Transitioning to a Remote Workforce: Organizations should focus their digital transformation on these 3 areas

Time to Adapt

Brought to you by the Stanford Digital Transformation program

Businesses across the world are implementing remote work policies in response to the coronavirus. Organizations that embraced digital transformation early on are in a good position to continue business operations during this transition, having long ago built the digital infrastructure needed to support a remote workforce.

But where does that leave companies that have been slower to adopt a digitally-minded culture and business model? They may not have all the technology, tools, and skills to thrive in this new environment.

Digital transformation impacts every facet of a business, and there are many ways a company can jumpstart change. When transitioning staff to work remotely, companies would be advised to focus on the following three areas.

Create a productive remote workforce

Supporting telecommuting requires more than enacting work-from-home policies and outfitting employees with company-owned laptops. Businesses can and should provide staff with digital tools and platforms to help them work efficiently and effectively.

  • Communication platforms like instant messaging, video conferencing, audio conferencing, email, Voice over Internet Protocol, and integrated messaging apps give employees numerous ways to stay connected with coworkers and clients.
  • Cloud-based project management and collaboration applications enable staff members to stay on top of ongoing projects, share documents, and make updates in real time.

With the right combination of software and tools, businesses can recreate, and even improve upon, in-office productivity from any location.

Protect and secure company data

If businesses don’t adequately supply their employees with the technology needed to work from home, staff will likely find their own workarounds. Such instances of shadow IT can be enormously damaging, creating security vulnerabilities and putting companies at risk for data breaches. As CNN reported, there’s a huge security risk with millions of employees working from home.

Data security is a major concern for telecommuting arrangements. Employees may use home networks and personal devices to access business applications and platforms, expanding the company’s attack surface. For example, a cybercriminal could use an employee’s unsecured personal device as an entry point to the organization’s network.

Organizations can tackle data security and integrity from a few different angles:

  • Provide remote workers with virtual private networks to prevent external actors from accessing in-transit data or viewing communications between employees.
  • Outfit employees’ devices with updated cyber security tools including antivirus and anti-malware software to remove threats before they can cause any damage.
  • Establish disaster recovery protocols to protect against certain threats like ransomware attacks as well as unplanned outages or disruptions.

In many cases, the best defense against security threats is knowledge. Training remote workers to recognize security threats and adhere to the latest security standards and best practices will significantly reduce the risk of exposure.

Train employees

Access to cutting-edge digital technologies will only go so far if employees lack the skills to take advantage of them. Training sessions should go beyond the basics of cyber security, cloud computing, and collaboration software to truly transform the workforce. Fostering a complete cultural shift to embrace a digital mindset will help bridge the knowledge gap and jump-start digitization efforts.

Managers play a key role in keeping a company’s workforce productive, positive, and united in the transition to working remotely. These managers need to be equipped with training that teaches them techniques for effectively leading a digital team. Communication, project management, and relationship building need to be approached from different angles when being conducted remotely; it is not realistic to expect leaders who are accustomed to in-person management to successfully transition to an all-digital work style without guidance.

From an employee perspective, digital transformation presents a number of opportunities to grow and develop professionally. The move toward digitization has increased demand for skills relating to artificial intelligence, data analytics, and robotics, among many other advanced technologies. Companies should provide employees opportunities to build new skills in these areas.

In these turbulent times businesses cannot afford to keep digital transformation as an afterthought. The sooner companies act, the better position they’ll be in to stay competitive now and thrive in the future.

Brought to you by the Stanford Digital Transformation program