For organizations that planned to test the waters of remote workforces as part of their digital initiatives in 2020, COVID-19 has quickly thrown them into the deep end of the pool.

According to The Washington Post, The Office of Personnel Management, which oversees policy for a workforce of 2.1 million, told government agency heads as early as March 10 to “immediately review” their telework policies, sign paperwork with employees laying out their duties, issue laptops, and grant access to computer networks. While this was short of a widespread mandate, government agencies that had not yet begun to deploy remote workers scrambled to prepare.

As citizens are urged to social distance and self-quarantine, and several states have ordered all non-essential businesses to close, employees have been increasingly sent home to work. We have reached a turning point when it comes to the remote workforce—with no turning back. In fact, it’s likely that long after COVID-19 is controlled, this will be a capability necessary for both the public and private sectors.

Are you, your employees, and your processes—ready for the quick pivot to working from home?

The idea of a 100 percent digital workforce is realistic, but it’s not easy to navigate while trying to sustain operations, especially in the current environment.  A critical foundation for business continuity is accessibility to information from anywhere your employees work.

To help navigate the process—immediately and long-term—here’s a five-point checklist of essential considerations for the transition to a remote, virtual workforce:

   1.Give employees access to the information they need—wherever they work. 

Your employees must have secure access to digital content to work from home. Information in physical documents or microfilm can’t be accessed, processed, and shared securely, making it impossible for remote employees to be productive if they need that information to do their jobs.

Ideally, the transition to digital content takes planning and rollout. However, amid the unprecedented effects of COVID-19, time is of the essence. Now, more than ever, you’ll need an experienced partner with expertise and both service and technology options to help begin or continue the digital content conversion necessary to support a remote workforce. A cloud-based digital content solution is another critical component of success.

Among its many benefits, our SaaS solution for content management offers fast time-to-value, with low cost of entry and quick implementation–enabling your remote employees to work effectively, quickly. With SaaS, there is less strain on your internal IT resources since there is no software to install, no hardware to procure, no firewalls to set up, and no backups to configure. In order to expedite the process, prioritize the files most used and digitize those first as part of a phased approach.

Amid the quickly changing mandates, a full-service partner that can adapt to your long- and short-term needs is also important to a successful work-from-home transition. Beyond our cloud technology, Image API’s business process optimization (BPO) services can help maintain business continuity during and after you transition your employees to remote work—often while increasing efficiency—with BPO services for incoming applications and other important documents we provide remote mailrooms, document and payment processing, as well as data capture, scanning, and imaging.

   2.Ensure everyone is connected and fully equipped to be productive. 

Once paper is converted to digital files with a cloud-based solution, getting at-home employees connected to the information is a straightforward process. They’ll need a device with a web browser (hardware such as a laptop, iPad, or desktop computer), as well as an adequate internet connection. Beyond the basics, consider what hardware will amp up productivity: a headset, extra chargers, multiple screens?

You can provide the necessary hardware, but ensuring adequate connectivity will take a few extra steps. Conduct an inventory of your employees’ home internet broadband, including download and upload capacities, based on what they’ll need for telephony, video, and/or screen collaboration. Consider each employee’s role to determine the necessary bandwidth, which may vary. Based on needs, it may be necessary to invest in mobile hotspots and/or reimburse for increased internet access or speed.

   3.Establish a culture of remote collaboration with the necessary tools, training and support. 

A remote workforce must be set up to effectively collaborate. Beyond email, this means tools like Slack or Zoom  for chat and meeting collaboration, including video. It also means a tool to store, manage, and securely share content, like a cloud-based document management solution.  Our document management tools allow staff to find information fast, as well as simultaneously and collaboratively manage, approve, edit, and distribute digital content electronically.
When new tools are implemented for remote collaboration, ensure employees are properly trained to use for full effect. The right training and support will increase usage and productivity. Ideally, even before you roll out your remote workforce, establish a culture that embraces virtual collaboration and the tools that make it easier.

A good place to start is with videoconferencing. Video allows for a human connection that promotes engagement when your workforce is distributed. The sooner you begin, the better, both in terms of employees’ comfort levels and their proficiency with the tools.

Managers will play a critical part in fostering a collaborative and productive remote culture.  They must clearly craft and communicate policies and expectations around how remote teams should interact and collaborate. Leadership will be key to a successful transition to work-from- home employees and throughout your digital transformation.

   4.Consider security. 

A remote workforce can create security challenges. This is where a cloud-based content management delivers unique benefits.

Onsite servers are vulnerable to the same physical loss as paper files. Cloud-based digital content storage allows you to maintain control over your content, even when your employees are working remotely, with extensive and configurable permission settings that can be easily set and enforced. Electronic data can be encrypted so even if copied or stolen, the information is protected. Require employees working from home to perform extra authentication checks beyond entering a password to access files remotely.

Cloud-based content management systems deliver far greater security than all but the largest of organizations could afford to implement on their own. In the cloud, information is protected with multiple levels of infrastructure and application security. When cloud-based digital solution providers leverage the massive infrastructure and expert security teams assembled by cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services, they offer best-practice controls, policies, and technologies for data security.

Complying with privacy requirements is easier when you know exactly where and how your records are stored, who has accessed them (and when), and how each document was used. Data storage through the cloud provides the trackable audit trail required for compliance with privacy laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

   5.Prepare for a spike in support requests.

As people navigate and adjust to new remote processes and tools on their own, expect an increase in support questions and requests. Choosing tools that are easy to use, with shorter learning curves, will help. Consider self-service resources and knowledge bases to provide support that stays ahead of demand. Creating resources to support the requests may require an investment in support staff, at least initially.

Support staff may also need additional training during the transition. Choose a cloud-based content management solution that’s easy to use because it helps speed adoption and effectiveness.

We’re ready to help. We’ve done this before. 

Amid the uncertainty of the effects of COVID-19 and the need to transition your employees to remote work quickly, the partner you choose to help has an important and direct effect on your success—for the immediate changes as well as in your long-term digital transformation.

With cloud expertise and 25 years of experience, Image API offers document imaging and other services that help reduce the burden of paper and make how people work more efficient. If you’re ready to get started, we’d love to share our experience, results and technology with you.