hours”, help to ensure that issues may be detected and addressed early, for the benefit of the employees and the company.
Regarding data security, the data and information we work with is sensitive and we have seen the blowback that companies face when a breach in security occurs. The work-from-home environment that has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic is a hacker’s paradise (think about Zoom-bombing, a brand-new peril associated with remote video communications). Hackers are acting mischievously, or worse, they look to steal data and information that they can hold ransom to make a quick buck. That is why your business has to ensure you have the proper technology in place that can both support a work-from-home employee but also keep information secure.
As companies rushed to set up the infrastructure to support working from home, they might have neglected important security measures in an effort to get operations up and running quickly. That is where having a cloud management partner could be very beneficial, ensuring that the right security measures are in place and that there is constant monitoring for any potential threats.
DJ: What makes for a good working-from-home policy?
Snider: Work-from-home policies are still relatively disjointed in the business world, as are the technologies to support it. So, these policies are constantly evolving, but COVID-19 will serve as a catalyst for HR departments to test, refine and codify good practices. A good work-from-home policy provides flexibility to employees, encourages frequent and effective communications and simultaneously supports business operations. It only works though if employees effectively communicate with their teams about when they are or are not available and assumes the employees have the maturity and professional discipline to work in an unstructured environment -- thus different functions, roles and individuals may require tailored policies with varying degrees of supervision.
Another consideration for work-from-home policies is how often employees can use it. There is a sense of camaraderie that comes along with having an office environment, but it is also important to foster a healthy work/life balance which may be facilitated through work-from-home flexibility. Ultimately it is important for the employee to communicate in advance plans to work from home to ensure all tasks are completed or covered by a teammate.
DJ: How can companies ensure that policies are being followed?
Snider: Work-from-home policies revolve around trust — trust that one will get their work done and trust that their boss won’t be breathing down their neck. As long as employees are actively communicating and being truthful about their work hours -- and ultimately delivering on their commitments -- it shouldn’t matter how many hours they are online or which hours of the day they choose to work. Also, when employees work from home, it is good to hold and attend regular meetings and track key deliverables to ensure that the work-from-home policies remain effective and are not abused.
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