A few days ago I was approached by a member of the management with a question: “What do we need from IT in order to be ready for WFH?” Being a ‘Born in the cloud’ company, the answer was pretty simple: Laptops (which all employees are already equipped with) and an internet connection.
Well……that is only partly true.
As 99.9% of our systems are SaaS, we do not rely on a single ingress point for our systems. Our systems are distributed and as such, things like a single point of failure, ingress point load, etc., are less of a concern for us. But, that does not mean we do not have concerns.
A Behavioral Change
There are behavioral changes that need to be considered when the office environment is not an option, especially if you are not used to working with a distributed team, managing a WFH team is very similar to a distributed team, however, while a distributed team usually works from remote offices, the state of mind of WFH is different.
Socially, WFH is isolated, there are no “corridor conversations”, cross departments casual talks or informal information distribution.
WFH relies on formally scheduled information distribution and it relies on technology.
- Be sure you have an Online video conferencing service available for your employees to communicate with. There are companies like Google, Microsoft, and Cisco that have lifted the commercial limitation for their communication products to allow WFH:
- Cisco Webex is offering unlimited usage
- Google Hangouts meet if offering unlimited usage for GSuite users
- Microsoft teams is offering 6 months free trial
- Zoom has a basic client for free
- Keep informal communication channels open for faster communication. Channels like Slack, Hangouts, and Whatsapp allow fast communication for both private and group needs.
- Task and project management tools such as Monday, Smartsheets, Trello, and others allow remote distributed team members to share, work, manage and track tasks and project progress.
- Conduct middle management cross-company video meetings in order to be updated, and encourage your employees to do the same. Meetings with peers that used to happen casually will need to become formal.
- Don’t forget to update your scheduled calendar meetings to include an online video conference invite.
A Physical change
There are some physical aspects for WFH IT support, mainly around onboarding and offboarding, but not only…
- Onboarding – You need to consider self-service remote onboarding, it needs to include:
- Ability to physically deliver the laptop to the onboarded employee.
- The ability for a self-service connection to the company’s systems by the onboarded employee. We utilize a few systems to help us cope with this task, such as:
- Apple DEP
- As f2f onboarding is not possible, schedule a video conference onboarding session to allow the new onboarded employee to get familiar with the IT team’s faces.
- Offboarding – you need to be able to:
- Remotely close all access to the company’s systems, and to be able to remotely lock the computer.
- Physically collect the equipment from the off boarded employee
Deliver the collected equipment back to the company or a central place with IT access
- The rest – employees are relying on IT to supply all their equipment: peripherals, cables, and screens are part of it. If you plan WFH for a long period of time, you need to be able to supply your employees with the equipment.
- You will need to be able to distribute the existing equipment to your employees, sending the screens home with the employees “as is” will probably not end well for the screens. Either set up a packaging station or use a moving company
- You will need a supplier for cables and peripherals.
- Consider allowing employees to expense equipment to a reasonable sum
- You have to keep track of all the equipment distributed (everything needs to be accounted for).
- In some cases home internet connection is “best-effort” and not dedicated, also it might be “overbooked” with the idea that most people do not connect simultaneously, while everyone WFH home networks might get crowded and underperform. You can advise your employees to use their mobile data plan as a hotspot in case their home network fail
While working from home reduces the perimeter risks, it does raise some new ones. There are many ways to allow secure access to the company’s systems:
- Be it the old familiar encrypted VPN and SSL VPN variant, the newer Zero Trust approach, even a 99.9% SaaS organization needs to access its IaaS securely, test it for load and performance.
- Test WFH to be sure your employees can access all your systems from home. You’ll be surprised, especially with non-technology teams like Ops and Finance, that there are gaps you did not consider.
- WFH awareness has different aspects to consider:
- Train your employees on how to secure their home WiFi.
- Communicate phishing concerns. Being isolated while WFH makes the employee an easier target for phishing and scams.
- Video conferencing will be the main way of communication while WFH, communicate the privacy risks of webcams and microphones to your employees.
- Your incident response plan might need adjustments for WFH, and all related stakeholders need to be aligned.
Lastly, don’t forget that WFH can be an amazing opportunity for your team to enjoy a Work-Life balance, it will surely change the way we work.
Guest Contributor: Gai Hanochi. Gai is Head of IT and Security at Fiverr.