Though the Coronavirus is rapidly spreading, many people are in a state of confusion. While we all hope that we were too proactive, too prepared, and too cautious, states, cities, and the federal government have already taken precautions including but not limited to shelter in place announcements.

With little time to react, setting your workforce up to operate remotely may present a challenge if you’re not ready for it.

Following our last article discussing strategies for first-time remote employees to succeed, we would today like to turn our attention to the ways that you can empower them to do so—all while still keeping your company together during the stressful time.

Remember, not every employee is used to working remote. The first few days may take some adjustment. Setting up workplace communications, getting employees the remote access they need, and keeping everyone on the same page is much harder when 100% of your office is remote. Here are just a few tips to keep connected.

Tip 1: Leverage Collaboration Tools to Connect Your Employees

With little (if any) time to act, the easiest thing you can do is to set up a collaboration platform if you haven’t done so already. Luckily, modern workforce collaboration tools are not only affordable, they can get people past emails.

Among your options for modern workforce collaboration tools include team chat (SlackMicrosoft TeamsWorkplace by Facebook, etc), enterprise social networks (IglooLumAppsSAP Jam, etc.), unified communications/instant messaging solutions, as well as business mainstays like e-mail, phone, and Web conferencing/meeting tools like GoToMeeting and Zoom.

Tip 2: Put Collaboration Tools to Good Use

Work proves dysfunctional enough without trying to figure out where conversations are happening, which isn’t collaboration. Collaboration should focus on the work, not where to work. Every collaboration tool can support a process in one way or another. For efficiency, decide ahead of time, holistically or project by project which tools will be used for what.

Choose what you want to work with and go with it. It will cut down on the waste.

Tip 3: Ensure Employees Can Access the Apps They Need to Work

One of the biggest challenges that employees face in working remotely is having access to the applications they need. Though there isn’t much time to act, if the news comes over the weekend to shelter in place, Monday could be a bit of a tumultuous time as everyone scrambles to access the applications.

Providing secure access to IT resources, virtual private networks, and the rest of the applications requires attention to every part of the connected tech stack, from Internet access itself to providing secure means to reach and interact with corporate networks, data, communication channels, and applications.

Tip 4: Make a Decision between Employee Devices or Organization Ones

Do employees have the hardware and software to access tools? Is your IT team ready to help set up dozens of employees? In the mad dash to get everything set up, you can’t overlook security. While BYOD has become more acceptable alongside the rise of cloud applications (all it takes is a browser and an approved IP address), you may come to a dilemma.

Should you trust your employees’ personal devices or provide them with the necessary tools? Securing your business and preventing the risks presented by shadow IT may require you to take the latter approach. You may be able to assess existing hardware before allowing access, though the privacy considerations may cause employees to push back.

Tip 5: The VPN is a VIP

Remote access to devices, server power, and services requires a security-minded approach that goes beyond BYOD.

Typically access to applications is provided by a virtual private network (VPN) solution, which sits on the PC, laptop, or mobile device and creates an encrypted network connection that makes it safe for the worker to access IT resources within the organization and elsewhere on the Internet or other networks.

Make sure that VPNs are usable, too. Though many consumer VPNs are simple click-to-use, setting up remote clients on a VPN that’s often built for an IT professional might be a bit more complicated than your less tech-savvy people can manage.

Tip 6: Check-Ins Matter

The quarantine might last a week, it might last a month—and at some point, you’re going to need to communicate in ways that email or even collaboration apps can’t. The meaning behind a statement could easily get lost in text—something we noted in our last blog. A Wall Street Journal exploration of this issue in 2018 and found that as office communication has changed, “exclamation point anxiety” has begun to take over a variety of workplaces.

Miscommunication can derail collaboration. Added to this, in this stressful, stir crazy environment, no one is going to be as friendly as they are normally. This is why it pays to run video calls on occasion to make sure that your team is on the same page and your company can come out of this stronger.

For more ideas and resources, check out the Controllers Council articles on managing the pandemic, including the management of layoffs and furloughs.