Work From Home Tools During COVID-19

As social distancing precautions become increasingly prevalent, more and more organizations are sending their employees to work from home until further notice. This allows many companies to continue business as usual — but they need to have the right tools in place to make remote work a success. Working from home is very different than working in an office, so what works when everyone is in the same space might not translate when everyone is in their respective homes. Sure, you can try just sticking to email for absolutely everything...but the right tools can always serve to streamline your operations. Check out what you can do to improve operations while everyone is at home:

Boost Productivity

If your company didn’t already have remote capabilities in place before COVID-19, it might be a tough transition for your employees. It’s important to acknowledge that to suddenly go from a familiar office situation to working from home at the drop of a hat can be incredibly difficult! There is going to be a time of transition — and everyone needs to get used to the new normal before productivity can spike. However, if your team doesn’t have the support and tools they need to get the job done, productivity will continue to remain low. Make sure you are giving employees what they need, and you might find that they are even more productive at home than they are in the office.

One of the best ways to boost productivity is by implementing a VPN. A VPN solution like OpenVPN Access Server allows employees to access the company network from wherever they are — which means they can get their work done just as easily from home as they can in the office. Rather than trying to download information locally, and transfer data via email or other platforms, a VPN can give employees direct access to the resources they need without bogging down the process. Instead of wasting time trying to get specific resources, they can get what they need exactly when they need it — and use the time saved to actually complete the work.

Improve Communication

There is no way around it — long-distance communication can be tricky. No matter how professional your team is or how skilled they are at written correspondence, it is still often misunderstood and misinterpreted. Not to mention, written communication can lose a lot of tone — too much is open to interpretation. You run the risk of Sally in accounting thinking John in HR is angry, and focusing on the perceived conflict rather than the task at hand. Having different methods of communication can go a long way to improving communication for geographically distributed teams. Every person has different styles of communication, and some topics are better suited to different mediums. Some things can be communicated well via a quick chat, others require lengthier meetings and cannot be handled in a more casual forum. Having multiple methods of communication can limit the number of misunderstandings, and the amount of time people have to spend clarifying and reiterating.  

A communication tool like Slack could be a fantastic option for your company, because it allows users to choose which method works best for them. They can have private or group chats, voice calls, and video conferences. There are multiple methods in one tool, so there are options for all situations. 

Handle Your Paperwork

When working from an office, you often don’t realize how much can be accomplished entirely online instead of through paper and ink. After years and years of printing, mailing, and signing in person, most organizations have a system in place they’re used to — and see no reason to change it. But now that everyone is at home, the system won’t work as well (or at all). You can’t just print a document and have Bob in cubicle 6 review it, or have Barb the client stop by on her way home to sign it. Mailing really isn’t even a great option right now due to (understandable) postal delays. A great solution is to start shifting your document process online. 

E-Signature services like Docusign make it easy to create, send, review, and sign documents digitally. You can have new employees sign offer letters, your 1099 workers can renew their contracts, team members and vendors can sign tax forms, and clients can sign letters of agreements — to name just a few things. Basically, if you have to have people sign documentation of any kind, chances are it can be done online. This is incredibly useful while so many people are social distancing and quarantining, but the benefits will extend well into the future. Switching to digital documentation will save resources AND time. 

Refine Project Management

This goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Project management can make or break your team's success. Staying on top of tasks and to-do’s is essential for keeping business moving forward. Many organizations depend on in-person communication and meetings to manage projects — but remote work removes that in-person element.This means, unfortunately, that employees often get stuck working in a silo and can feel isolated and unsupported. If teams are not provided with tools to manage their projects and collaborate with all the involved parties, it becomes more of an “every person for themselves” environment. That’s not good for business, for your team, or ultimately for your bottom line. Fortunately, there are a lot of great tools out there to streamline project management.

Jira and Confluence are great options for managing projects. Jira allows users to create projects with multiple layers of subtasks, assign tasks to different people, set priorities and deadlines, and track what’s happening with each project. Confluence allows users to visualize projects from start to finish, as well as organize and house different resources. Both of these project management tools have a learning curve, but once your team masters them, they can make a powerful difference in communication, time management, and overall efficiency for everyone.

Strengthen Security

Cybercriminals are constantly targeting businesses, and now that more and more employees are working from home, bad actors are finding new and creative ways to hit a payday at your expense. Check out our blog about some of the new scams organizations are facing — anything look familiar? In most cases, criminals are banking on human error and carelessness, which is why it’s  so important to educate employees on good cyber practices. That being said, accidents will still happen; make sure you take every precaution possible to ensure your employees CAN’T slip up.

There are a lot of great security tools that can limit the human-error factor. For instance, OpenVPN Access Server allows you to set fine-grained access control. This means you can determine who has access to the network, and then take it a step further and determine what they can access within the network. That way employees can’t accidentally stumble into information they aren't authorized to use — and, if an individual employee is hacked, only a portion of your network is at risk (rather than the entire thing!).. Access Server also allows you to set multi-factor authentication, so employees have to go through multiple steps to access an account or resources. That way, even if a hacker can guess or brute-force their way to a password, they still can’t access the network. On top of that, password managers like LastPass store encrypted passwords online. This allows you to set strong password requirements, and employees can store them in a secure location.

Utilizing some (or all) of the above tools can help you and your team make the transition to remote work seamlessly and successfully. In fact, these tools make everything so much easier that you may just find yourself using them well past the time of social distancing — regardless of where your people are signing in from! 

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