With increasing challenges to the UK workplace brought about by Coronavirus, many charities are expanding their remote working systems, or bringing forward plans to implement new tools and training to enable more agile, flexible or remote working. Here are a few points to consider based on discussions with our customers and colleagues in the industry;
Refresh and Republish your Remote Working Policy
A Remote Working Policy should establish guidelines, checklists and processes that staff can easily follow when working remotely. This may include;
- How to log in remotely – remember, many staff may seldom work remotely, therefore, they may need to be reminded how to access systems from home. They may need to practice this.
- Which Communication Tools to use – for example, day to day communications use Microsoft Teams which comes free with all Office 365 subscriptions. Use the Intranet for company announcements. For individual communications schedule a morning and afternoon check in with your line manager by email or phone. Video conferencing tools such as Zoom have free versions that are available to all which is great for quick, simple video calls.
- Lone Working Advice – such as how to stay safe and what the process is to report any concerns when you are working alone.
- DSE guidance on how to set up home computer equipment safely.
It is worth taking a moment to revisit other policies such as the IT Acceptable Usage Policy, and/or refresh your ‘Bring Your Own Device Policy’ if staff are going to be able to use personal devices. Templates for these are available to request from Smartdesc if you don’t have them in place right now.
Ensure senior management agree on what your organisational priorities should be during the disruption period, so staff have clear direction and know what to focus on when working alone at home. Communicate these clearly to your remote workers to ensure they understand their objectives, and use them as a basis for reporting and measuring work progress.
Quick Win Technology
If you haven’t got cloud-based technology in place already, or your remote access tools were only supposed to be used by the occasional few rather than the whole organisations, you might need to consider some quick wins to allow staff to work remotely more effectively.
The benefit of cloud computing is the ability to scale fast, but there are so many options to choose from that it can seem daunting. Microsoft Office 365 works for many organisations and for charities as it extremely cost-effective – from £3 per user per month. Files can be uploaded to SharePoint, Communications can happen via Microsoft Teams and Email can reside within the Microsoft Cloud rather than on your server.
It might not be feasible to migrate everything over right away, but files and Teams are available as soon as you’ve signed up, giving you a place to share files, hold conferences and collaborate almost instantly.
If you manage volunteers who use their own personal email addresses, sending sensitive data to them can be a risk. As an alternative, you can issue them a corporate email address that you can control securely, totally free via the Office 365 E1 donation.
A note of caution: Sensitive data can reside securely in cloud services, if set up correctly. It is very easy to sign up to cloud services like Office 365 or Google Docs, but what’s not so good is the default security controls. Your data can end up everywhere, unsecured, very quickly if you are not careful. Make sure you get the cyber security design in place before launching. This includes ensuring Two Factor Authentication (2FA) is turned on (TIP: you can make it easier for your employees and volunteers by exluding 2FA when they are in your main office, as it is a trusted location). It also includes making sure encryption is enforced on computers (the simplest solution being BitLocker, free with Windows 10 Pro) and on mobiles via 6-digit pins.
Contact us if you would like a quick healthcheck of your cloud security settings.
Test your Response
Set up a ‘trial day’ where all staff, volunteers, stakeholders work from home. Ask for feedback and write any adjustments into your policies, or update your training plan; better to learn the lessons now and finesse your Business Continuity Plan, than when it’s invoked for real and stress levels are high.
When working remotely, it can be very tempting to communicate only via chat or email, but make sure you speak regularly on the phone and use video calls. Use the time saved on travelling and in-house meetings to work on some of planning for the projects that have been on the wish list for some time, or provide some online training courses which can help to keep staff motivated and engaged.
Consider ideas such as a virtual coffee break where you all meet up on video conferencing for a tea break (we’ve seen this work!)
Smartdesc has been implementing Remote Working and general IT Strategies at charities and non-profit organisations for many years. Get in touch if you have any questions.
**We are also running an online event in April about this topic, featuring a guest speaker from a large charity sharing lessons from their recent implementation of a flexible working system – further details here
James Field, Smartdesc Customer Strategy Director
Smartdesc is an independent IT Services Provider to the charity and non-profit sector – an ACEVO Premium Partner and NCVO Trusted Supplier.