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As we all continue to work our way through a post-COVID world and begin to understand that the way of the past is not coming back, it felt important to put together a list of things that all organizations need to consider when building/improving/adopting a remote work strategy. It’s clear that remote work, work-from-home (WFH), and looking at work and work/life balance in a new light are all here to stay.

The point of this checklist is to help with security, people management, design, and clarity. With these foundations in place, I know that every organization can keep their business safe in this new environment while having a better outcome when launching remote teams.

Here are the core elements that need to be considered or implemented for a successful remote workforce:

  1. Laptops. Consider replacing all computers with laptops as you cycle out your systems. Many organizations had to do this in emergency mode last year, but this should become the norm for all organizations and most positions. Because the WFH environment is going to remain in some version or another, you may as well have the ability to facilitate this and ensure it is done well, with an intentional strategy and budget plan.
  2. Encryption on all devices that leave your building. All devices that leave the office could end up with sensitive information on them, either intentionally or otherwise. Because of this, you can minimize risk by making sure the device has centrally-managed encryption in place.
  3. Endpoint protection. In today’s world, all systems have anti-virus/anti-malware in place; however, not all systems have the ability to manage web traffic and ensure the user doesn’t accidentally expose the system to a vulnerability by hitting a compromised website.
  4. VPN configuration and training. This is another way to ensure the system is properly protected. By connecting to the VPN, traffic going to and from the core network is encrypted and can be protected/monitored. Additionally, this provides a secure way for employees to access resources in the core network to ensure productivity stays high.
  5. Video meeting capabilities (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.). Every organization needs to empower its users to make video calls. There should be a standard product in place that all employees can easily use to jump into a call that replicates the interactions that would normally happen face to face. We all have some form of video fatigue, but it remains vital that we have face-to-face interactions and see the expressions of our teammates. Seeing other people smile helps us all to have a better day!
  6. Hybrid conference rooms. From this point forward, you will have some workers that are in-office and some that are remote. As a result, your conference rooms need to be designed to make it possible for people in the office to have a successful meeting with members of your team that are not in-office, as well as with your clients and customers.
  7. Daily team standups. These do not need to be long or laborious. However, it is important to get each team together once a day to talk about production from the previous day prior and plans for the current day, as well as any impediments to getting work done that may exist. These standups are a means of accountability as well to ensure that teams stay connected.
  8. A way to stay connected. All organizations need a way to maintain the culture and communicate through other methods than email and Zoom. At JMARK, our choice is Workplace from Facebook. Most people are on Facebook and know how to interact with friends and family through this means. Workplace is a similar system, allowing users to enjoy the same type of experience that they do with the world’s most popular social network, but isolated from the main Facebook site. It is private to you, fun for your employees, and highly productive.
  9. Chat. Since users may be accustomed to quickly being able to pop into an office or go up to a desk and ask a question, chat can fill much of that gap. It is also a quick way to share a link to a video call for impromptu conversations. Groups can be formed, and productivity can actually increase, by having a chat tool in place.
  10. VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phones. All users need the ability to connect to the primary phone system for the organization. Most companies have this in place but lack a design that allows for a full-on remote work environment for most or all users. VoIP solves this problem. A VoIP system can include actual desk phones and/or “softphones” that exist simply as an app on workstations. In this way, every employee can make calls from the core office phone system—and even record them as needed.
  11. Training. For remote employees to operate safely and productively, training needs to be performed so that users know how to connect to the VPN, how to access and save information, how to identify possible phishing attacks and other security threats, and how to get quick help if there is a concern.
  12. A dedicated work environment. Many users have spent months working from a kitchen table or makeshift desk. A year ago, we had no idea that what was initially an emergency response would become the norm. Encourage all users to set up a productive work environment at home that protects them from other distractions and creates the best sound/video experience for virtual collaboration.
  13. A set schedule. Routines and clarity are essential for WFH success. By establishing a consistent routine, all users know the schedule for their peers. This includes managers, leaders, and teammates. Encourage people to put this on a shared calendar, so it’s easy for each team to know “who is where and when they’re there!”
  14. A plan for distancing guidelines. This goes without saying, but stay in concert with CDC guidelines for how close people should work when they do come into the office. This applies not only to their desks, but extends to conference rooms and break rooms as well.
  15. Dedication to keeping your culture strong. Getting everyone together on a regular schedule—even if only in a virtual environment—is key to keeping the culture of your organization healthy. I recommend either weekly or bi-weekly get-togethers (at JMARK, we call them our “Friday Rally”). In the Rally, we celebrate wins from the week, share positive client feedback, announce new clients, allow people to tell fun stories, celebrate anniversaries, and communicate the things that are going on throughout the organization—good or bad. We encourage all attendees to turn on their cameras when possible. Create a way to share the video with those in the office so everyone can see and participate. I cannot stress enough how helpful this has been to boosting our culture!
  16. Meetings in your office. Establish the necessary processes and expectations for when and how to have meetings in your office. There are times when a face-to-face meeting needs to happen, but we all want to keep our people safe. Use the CDC guidelines and your own judgment to establish when and how these in-person meetings should occur.
  17. Face-to-face meetings outside your office. The same principle applies here. Some people and organizations may prefer not to allow face-to-face meetings at present. Make sure your team is sensitive to the expectations of others and respects their preferences.
  18. Travel plans. Some organizations are starting to allow travel. Develop protocols and communicate your expectations for travel to ensure the organization is clear on what is acceptable and what is not. “Waiting until it comes up” does not make for the best time to solve this issue.
  19. Policy management. Ensure that you establish unambiguous policies that are communicated to and acknowledged by your employees as necessary. This includes remote work/WFH policies, acceptable use policies, etc. Even if you already have some of these policies in place, they all need to be updated for the current times, as well as to make sure they reflect all new safety guidelines.
  20. Review policy cadence. As the world changes, so do the policies and expectations that we have around remote work and safety management. Define a cadence by which these things will be reviewed by your leadership team so that your policies are intentional and not created “on the fly.” Whether the timeline is monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually, communicate the plans for policy review with your organization so that when changes occur, there is not an appearance that changes are coming out of left field.

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