Lucy Neave

With around half of all UK employees working remotely in the past 12 months, the coronavirus pandemic put telecommunications centre stage. Can you imagine how lockdown would’ve played out with no internet connectivity to support home working?

Now that a return to the workplace could be on the horizon, it’s a good time to take stock of your telecoms infrastructure and how it will support your business in the future. Let’s take a look at some of the steps you can take to future-proof your IT and telecoms setup, protect your business from further disruption, and ensure that staff are equipped to work remotely should the need arise.

Audit your remote working setup for better business continuity

Whether or not you’re aiming for a full return to the office, the advantages of an IT and telecommunications system that can support remote working are clear. We don’t know what the future holds, but it’s easy to imagine all kinds of situations when accessing the system from outside the office might be needed again – whether that’s another period of quarantine or perhaps a disruptive office move, snow day or Tube strike.

In the past, these might have been one-off events that could be written off, but in our post-pandemic world, you can no longer afford to lose those valuable working days – your competitors certainly won’t be resting on their laurels. Going forward, it’s expected that you’ll be able to switch seamlessly from office to home working without a noticeable dip in the service you provide.

Essential features to support remote working in the new normal will include:

  • Unified communications – so that staff can access all documents and correspondence from one central place
  • Call redirects – so you can reroute incoming calls to other locations as required
  • Staff training – ensuring all employees know and adhere to your remote working policies and procedures

Create a cyber security action plan

When work is conducted outside the office, your system is more vulnerable to cyberattacks. You may even have experienced one or more data breaches during the pandemic. As you prepare to return to the workplace, now is a good time to revisit basics such as password security and remote access policies to ensure that your data is fully protected, wherever your employees are.

Here are some issues to consider:

  • Connectivity. Staff logging on via public WiFi can pose a security risk. Upgrading your virtual private network (VPN) for use by all employees will ensure a secure connection and make it safe to log on to remote machines if needed. Using a firewall means you can block network access for anyone other than your staff.
  • Virus protection. It’s essential that all devices connected to the internet are protected with up-to-date antivirus software.
  • Authentication. If employees are connecting from home, you don’t know who could have access to their machines. With two-step authentication and secure, frequently updated passwords, you can help keep unauthorised individuals from accessing sensitive data.
  • Clear policies. Make sure you have up-to-date rules on practices such as BYOD (bring your own device – the use of own devices for work purposes) or downloading apps onto company machines.
  • Training on data security and cyber hygiene. Many cyberattacks are enabled thanks to human actions – such as being taken in by phishing scams – so it’s vital that all employees are fully briefed on how to keep sensitive data protected.

Making the workplace safer for employees

After a prolonged period of remote working, many employees may understandably be apprehensive about returning to the office. Despite the success of the vaccination rollout, the risks of COVID-19 remain. Installing thermal imaging cameras is a positive action your business can take to regain the confidence of your staff and any visitors.

Fully remote working: how to make the transition

For some businesses, the pandemic may prompt a permanent shift to fully remote working. Could it work for you? Done right, it can bring lots of benefits: you’ll save money on overheads while promoting a better work-life balance for employees as well as widen the pool of talent available to you, as you won’t be confined to one geographical area.

Here are some tips to approach the transition:

  • Listen to your employees. Is remote working what they want? Find out what support they need to work from home and take on board their suggestions.
  • Stay connected. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or alone if you’re not spending time with your colleagues every day. Schedule in some time for socialising and one-to-one meetings so that you can ensure the wellbeing of your staff.
  • Embrace the perks. With no need to lock up at night, there’s scope for staff to work the hours that suit them. Where business needs allow, support your staff to flex their hours to fit in with their lifestyles.
  • Be open to change. The flexibility that remote working brings is an asset. Keep an open mind about remote working as you move forward and be prepared to review your working practices if they’re not working out as planned.

The new normal: a future where connectivity is central

During the pandemic, the increased reliance on IT and telecoms to enable communication, collaboration, videoconferencing and other essential work functions was a challenge, but it’s also been a wake-up call. More than just an optional add-on feature, we’ve seen that the ability to adapt to adverse situations and deliver business continuity whatever the circumstances is essential to the survival of any company. As lockdown restrictions lift, the lessons learned from the pandemic will remain pertinent – and a robust telecoms infrastructure is one of the best ways you can protect your business from future disruption.

With Croft, you can!