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How Can We as CIOs Help Our Employees During COVID-19?

Over the past week, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the business world. As a national state of emergency was declared in the US, companies are now rightfully mandating that employees work from home for the foreseeable future. 

Like most of us these days, technology is a natural extension of me 7x24x365. Being “off the grid” just isn't a reality anymore. Time of day, mode of travel, geography, availability of personal devices—all of these factors used to have potential for limiting access or hampering connectedness. Not anymore. The truth is, technology is the lifeblood that optimizes interactions with my co-workers, business associates, family members, and friends. 

At Fuze, we not only understand this, we make it our mission to create software that empowers people to interact without restriction—and truly establish a company culture that promotes working from anywhere.   

I recognize that some fellow CIOs might be dealing with both their teams and entire workforces operating remotely for the first time, and there is uncertainty that comes along with this challenging and new circumstance. Pulse Q&A surveyed 100 IT leaders and produced a  “one-minute white paper” that shows other IT executives’ responses to the coronavirus pandemic. Only 57% believe that their tech stacks allow for a complete work-from-home scenario.

The survey also highlights that things are moving quickly—by the end of March 2020, 18% of IT executives imagine more than three-quarters of their workforce will be working remotely. Another 33% said that over half of their workforce will be working remote by the end of the month. 

If you’re a CIO who is working remotely, leading a remote team, or transitioning your business to working remotely full-time, here are some tips that might help: 

1. Advise workers on establishing a strong network connection. 

An important consideration when setting up a remote workspace is ensuring that you have a strong and reliable network connection. As IT executives,  we need to be understanding and patient with employee connectivity issues at this time—doing our best to help them solve any problems that arise. With the unusually high volume of traffic on residential services, there might be some hiccups given overwhelmed carrier infrastructure.

A wired connection is always best for ensuring that your work day isn’t interrupted by spotty connectivity, and online communication doesn’t suffer from poor audio or video quality. For wifi optimization, consider reviewing recommendations from PCMag or Lifehacker. No doubt many employees will also be leveraging VPN connections more than ever, or for the first time, to securely access your business systems. Be sure to take stock of your VPN host configuration, redundancy, and licensing to account for this increased demand. 

2. Enable your employees with the right technology. 

If your employees left the office and don’t have the opportunity to return to pick up necessary peripherals (i.e. headset, keyboard, mouse, etc.), consider whether and to what extent you will accommodate access to these tools in their new reality. Partner with your HR and legal teams to find the best path to ensuring your employees have the technology they need to make their home workspace as productive as possible. 

3. Lean on communications tools to emphasize transparency & availability. 

Communication and team collaboration in times like these is critical. Fortunately, we use Fuze throughout the day to chat, participate in meetings, and make/receive calls. I highly suggest execs and other leaders across the organization take advantage of communications solutions like Fuze or Slack and use the presence status (e.g. available, busy, in meeting, away) in those apps to signal when they are free to chat, or take a call or meeting. Team/group chats (or channels) is also a great way for team members to stay in the loop on projects and collaborate across subgroups throughout the workday. Leaders ought to be active participants in these forums. These small actions can foster greater transparency and aid in establishing a remote company culture. 

4. Take the opportunity to remind your workforce of cyber threats. 

Unfortunately, as CIOs have come to learn all too often, bad guys love to prey on socio-economic unrest and general public uncertainty and anxiety in times of crisis. Now is one of those critical times to remind your workforce to be extra aware of and vigilant about potential scams and cyber threats aimed at compromising personal and corporate information. Be sure to provide guidance on what employees should be on the lookout for and how they should report incidents or concerns that they encounter from their remote workspaces.  

We can all manage through this unprecedented time by supporting each other and, as leaders, understanding and optimizing our employees’ remote environments. Let’s do this by making sure that they have the right technology to do their best work. 

You can read more best practices for working remotely in Fuze’s “Ultimate Guide to Remote Work”

Chris Conry

Chris Conry

As CIO, Chris Conry heads our global IT and information security functions, leveraging more than two decades of experience in IT and operational leadership, with a primary focus in growth-oriented high-tech businesses. Chris is a purveyor of cloud-first IT strategy and has a strong track record of delivering agile, business-enabling solutions for private and public enterprises.

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