Article

Transitioning to a remote workforce

By Elisabeth Zornes, Chief Customer Officer

Published March 11, 2020
Last modified March 11, 2020

In the case of a sudden public health crisis, all debate on the pros and cons of a remote workforce takes a back seat to everyone’s top priority: the safety of those we care about. That means our employees, our customers, and the wider communities we serve.

As you address these uncertain times due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation and rise to the challenge of rapidly transitioning to a remote work environment, we're here to help. Below, we have assembled some of our own best practices. The goal: to ensure your customers continue to get the best possible experience while safeguarding the well-being of your workers.

Tools and security

You need to secure your remote work with the same caution you use at an office. Here are some tips:

Security best practices

As a remote employee, you may have access to service data. This is highly sensitive customer data, such as contact information, end-user ticket data, credit card numbers or service history. It’s the responsibility of each employee to handle service data with the best protection possible.

Situational Awareness. When you’re working outside the office, be aware of what’s going on around you. Don’t leave your laptop open on a table at the cafe and step away to get a coffee. Anyone walking past could see what’s on your screen (and take a photo) or worse - take your laptop.

Confidentiality. Don’t make a Zoom call at a restaurant and talk about things that are not public knowledge. Don’t use public WiFi that’s not password protected - anyone could hack into your computer and steal data.

Common-sense precautions. “Think about who can see your screen, who can hear your conversations," says Mike Bahr, security training and awareness analyst at Zendesk. “Be vigilant - especially if it’s employee data, customer data, or other proprietary information that should not be shared.”

Tools your remote team will need

To do the job, your remote team needs to be equipped with many of the same tools they use at the office:

  • 10Mbps Internet Bandwidth on a secured network
  • Communication tools like Slack and Zoom to help your team stay connected and have virtual meetings
  • Google Drive or another means of sharing documents between teams
  • Access to VPN to connect with your servers
  • Laptop loaded with all the apps your business needs to work
  • Headset for phone calls and video-conferencing

Optimising your home internet for speed and security

When working from home, two important considerations are speed and security. With more meetings being remote, you might notice a significant lag. Not everybody will have the same equipment or a fully optimised home office. The same goes for uploading and transferring files—our home workspaces are not usually equipped with the same fittings as our office spaces.

Need for speed
The best internet connection for your home workspace depends on a number of factors: the number of connected devices, the size of the residence and distance from the router, and obstructions and hardware. If possible, avoid obstructions which impede your WiFi signal. The most appropriate bandwidth for your home workspace is 10Mpbs.

All that being said, there is no guarantee each team member will meet every requirement for optimal internet speed. This could affect audio and video quality in meetings, delay messages and emails and slow down files when you need them ASAP. Patience and understanding are best practice when it comes to enabling your team to thrive remotely.

Security is key
What’s the WiFi password? It should be a secret. Make sure your password is complex, mixes characters and cases, and is not similar to your other passwords. Another important consideration is whether or not you need to use a VPN. A VPN is a secure connection between your computer and a server, and for many remote workers, it’s absolutely essential. The reason you need a VPN is that your data is vulnerable.

Many companies require a VPN so that employees can access services, both in and out of the office. While it has long been considered a best practice to avoid unsecured public WiFi networks for sensitive use cases — such as online banking — the same can be said for doing remote work as well. If you do not have a company-issued VPN, consider a VPN subscription service for secure work and browsing. For some VPNs, you may require an additional device for two-factor authentication. Your mobile phone should suffice.

If you have any other questions on how to set up a remote work environment using Zendesk, please contact us. We are here to help!

Logistics

IT Equipment

You will wish to create a checklist of equipment that employees will need as they transition. Sample items include:

  • Company-issued laptop
  • Charging cord/cable/base
  • Headset
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA) device (phone, YubiKey, etc.)
  • Privacy Screen (optional, recommended)
  • Required dongles (as necessary for set-up)
  • External keyboard and mouse

Minimum Requirements

It is also important to set some minimum requirements for remote work eligibility. For example, if your employees are unable to access the internet in a private, quiet space, it may negate their ability to successfully complete their duties. At Zendesk, employees are required to have the following home set-up:

  • Uninterrupted/reliable high-speed internet access with appropriate bandwidth
  • Quiet space free from distractions
  • Space free of loud noises that interfere with calls (whether internal or external)
  • Layout where your screen(s) are not visible to others

Learn more

As with any team dynamic, remote managers and employees must actively work on fostering open communication, including both praise and constructive feedback, and on building trust. If managers can place the emphasis on performance and delivery, and look for opportunities to coach and fill gaps in training, a virtual team has the potential to run like a well-oiled machine.

For a deeper dive into hiring, onboarding and managing a remote team, read Building and managing a virtual support team.