IT Response To COVID-19
As the COVID-19 Coronavirus situation intensifies, it's important for employers to 1. Understand the risks, 2. Act swiftly, and 3. Ensure your business remains secure and productive during this event. The first and foremost priority has to be containing the spread of the virus. However, sencondarily, your business must remain productive and secure in the process. That may mean that you have to become comfortable managing a remote workforce. There are 4 main cornerstones to managing your remote workforce:
Ensure your employees have correct access to the tools they need in order to stay productive throughout this turbulent time:
- Microsoft Teams or Slack
- Make sure all of you employees have access to a collaboration tool and they know how to use them. These tools can be extremely useful in work from home situations like this.
- SharePoint or other business critical file repositories
- If your employees are working from home, it's crucial they have access to business critical file repositories. There are some information security considerations here, as well. We will cover that later in the article.
- Meeting Software
- Your employees should also have access and be trained on virtual meeting software like Zoom, GoToMeeting or TeamViewer.
While working from home, your employees will obviously be on many other various networks and work settings. This can get tricky from a security standpoint. You want to ensure that they:
- Always use trusted Wi-Fi to ensure data security and remember that public Wi-Fi is vulnerable
- Consider encrypting your laptop, or advise your IT department to do so
- Keep track of all your devices and take all measures to avoid loss or theft
- Create strong passwords and memorize them
- Use a password manager
- Be wary of USB sticks as they are potential sources of malware
- Use their VPN when accessing company drives or repositories
- Ensure your antivirus software is up-to-date.
It is important to build in controls when your employees are working from home. This will allow them to stay accountable to the goals of the organization. For example:
- Communication is key. As we mentioned previously, tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack and online meeting tools can help increase communication when managing a remote workforce. Ensure you are scheduling frequent meetings to keep employees focused and on track.
- Track progress. Just because your employees are working from home doesn't mean they should be any less productive. Ensure there are controls and mechanisms in place to track progress and hold your employees accountable to it.
- Implement a time tracking tool like Toggl or Clockify. A time tracking tool will ensure your employees are staying productive throughout the day.
- Modify your monitoring or alerting to monitor for exceptions and potential risks.
For remote work to function properly,
- Encourage IT to identify and resolve issues ASAP to keep employees productive.
- Ensure employees have access to everything they do at the office, at home.
- Recognize and praise good work.
- Encourage employees to use statuses within Microsoft Teams such as, busy, away, out of office, etc.
If you need help implementing any of these recommendations, please contact us.
We have also taken the liberty of compiling the CDC's (Centers for Disease Control) workforce recommendation for your information.
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home:
- Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
- Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
- Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
- Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
- Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.
- Separate sick employees:
- CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).
- Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees:
- Place posters that encourage staying home when sick, cough and sneeze etiquette, and hand hygiene at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.
- Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
- Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
- Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
- Visit the coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage for more information.
- Perform routine environmental cleaning:
- Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
- No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time.
- Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
- Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps:
- Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Specific travel information for travelers going to and returning from China, and information for aircrew, can be found at on the CDC website.
- Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
- Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
- If outside the United States, sick employees should follow your company’s policy for obtaining medical care or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates, and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability, and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines, or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.
- Additional Measures in Response to Currently Occurring Sporadic Importations of the COVID-19:
- Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
- If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.