REMOTE OFFICE | 5 MIN READ
As the country starts to open up amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the main question on every company's mind is how they can safely transition back to the office. Along with setting clear hygiene standards to avoid the spread of coronavirus, companies need to know how to make the technical transition and manage employee expectations. Keep reading to learn how your company can make a smooth and safe transition from remote work back to the office.
Not enough time? Jump to:
Set Hygiene Standards
Before your employees return to the office, you'll have to set a variety of parameters in place to ensure a safe opening. Start by checking with your state to see what requirements you must follow to open.
Although you should prioritize the specific requirements of your state, here are a few additional tips to keep in mind, sourced in part from the CDC's guidelines for re-opening workplaces.
Social distancing is one of the main methods used to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Encourage social distancing at every opportunity. Start by limiting company events and having remote meetings whenever possible to avoid large gatherings.
To encourage social distancing in cubicles and desk areas, consider having cubicle rotations. Cubicle rotations involve switching off which employees are working in the office every other day to ensure that every other cubicle stays empty.
To further minimize the spread of germs, have cleaning crews visit the office more regularly. Make masks and hand sanitizer readily available around the office.
When it comes to common areas like the break room, suspend any communal snacks and drinks. Consider temporarily removing communal items like the coffee maker and coffee mugs. This is an easy way to prevent the spread of germs.
Encourage employees who are feeling sick to stay home and clearly communicate if they end up having coronavirus so your company can take appropriate measures in the office.
By implementing social distancing guidelines and showing how committed your company is to preventing the spread of coronavirus, you'll foster a sense of personal accountability within your office.
Remote working can impact company culture, which is why a return to the office must be approached in a strategic manner. Consider having a remote company-wide meeting the first day that everyone returns to the office to manage expectations.
Start off by explaining the changes in the company hygiene policy. By effectively communicating your expectations, you'll make all employees take the policy more seriously.
When it comes to workflow, make sure to communicate guidelines. For instance, will employees returning to the office be there full-time, or will they be working remotely part-time?
When your employees return, they will be inundated with meetings. How will meetings be re-structured to allow for social distancing and to accommodate any remaining remote workers? Prepare by spacing out meetings to avoid schedule clashes and having remote meetings whenever possible.
As long as you establish open lines of communication with your employees then they will feel comfortable approaching their supervisors with any questions or concerns amidst the transition.
Make the Technological Transition
Many companies use VPN's to configure their network for remote work. Make sure to remind all employees that they don't need to sign into the VPN anymore.
Assist in setting up in-office workstations again. Employees who have been working remotely for a while, especially those who took their workstations home, may have forgotten how to set up their workstations up again in the office. Try to have your IT manager or Managed Service Provider more readily available to smooth out any issues.
If your company relied heavily on remote communication platforms such as Slack and video conferencing platforms when remote, consider how much you'll rely on them once you're back in the office.
Don't forget to change your phone settings back to normal too. Many business phone systems come with settings that better enable remote work, for instance ones that allow you to forward calls from your desk phone to a mobile phone.
How to Keep Your Network Secure
Just because you're back in the office doesn't mean your company can slack on its cyber security. Keep reading for a few tips on how to keep your network secure once everyone is back in the office.
Secure Your Copiers and Printers
Think of all the private documents that your company copies, prints, and scans every day. Now imagine a hacker having access to the data on those copiers and printers.
When hackers think of which parts of a business network to target, many might think to aim for computers because of all the sensitive documents and programs stored on them, but sometimes, hackers instead aim directly for the printers and copiers, which can let them access private files and enter your network.
One way to leave your office machines susceptible to data breaches is by enabling features that let you access documents stored on your copiers and printers from your computer. When setting up your copiers and printers, disable this feature, if you can.
Personal copiers and printers typically used in managers' offices come with a host of security risks. For instance, personal printers can have a "print from anywhere" feature that lets you print documents even when you're away from the office.
However, this "print from anywhere" feature has little security because it has to create a hole in your firewall to allow you to communicate with the machine from anywhere in the world, which can create a security gap that lets hackers into your network.
While enabling a "remote support tools" feature lets your machine dealer remotely assist you in fixing issues, this two-way form of communication creates network security gaps. If you have this feature on your copiers and printers, either turn this feature off or try to opt in to one-way outbound machine support with your dealer.
To patch a potential security threat in your business, consider upgrading to newer copiers and printers because of their updated security features. As an additional security layer, consider scanning your network for any open ports on the copiers and printers can help identify any existing security gaps.
Educate Employees on Cyber Security Best Practices
Your employees are your weakest link when it comes to your practice's cyber security. You could have the best cyber security tools available on the market and your entire network could be brought down because one employee clicked on a phishing link or created a password that's easy to hack.
Training employees about good cyber security practices will help build a company culture of cyber security awareness. Sometimes, managed service providers have cyber security seminars for their clients' employees.
For instance, they can send out fake phishing tests to employees, and then pull any employees who fall for the phishing scheme into a seminar that will teach them about cyber security best practices.
Use Private File-Sharing Software
Sometimes co-workers forward over files to you, a client, or a new office. Don't mail private files, fax them in an insecure way, or email them over an unsecured server. You risk these files being accessed by the wrong person.
For instance, your fax could be intercepted by someone else standing by the machine, which could potentially break data regulations if that person reads a sensitive document.
For a more modern approach to faxing that will help you stay compliant, use email encryption software to send documents. This software will scramble the data in the file so that only the intended recipient can view it.
For instance, our comprehensive cyber security package includes a service called Mimecast which can help keep private documents secure when they're sent internally in the company or externally. Mimecast also helps prevent phishing attacks by regulating emails that come from unknown email addresses.
Businesses may be hesitant to transition back to the office right now, in part because they don't know the proper steps necessary to ensure a smooth transition.
We hope this article makes the transition process a little less vague. Be sure to subscribe to our blog to learn more about cyber security and remote work!
Posted by Erica Kastner
Erica Kastner is a lead Marketing Specialist at Standard Office Systems as well as a University of Georgia graduate. She aims to use her passion for problem-solving to help businesses understand how to better leverage their network infrastructure.