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Checklist for remote working during the novel Coronavirus pandemic

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, COVID-19 or the novel Coronavirus has been wreaking havoc across the globe. Numerous major events have already been canceled due to obvious outbreak concerns.

Major sporting events, social gatherings, and concerts have already been canceled. Ironically, even a conference covering Coronavirus got canceled just a couple of days ago. This is how alarming the situation has gotten.

Even though the general public is taking the COVID-19 pandemic pretty casually, it’s an alarming outbreak that’s forcing public health officials to think differently in order to control and combat the ordeal.

Due to the ever-evolving nature of the Coronavirus epidemic, policies around work from home possibilities are being constantly revised as employers cope up with public health notices and statistics. After all, no company wants employees to come to work if they’ve been exposed to the virus.

But working from home isn’t as easy as one might think. Especially for people who are accustomed to working in a 9 to 5 office environment. Me personally, I’ve been working from home for about a week now. To be honest, getting started was an utter nightmare. So many thoughts go through your head.

  • Will I be able to log in on time?
  • What about team meetings?
  • How can I securely access the company network?
  • What if my internet goes out, will I lose all my work progress?
  • What if I accidentally click on something that can harm my company?

Now if you’ve just transitioned into a work from home environment, I’m sure you can relate. So in these challenging times, I have created a simple get started guide in collaboration with tips from real-world experts to help you securely and efficiently work from home during the uncertain Coronavirus epidemic.

1. Use a secure connection

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First and foremost, you should start with a secure end to end encrypted connection. After all, most cyberattacks take birth from compromised networks. According to statistics, cybercrime is expected to cause $6 trillion in damages annually by 2021. So, you should start by using tools like VPNs to carry out your routine work.

Here’s what real-world experts suggest:

  • Greg Scott — Associated with the Infrasupport Corporation

According to Greg Scott who is a self-proclaimed pioneer in working remotely, The only viable choice here is a VPN (Virtual private network). And I agree, a VPN can, in fact, mitigate risks of remotely accessing company networks.

Use a VPN for the entire team and a password manager (Passbolt). The password manager can be accessed only under the company’s VPN, to keep things extra secure.

  • Luka — Editor-in-chief at DataProt

Set up a secure VPN for all remote employees to use, each with their individual permissions and access levels. Each employee logs into their own private account when they startup their laptops as they would any other day logging in at the office. Using a VPN ensures the privacy and accountability of all of the remote employee’s online activities.

  • Jake Rheude— Associated with Red Stag Fulfillment
Jake, who has been managing a fully remote team for 4 years, suggests being mindful of the applications you use. Whether you use a work laptop or your personal laptop, be mindful of the information that you’re sharing or inputting via that device. Use a more secure, privacy-conscious browsers such as Brave, or a search engine such as DuckDuckGo. Any of these tools will make working from home as secure as possible and minimize the vulnerability of being outside the measures you have in the office.

2. Use team collaboration tools

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So, no matter if you’re working from home, you will need to collaborate with your team from time to time. I know how important it is for me to get timely approvals. I highly suggest using Slack. It helps me stay in touch with my team in real-time.

Here’s what real-world experts suggest:

According to Julie, she has been successfully running a virtual office since 2008. She suggests using tools like Slack, Asana, and Zoom. Her company uses Slack for real-time email conversations, Asana for projects management and Zoom for weekly staff meetings.

  • Aaron Aude — Associated with Centric Consulting

Aaron, who is an Enterprise Collaboration Service Offering Lead, suggests using Microsoft Teams to conduct meetings and calls remotely both for internal communications and with clients. Aaron prefers this tool because it’s good for Video, chat, Co-authoring, Group formation, and Recording meetings.

Anh, who is the founder & CEO of a 2-year-old media startup, suggests using external programs or chat apps to assist communication between employees. He suggests using Facebook chat groups or instant messaging platforms like Slack and Troop Messenger.

  • Travis James Fell— Product Manager at Hypori

Travis, who is a Product Manager at Hypori (virtual mobility software), suggests using platforms like Zoom, with virtual whiteboarding tools like Miro.com and Mural.co. Using these venues to play online brainstorming games help keep remote employees engaged while solving challenging problems. Furthermore, these games yield tangible, actionable feedback that can be integrated with popular workflow collaboration tools, like Jira or Aha. 

3. Go cloud to avoid losing work progress

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If you’re like me and have lost your work progress due to software glitches or your computer dying on you, you must move your work to the cloud ASAP. There are numerous cloud services you can go for. I personally use Google Drive. It fast, safe and dead easy to use.

Here’s what real-world experts suggest:

Markelle moving to the cloud for everything and using technologies like Google Drive for project management and work collaboration. He suggests as long as a team member has access to the internet, they can access all files and software. He further suggests using multi-factor authentication and avoiding public WiFi.

  • Itai Danan — Associated with Cybernium Inc

As a consultant Software Engineer with 25 years of experience, Itai suggests remoting onto a work machine using technology like VNC. In such a case, one does not access the network remotely but rather operate a computer that is in the company. This is why, even if your personal computer crashes, your work would get saved on the remote machines cloud server.

  • Mike Treacy — Director of Support Services at Onix

Mike Treacy suggests that cloud-based solutions give companies the advantage to have employees working remotely even in an emergency situation. Mike suggests that using G Suite is the key to protecting your work and accessing it remotely. He further adds that integrating a suite of cloud-native productivity apps can ensure that your valuable work and documents are never lost due to abrupt crashes.

Adam suggests considering a backup hotspot. If you want to cover all your bases then you should consider setting up a backup hotspot. Most modern phones should have the capability to provide a Wi-Fi connection, so you just need to make sure that you have enough data to carry out any tasks until your primary internet reconnects. Luckily, you can often find pretty reasonable 4G deals all over the world.

So, what are the challenges?

Even though work from home scenario actually seems pretty cool, however, it’s far more challenging and risky for both employers and employees. For example, When employees are sent outside their normal working environment, managing, securing and patching thousands of endpoints can sprawl out of hand quite quickly.

For an IT department, this means losing control. After all, there’s no sure-shot way for a security team to determine whether an employee has secured their home Wi-Fi network. There’s no way for someone from the security department to determine in real-time that someone’s device has been compromised.

For many companies that have totally adopted SaaS and cloud technology, managing a remote workforce can be relatively easy, however, for companies that still have their systems running on internal networks, remote work can be a total nightmare.

For instance, employees stuck in companies with weak infrastructure still find themselves dealing with annoying endpoint security protocols and potential attacks. Since IT departments in some companies don’t have the right tools, fixing even the slightest of issues requires them to remotely access an employee’s computer which is not only quite time taking but also risky.

Fortunately, most companies are handling the whole Coronavirus work from home situation quite nicely. Although haphazardly, most companies are working on establishing risk-assessments of remote workers and their computing setups before allowing them to work from home.

So while there’s no telling how long the Coronavirus epidemic will last, the whole fiasco has certainly changed the way we think and we work.

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
George Bernard Shaw