In just a short number of days, COVID-19 has completely transformed the work culture around the world. As people post pictures of their new at-home setups, IT teams are scrambling to support an entirely remote workforce. Mitel CIO Jamshid Rezaei took the opportunity on March 18 to lead a Twitter Chat (#MitelChats) looking at how IT can provide stability during this rapid and extreme transition:

Which communications and collaboration tools are essential?

With social distancing and self-isolation measures keeping us homebound, video and chat have become essential tools for staying connected with colleagues and clients. Where video calls before coronavirus (BC) gave us the benefits of connecting across time zones, now we can better appreciate the way it keeps us face-to-face. We can see facial expressions, maintain eye contact, practice those communication skills—still be a part of the team. Face time has been widely proven to increase our mental well-being and, in a time when distancing is necessary, the video-chat combination will be a lifeline.

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Mitel partner, Olive Communications, has tried and tested the video-chat combination within their own organization. They said they recommend multiple collaboration tools to stay in touch. Analyst Zeus Karravala (@zkerravala) pointed out that no matter which tool you choose, today’s collaboration tech is unified, providing a single place to access video, chat, email, and shared files. And that can go a long way in keeping work neat and tidy while the rest of life feels a tad chaotic.

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How do you encourage a good WFH culture?

The call to work from home exclusively seemed to happen overnight and people are reeling from the implications on work-life balance—let alone the logistics of how to work with a remote setup. Many are now sharing their workspaces with kids, spouses and pets. Others are winging it with new challenges, whether circumstantial or technology-wise. This has us looking to IT in a more profound way—not only to provide the tech and support, but also for encouragement and know how.

It's a greater responsibility on IT, and one that should be duly recognized when thinking about your new remote workforce. As a starting point, the best thing IT can do is lead by example.

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Hold video calls from your home. Let people see how you are using various technologies. Assign buddies to help each other with tech issues. Focus on the benefits of working from home. And make sure your actions and communication efforts are geared towards empowering the teams.

When it comes to infrastructure requirements, what should you be thinking about?

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While many companies may be used to supporting a percentage of remote workers, COVID-19 measures around the globe has upped the ante. Now we have additional challenges and changes that need to be accounted for when all employees are working off the grid.

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A healthy cloud back end is key, as is the increased need for security. Take a good look at security tools and policies and adjust where needed to account for the increased demand on the network. In-the-moment solutions can be documented and honed to make the most of what works so it will serve your workforce in the longer term. For example, a cloud-based solution is ideal for small businesses with a limited infrastructure and increased demands on video streaming.

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Bandwidth at the ISP level is also going to be important right now. Find out what the status of employee Internet connections are, thinking of every home as its own cosmos of demands. Some employees are on their own while others are managing a household of people streaming different things to make the workday go smoother. Provide guidelines on how everyone can optimize their home network, whether it's getting a better router or allowing for greater bandwidth on video collaboration networks.

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How do you ensure everyone is aligned during a crisis?

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Communication is essential during any season of uncertainty and change. These are different times and supporting an entire workforce that’s at home requires extra thought and consideration—and much more communication, more regularly.

One idea is to meet with essential team heads weekly to relay new information and get an understanding of their concerns and challenges. The team leads can then pass along information to their group.

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Establishing a single source from where all employees and your network at large can go to access information and stay on the same page is essential. Portals, emails, all-hands company updates or recorded videos are helpful to communicate how the company will be proceeding and how to work. Extending that to customers, constituents or clients keeps your brand relevant and makes it easier for everyone to continue to do business with you.

How do you prepare for end user support if any issues arise?

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With everyone in the network navigating uncharted waters, be prepared to provide increased IT support. Review your current support structure, with the expectation that you may need to adjust with more options. Make sure your support desk has extra staff and is ready to answer the basic questions. But also have resources ready to offset that demand.

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The vast majority of employees will want a live IT help agent available to assist them. But some, like millennials, will want the option to self-serve. Providing a variety of information, like FAQs and videos, a support desk and buddy system, will help your organization feel more empowered and comfortable using the technology at home while providing your team with some room to focus on the immediate issues.

What now?

The unknowns about COVID-19 is the hardest part. Participants in the #MitelChats discussion agreed that the best way to support employees in times like this is to think from their perspective. Understand where they may be coming from and develop ways to empower them from their homes. Take time to consider how the current network infrastructure is working in the new situation and how it can be adjusted to make more sense over the short and long term. Lead by example and with patience and understanding, knowing it's not going to be perfect right away.

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This is a situation where IT will be most in demand and your employees will be leaning on you more heavily. Compassion will be your greatest strength—and can be the compass that drives what comes next in times that are most uncertain.


Need help setting up your home workforce? Go to our Remote Working Resources>


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