Eight CIO Considerations for Shifting to a Remote Workforce in the COVID-19 Environment

In response to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, many organizations are shifting to “work from home” policies. While many organizations already have fairly mobile workforces, there are many things to consider as the vast majority of your workforce shifts from in-office to remote.

  1. Evaluate your organization’s capacity
    • Assess your organization’s remote access capacity, including how many concurrent connections you can support with hardware and internet connection bandwidth, as well as with licensing.
    • Review video conferencing and other collaboration solutions used to understand capacity/usage limits and make adjustments to support increased usage, as needed.
    • Encourage employees (especially those who do not frequently work remotely) to test their remote access to see what performance issues they may have, particularly if they’re having to compete with family members at home who are working, gaming or streaming entertainment.
  2. Understand that your organization is more vulnerable from a security standpoint during a crisis because personnel are not as focused on security considerations
    • Do not allow employees to take machines without whole disk encryption offsite. If that is unavoidable, then employees must be coached on how to secure their workstations in their homes, apartments, etc.
    • Provide a refresher course on phishing and other social engineering attacks to employees. Times of crisis or disruption provide a prime opportunity for hackers to manipulate employees into providing credentials or clicking on malicious links. There are already many reports of phishing schemes attempting to take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis.
    • Closely monitor security logs (firewall, IDS/IPS, server, application, etc.) for abnormal activity. Disruptive events provide hackers with the opportunity to attack weaknesses while the attention of IT staff is focused on other critical tasks like supporting new and more effective ways to work remotely.
    • If employees are expected to use personal devices (i.e., not a company-supplied laptop), confirm the security posture scan settings are executed against the device prior to allowing secure remote connection.
  3. Think about how you’re going to manage these computing assets in a remote workforce
    • Review your processes for tracking the computing assets assigned to employees, especially if they are going to take home equipment that is not normally intended to take offsite (i.e., desktop computers, docking stations, monitors, printers, etc.).
    • If employees are allowed to connect their personal devices to the network, make sure the organization is inventorying what users and what equipment have been authorized to make a remote connection. Periodically review logs to identify connections from unauthorized devices to ensure they are legitimate, approved and tracked.
  4. Set expectations with employees 
    • Communicate that files should be stored on company-approved cloud storage solutions or company network drives accessed via secured remote connections.
    • Remind employees that work files should not be stored on personal cloud storage solutions or on personal device local drives.
  5. Review the plans for the IT Help Desk during this period
    • Have a plan for staffing your IT Help Desk, if managed internally. If you plan to have Help Desk staff work remotely, make sure your plan for routing calls and remote control capabilities are tested and confirmed. 
    • Make sure your plan takes into account supporting personal devices if the employee does not have a company-supplied device and will work remotely from a personal device.
    • Prepare your IT Help Desk to handle higher call volumes. More remote users will drive more calls.
    • Create FAQ / one-page cheat sheets for employees on how to:
      • Use VPN/remote access solutions
      • Reset active directory passwords remotely
      • Attach devices like home printers to a work-provided device
      • Request IT support
      • Use video conferencing tools, collaboration tools, etc.
  6. Consider your staffing capacity
    • If you host applications internally, review staff coverage models. While many technical admin tasks can be performed remotely, some things require hands to be on devices. Have a plan for who will be on-site or on-call to perform those hands-on tasks.
    • If using service providers to provide IT User Support, server/application hosting, network support or Software as a Service solutions, contact those providers to understand their preparedness and know if there are any special procedures to follow when engaging with those providers.
  7. Consider your organization’s people
    • Expect productivity when employees are working remotely to initially be lower than when working in an office setting – especially for employees not experienced in working remotely for extended periods. 
    • Expect the unexpected. Employees will have residential internet issues, thunderstorms will knock out power at employees’ residences, and personal devices being used for work purposes will have failures. An employee’s residence is not an enterprise-class environment, so plan to support those limitations.
    • Acknowledge that these are unprecedented times and that employees are dealing with personal and professional upheaval. Be patient, be supportive, be appreciative and be human.
  8. Communication is key
    • Communicate up, down, across and diagonally throughout the organization. Make everyone aware of remote working capabilities and call out any known limitations. 
    • Communicate often with employees (and other users of your IT services). Keep them updated on changes in processes, lessons learned, service level or response expectations, and any technical issues that may affect the ability for users to consume technology.
    • Contact your suppliers and IT vendors to understand what constraints they are working with so you can adjust your plans, as needed.

We understand that operating in this unprecedented COVID-19 environment is challenging and that will continue to be the case for some time. And Weaver is here to help you now and in the future. Contact us to learn more or request assistance with this or other business issues related to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.

© 2020

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