While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the United States and its economy, businesses across the country are worried about their lost productivity. This is especially true for small businesses that may not be able to take many more weeks of sub-par productivity before they are forced to make hard choices about workforce reductions or even worse, permanent closures.
Despite this, many businesses should begin making plans to return to full production, even if its full workforce isn’t able to return to its physical offices just yet. This isn’t the case for all business types, of course. Retail and hospitality businesses may not be able to get back to business due to their reliance on in-person customer interactions. On the other side of the coin, a business’ engineers, developers, operations managers, finance coordinators, marketing teams, design teams, and more may all be able to return to their offices, albeit by utilizing a rotating schedule. This kind of flexibility may be especially important for employees whose children remain at home all day due to school closures.
That’s just a single example of what your office-based business can do to “reopen,” even while the COVID-19 pandemic continues. By utilizing today’s available technologies, you can also take large portions of your business operations and communications online for the time being. If you allow your business’ operations to be a bit more mobile, you’ll also find your workforce more able to adapt to today’s unusual social conditions.
Establishing a path towards reopening may be challenging for you as a business owner. Here at MOHSO, we recognize your challenges and stand ready to support your business’ efforts to return to full productivity. Contact us today and we can begin to create a solution that helps your business weather the current economic disturbance.
Robust Video Conferencing Capabilities
First and foremost, any business that wants to maintain some stability and work towards reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic needs to heavily incorporate video conferencing into their ongoing business operations. While your business’ teams may not be able to meet in person at this time, video conferencing has proven to be an effective alternative for companies to share thoughts and make plans in real-time.
As you’ve undoubtedly seen, many businesses have already taken this step. For that reason, Zoom became one of the most popular video conferencing platforms almost overnight in mid-March with daily users spiking to 200 million compared to just 10 million in December. To accommodate this massive increase in users, Zoom was forced to temporarily pause the development of all new features and instead focus those resources on maintaining the privacy and security of the platform. They also plan to conduct a comprehensive third-party review to better understand any potential privacy and security issues that exist.
Cisco Webex, the incumbent leader in video conferencing and collaboration tools, has also seen a huge surge in traffic. Its daily meeting volume has more than doubled since stay-at-home restrictions were enforced. At peak hours, temporarily pause volume is up 24 times where it would be normally, the company said.
Other video conferencing tools have seen a major uptick in usage during this pandemic as well, including Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts. These video conferencing platforms made similar decisions as Zoom in pausing their development of new features to focus on improving the privacy and security of their platform.
Video conferencing cannot do it all, though. That’s why your reopening plans should include audio and messaging tools as well. These can ensure that your employees can communicate rapidly and in real-time without needing to lean on email too heavily. Slack and Cisco Jabber remain the most popular options on this front, just as they were before the pandemic began. To help businesses remain functional during the COVID-19 quarantine, Slack is offering 90 days of their paid plan for free. MOHSO has also offered its customers with free upgrades to its Unified Communications platform, UNUM, for 90 days to accommodate the increased need for remote workers. This makes it a perfect time for your business to try these services and see if they work for you.
Chances are your business already utilized at least one of these communications platforms before your employees were exiled from the office. But if not, now may be the best possible time to try these services out and see which ones work best for your business. Consider trying out a few, even, to see if certain platform-specific features (such as VoIP calling, screen sharing, and recording) better suit your company’s needs.
Robust Network Connectivity and Security
If your business is taking this time away from the office to increase its video conferencing capabilities, then that choice should certainly come paired with an upgrade to your business’ core network connectivity. Otherwise, you may find that your employees’ ability to conduct video conferences and work remotely hampered by latency and poorly-managed throughput. You also need a more robust network backbone for those able to return to work from the office. With the increase in video conferencing and rich media traffic, latency can become a problem even for those not working from home. With an upgraded network backbone, you can maintain efficiency for those in the office and those working from home. Now more than ever, a robust network will help your business remain productive, despite the circumstances.
However, any upgrade to your business’ network should also immediately come paired with an upgrade to that same network’s security. Recently, more bad actors have begun preying on businesses that are unable to respond rapidly to cybersecurity threats. These bad actors have been organizing attacks against the remote access and teleworking technologies as businesses have had to rapidly deploy to enable their team to work from home. As such, your business must prioritize protecting your company’s digital assets at this time, particularly if you’ve recently deployed any new cloud-based technologies to accommodate these rapidly changing times. These bad actors have also used this pandemic to distribute malware through coronavirus themed lures. This puts your business at a higher risk of a data breach or of being infected with ransomware. To protect your business against these security threats, you must protect your remote workers just as effectively as those in the office while still keeping your business fully functional with these work from home technologies.
While the core of your workforce is away from the office, investing in your business’ mobility will help ease the transition back to full productivity. After all, mobility tools and platforms can ensure that your workforce is as effective from home as they are when they are in the office. Mobility tools also allow for greater flexibility, which many employees will appreciate while managing other responsibilities during the pandemic.
Any mobility tool suite should include a channel for accessing your business’ applications remotely. This can be done using either a SaaS application in the cloud or terminal-based services like Citrix. This type of remote access can then be paired with a VPN to ensure that employees can securely access sensitive company files and applications over a secure, encrypted connection.
Additionally, some businesses may consider investing in a new telephony service at this time. In particular, many have found MOHSO’s UCaaS platform – UNUM – to be particularly useful and cost effective. In practice, it allows employees to make and receive calls from their office line through a desktop application or smartphone app. It’s feature rich, all-inclusive monthly subscription model, makes it easy for businesses to remain responsive to its customer base and clients, even while your employees are away from their desks.
Get the Guidance Your Business Needs to Move Forward
If you and your operations managers have not already discussed these topics, make a point to do so right away. After all, more businesses in your industry are likely beginning to turn their attention to partially reopening and returning to a reasonable level of productivity. Your management team must be willing to take steps now that set your company up for reliable success, even with all of the uncertainty abounding about a return to social normality.
As noted above, many of the necessary initiatives may require your business to implement new technologies into your core operations. As a result, any internal discussions about reopening and returning to full productivity should also include your company’s technology partners. You also must ensure the security of any new technologies you roll out to avoid the bad actors that are preying off of this pandemic.
Companies that are looking for a new business technology partner that can guide their digital upgrade efforts should contact MOHSO without delay. We’ve been working through these topics tirelessly to ensure that all of our clients can smoothly transition into a more reliable remote working environment and then transition back once restrictions on movement are lifted. We can help your business remain prosperous, productive, and secure so don’t hesitate to call us with inquiries about our diversified IT services.