Working with household tools during COVID-19

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As precautions against social distance become more and more widespread, more and more organizations send their employees to work from home until further notice. This allows many businesses to continue operating as usual – but they must have the right tools to be successful at working remotely. Working from home is very different from working in an office, so what works when everyone is in the same space may not translate when everyone is at home. Sure, you can just stick with the email for absolutely everything … but the right tools can always be used to streamline your operations. Find out what you can do to improve operations when everyone is at home:

Boost your productivity

If your company did not already have remote functionality before COVID-19, the transition could be difficult for your employees. It is important to recognize that suddenly going from a familiar office situation to working at home at the drop of a hat can be incredibly difficult! There is going to be a transition period – and everyone has to get used to the new standard before productivity can increase. However, if your team doesn't have the support and tools it needs to get the job done, productivity will remain low. Make sure you give employees what they need, and you may find that they are even more productive at home than at the office.

One of the best ways to increase productivity is to implement a VPN. A VPN solution like VPNOnlineFree Access Server allows employees to access the corporate network wherever they are, which means they can get their work done as easily from home as they can from 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 interfering with 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 get the job done.

Improve communication

There is no way around this – long distance communication can be tricky. No matter how professional your team is or how well written correspondence is, it is still often misunderstood and misinterpreted. Not to mention, written communication can lose a lot of tone – too many possibilities for interpretation. You run the risk of Sally by thinking that John in HR is angry and focusing on the perceived conflict rather than the task at hand. Having different communication methods can go a long way in improving communication for geographically distributed teams. Each person has different communication styles and certain subjects are better suited to different media. Some things can be well communicated via a quick chat, others require longer meetings and cannot be dealt with in a more casual forum. Having multiple methods of communication can limit the number of misunderstandings and the time that people have to spend clarifying and repeating.

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

Manage your documents

When you work in an office, you often don't realize what can be accomplished entirely online rather than through paper and ink. After years and years of printing, mailing and signing in person, most organizations have a system in place that they are used to – and see no reason to change it. But now that everyone is home, the system will not work as well (or not at all). You can't just print a document and ask Bob in cell 6 to review it, or ask Barb, the client, to go home to sign it. Sending is really not a great option at the moment due to (understandable) postal delays. A great solution is to start moving your documentation process online.

Electronic signature services like Docusign simplify the creation, sending, editing and digital signing of documents. You can ask new employees to sign letters of offer, your 1,099 employees can renew their contracts, team members and suppliers can sign tax forms, and clients can sign letters of agreement – to avoid name just a few items. Basically, if you have to sign documents of any kind, chances are that it can be done online. It's incredibly useful when so many people are distancing themselves from quarantine, but the benefits will continue into the future. The switch to digital documentation will save resources AND time.

Refine project management

It goes without saying, but we will say it anyway: project management can make or break the success of your team. Staying up to date on tasks and tasks is essential to moving business forward. Many organizations rely on face-to-face communication and meetings to manage projects – but remote work removes this in person, which unfortunately means that employees are often stuck in silos and may feel isolated. and without support. If the teams do not have the tools to manage their projects and collaborate with all the parties concerned, it becomes more of a “everyone for themselves” environment. It is not good for business, for your team or, ultimately, for your bottom line. Fortunately, there are many great tools for streamlining project management.

Jira and Confluence are great options for project management. Jira allows users to create projects with multiple layers of subtasks, assign tasks to different people, set priorities and deadlines, and track what's going on with each project. Confluence allows users to view projects from start to finish, as well as organize and host different resources. Both of these project management tools have a learning curve, but once your team masters them, they can make a big 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 creative new ways to hit a payday at your expense. Check-out our blog on some of the new scams organizations are facing – something familiar to you? In most cases, criminals rely on human error and neglect, which is why it is so important to educate employees about good IT practices. That said, accidents will continue to occur; be sure to take all possible precautions to prevent your employees from slipping.

There are many excellent security tools that can limit the human error factor. For example, VPNOnlineFree Access Server lets you define fine-grained access control. This means that you can determine who has access at the network and then go further and determine what they can access in the network. In this way, employees cannot accidentally stumble upon information that they are not authorized to use – and, if an individual employee is hacked, only part of your network is at risk (rather than all!). Access Server also allows you to set multifactor authentication, so that employees must follow several steps to access an account or resources. In this way, even if a hacker can guess or force his way to a password, he still cannot access the network. In addition to that, password managers like LastPass store encrypted passwords online. This allows you to set strict password requirements and employees can store them in a secure location.

Using 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 find yourself using them long after the time of social distancing – no matter where your people connect!

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