Ramping up Telecommute Capacity

Joe Grinstead, MBA | Experienced Healthcare IT Leader • Mar 10, 2020

Among the COVID-19 guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for business is to prepare for “social distancing” to minimize exposure. While not every job is eligible for telecommuting, many are, and this strategy can be an effective way for businesses to offer flexibility to their employees while allowing important work to continue.

For many organizations, providing easy access and flexible options for employees to telecommute while also maintaining security and control is a challenge under normal circumstances, let alone a time of potentially increased urgency.

Fortunately, the public cloud offers several options to ramp up telecommute capabilities. The good news is that these options are usually available on-demand and can scale up and down quickly.

In addition, telecommuting involves more than just the technical pieces. There are people and process considerations that must be included.

Virtual Desktops

While many employees may already have company issued portable computers if they currently telecommute for some of their work, it’s likely that many organizations will have many more employees suddenly needing a corporate remote desktop. Letting employees access company assets directly from a personal device is both a support challenge and a security / privacy risk.

Virtual desktops in the cloud can let employees use a personal device to connect to a company-controlled desktop that can be configured to match an organization’s standard image and controls. These virtual desktops can be managed and supported just like a corporate provided physical desktop. Network connections can be controlled, and data transfer can be managed.

Both AWS and Microsoft Azure offer cost-effective virtual desktop solutions that can be rapidly provisioned and are generally available on a pay-as-you-go model with little to no upfront investment and no long-term commitment. When the need for the additional desktops passes, they can be deleted and the cost stops.

These virtual desktops typically include a Microsoft Windows license as part of the cost; further simplifying the management process.

Virtual Collaboration

Most employees need more than a desktop. They need a way to collaborate with colleagues. Whether it’s a simple meeting or a complex brainstorming session, the cloud, again, offers several options that can help.

Microsoft (Office 365 and Teams) and Google (G Suite and Hangouts) both offer robust online collaboration platforms that range from basic file sharing and collaboration to full multi-media audio and video conferencing. Virtual white boards, screen sharing and real-time chat are all available. Most of the services can be securely accessed from employees’ personal devices with minimal support required.

Like the virtual desktops, these services are offered on a pay-as-you-go model and both Google and Microsoft are offering special incentives during the COVID-19 situation. Organizations can rapidly provision accounts and employees can get online from wherever they are – even if it’s just by telephone.

Beyond the Technology

In addition to the technical components of telecommuting, there are people and process considerations that need to be addressed. As a highly virtual organization, Cornerstone Advisors has been dealing with these factors for a while.

Security and Privacy Are Primary

Employees should be required to assure the organization that they are taking appropriate steps to secure corporate information. Work locations should be chosen to offer security and privacy. Family members should not be permitted to access and use any company provided services or equipment. Printing should be avoided and, if not avoidable, all printed content must be appropriately disposed of, possibly including shredding depending on content.

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Work / Life Balance Can be Harder when Telecommuting

Many people assume that “working from home” is the ultimate in work / life balance, those who have done it know that it’s sometimes the opposite. Having work “just down the hallway” can make it tempting to sacrifice personal and family time. Remote workers can also often feel pressure to make sure they are “putting their time in” and will stay at the keyboard non-stop.

Additionally, with current events, many employees may be trying to balance taking care of children home from school, ill family members, etc. It’s also important that employees recognize that their work needs to be prioritized appropriately. If sufficient time can’t be given to work, personal time off may be more appropriate than trying to telecommute.

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The Social Aspects of the Office Matter

A telecommuting employee can quickly begin to feel isolated from the team. For many people, the day-to-day interaction in the office is a critical part of their work experience.

Another challenge are employees that can’t telecommute either because of work requirements or personal circumstances. They can develop feelings of envy and feeling like they’re managing “more of the work” because they are at the office.

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We’re Here to Help

As mentioned above, Cornerstone Advisors is and has always been a virtualized organization. We are also a “cloud first” organization. Please reach out if you need assistance or just want to bounce around ideas.

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