With the coronavirus outbreak and recent New York State laws that mandate at least 50% of many business’ employees to work from home, professionals from all industries are talking about how it will impact the workplace. But working from home was already a trend that IT pros and developers have been dealing with for a long time. According to a study by DigitalOcean, 86% of IT developers work remotely in some capacity, while almost one-third work from home full time. 

First, organizations need to make sure that their databases are accessed securely. Workers may not be able to bring their computers from work, and instead use shared devices that the rest of their families use, according to Mitchell Ashley, the CEO of Accelerated Strategies.

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“Be very device friendly but understand that those may be shared devices too, so the software that you’re providing your employees needs to be something that can have a password, or certificate, or something that protects it,” said Mitchell Ashley, the CEO of Accelerated Strategies. “Set up a separate work account. Create a separation between where you are engaging in your work assets and where your personal assets are.”

To ensure security, a centralized authority that dictates which individuals get which access privileges will become extremely important, according to Chase Doelling, the director of strategic alliances at JumpCloud.

Creating a barrier between work and non-work is essential for maintaining productivity by preventing burn-out that can be caused by an “always-on” mentality.

“There’s definitely a learning curve to moving into a remote work environment and it’s different to adjust for everyone,” Mitchell Ashley, CEO of analysis firm Accelerated Strategies Group, said. “Create a schedule for yourself and block out time on your calendar to maintain productivity.”

Workers can also try to mimic their long-instilled habits from the office to try to create that barrier. 

“Add in your own virtual commute. Tell yourself ‘ok I’m going to be shutting down’ at whatever your scheduled time is. Go take a walk and listen to a podcast or something,” Doelling said. “Step outside to decompress to have that transition from work to none, because if you just open up another email browser and you’re just checking your personal emails, the whole context hasn’t changed yet. So I think in order to have that transition, you should have some sort of mental trigger.”

In a remote environment, maintaining effective communication with the rest of the organization is key, and this can be done best through video conferencing (whenever bandwidth allows).

“While video won’t completely replace in-person social interactions, the visual and interpersonal cues that we get over video are critical to communication, collaboration, and mental health when working remotely,” said Brian Dawson, a DevOps evangelist and practitioner at CloudBees. “We really need to default keeping video on and that’s a big mental switch for many of us.”

Dawson added that organizations should set up dedicated channels for shared learning to replicate a collaborative environment as best as possible and to move the IT help desk onto a dedicated channel to quickly address any issues. 

Companies should not just think that cost-saving is the primary benefit of remote work, but instead, look for ways to reinvest that money towards employee perks to drive up productivity, said Chase Doelling, director of strategic alliances at access management solution provider JumpCloud. 

Remote work has been a major upward trend that has grown by 173% since 2005. As of last year, 5 million employees or 3.6% of the global workforce work at home half-time or more, while 43% of employees work remotely with some frequency, according to a study by Global Workplace Analytics. 

Additional benefits of moving towards a predominantly remote workforce include cutting down on car emissions with a decrease in daily commutes, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and access to a wider pool of qualified professionals.

The five tips for effective remote working, according to the panelists in MediaOps’ webinar “Remote workers are here to stay,” include :

    1. Ensure device trust – practice the zero-trust model both at home and the office and test the edges of your security parameter. 
    2. Practice open network hygiene – whether that’s using a parameterless enterprise or leveraging VPNs.
    3. Make sure the right people have the right application access and authorization – everyone must know their SaaS app roles and access and know who has what roles where.
    4. Encourage using tools and tactics for remote collaborationuse tools like Zoom and Slack for video conferencing and encourage workers to make visual interactions. Also, move I.T. team help desk to Slack channels. 
    5. Digitize your chain of commanduse stress ticketing systems and reinforce what already works to prioritize speed