What tools can help enterprises manage office and retail reopening and sustain working-from-home?

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June 1, 2020
James Bracken and Nick Applegarth

Retail Enterprise Solutions Remote working

Companies know that the initial measures they implemented as a tactical response to the crisis of 2020 must now mature into something more sustainable. Many enterprises are now looking at how they can sustain working-from-home in the long-term and begin a phased reopening of offices and retail locations.

Our experience of managing the SARS outbreak, and its aftermath, has provided a useful set of best practices that we’re sharing now with our enterprise customers, and that may show a productive way forward for companies of any size.

Here are five areas where, in our experience, enterprises can focus in order to better secure, manage, and monitor their operations for the remainder of 2020 and beyond.

1. Make work from home safer and more secure

Now is a good time to ensure teams have a work-from-home technology setup that’s conducive to physical and mental health.

The corporate commitment to well-being should be maintained now that staff are working from home. Now is a good time to ensure teams have a work-from-home technology setup that’s conducive to physical and mental health. The small screen and trackpad of a typical laptop are probably best replaced with user-friendly options such as a plug-in screen, full-size mouse and a high-quality camera for video-conferencing. Staff may be working at home for the foreseeable future, even when offices reopen, and it’s best to ensure their workspaces are ergonomically designed, up to and including an appropriate desk chair.

2. Reorganise office workspaces for long-term social distancing

As offices reopen, they’re likely to be sparsely populated, with fewer desks occupied at once and staff taking turns to work from home. Meetings around a table in the conference room are likely to be banned, in favour of online conferences with tools such as Teams, Zoom and WebEx. These tools can also help enterprises deliver online training to acquaint staff with new office layouts and work practices, and for monthly all-hands meetings, to keep staff informed of what teams around the business are working on, to help customers get back to work. Collaboration technology is a vital investment right now, including screen and document sharing, to keep dispersed teams on the same page, literally. Don’t forget what presence can offer: this allows colleagues to see when other staff are free, leading to more ad hoc conversation and outreach now that chats around the coffee machine won’t be happening. At CKH IOD, we’ve actually seen staff communication improve during lockdown thanks to tools like presence.

3. Take the temperature of staff, customers and suppliers

Thermal imaging cameras that monitor the temperatures of staff and suppliers coming into our offices have been standard practice at our locations in Asia ever since SARS. Invest in cameras that deliver precision, to help avoid false positives, and ensure you have a good workflow around what to do when someone is detected as running a fever. There should be a clear protocol on next steps, and of course a focus on empathy, whether it’s a staff member, a customer or a supplier.

4. Manage and control customer footfall and communications

Solutions which integrate with on-site Wi-Fi can also generate heat maps to show where customers are clumping and need to be dispersed.

Straightforward, affordable solutions exist to let enterprises count the people coming into a premises, which can help offices, retail and leisure locations reopen while managing the risk of crowds. Digital signage can help manage outside queues and give clear signals to waiting employees or customers of when they may enter. Solutions which integrate with on-site Wi-Fi can also generate heat maps to show where customers are clumping and need to be dispersed; this helps ease the burden on security staff and allows them to cover more of the shop floor. Outside of the current crisis, these solutions are also a smart investment as they provide the retailer with insights on dwell times, on which displays customers are spending time at, and how floor layouts can be optimised.

For staying in touch with customers, smaller businesses can also implement solutions like A2P to generate text reminders and reduce instances of people missing precious appointments; businesses here include dentists, doctors, hairdressers, and even restaurants, where patron numbers must be reduced. Such solutions for customer communications can also help ensure accurate package deliveries, and reduce delays and missed parcels. If we are unlucky enough to hit supply shortages again, this kind of service can be used by businesses of all shapes and sizes to let customers know when new stock has arrived.

5. Secure devices and secure connectivity

For staff working from home, be sure they’re doing so securely. Instead of using a traditional VPN solution, consider SD WAN to secure and protect data privacy for home workers. The SD WAN box sits between the home worker’s laptop and their broadband router as a smart gatekeeper: it not only establishes a secure connection back to the office automatically when needed, it also sends all traffic on the shortest and most direct path. For example, traffic destined for cloud apps can go straight to the cloud, rather than taking an inefficient detour via the enterprise headquarters - this not only eases the load on the network and data centre, but keeps the business in full control of its traffic.

And don’t overlook mobile device security. As we continue to access business content over mobile and laptop devices, take steps to secure these devices against viruses, spyware, phishing and other online threats.

Optimising your technology need not be expensive, when considering how you can help normalise work-from-home and securely manage the reopening of physical locations. What’s vital to remember is communication: make sure all team members know what to expect, whether they’re working in the office, on the road, or at home. Strong leadership now, and a clear commitment to the well-being of your staff, customers and suppliers, will go a long way.