Over the past 5-10 years, technology has helped many companies become more flexible in how they allow workers to function. Technology has provided the ability to streamline more repetitive tasks with automation tools and artificial intelligence. It has also created ways for workers to remotely access various work resources and communicate with their colleagues, known as ‘telework’.
As we see our day-to-day rapidly changing in different cities in response to the spread of the coronavirus, how do firms who have yet to make this jump into newer technologies and telework options navigate this new reality?
Whether it’s a pandemic or any other future business challenge, now is a good time for businesses to examine their operating practices. Not just to plan for these types of events, but also to maximize business performance through the creative use of technology. As the new generation of the work force comes in and are more tech-savvy, there will be increased pressure on companies to provide work flexibility from home and in a manner more easily balanced with the demands of life and increased use of technology.
Video Calls & Conferencing
There are several technologies around that allow for video conference calls for functionality such as Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, and many others. This software allows users to have easy access to co-workers and business partners with just their computer or smart phone by taking advantage of the built-in camera and microphones found in many devices today to provide video and audio. This allows workers to see each other in meetings, which combats the “faceless voice” mentality and creates a more personable, collaborative environment.
Additionally, many of these technologies offer multi-stream conferences, meaning there can be multiple video and audio connections simultaneously. This flexibility allows companies with a telework group or multiple remote offices to conduct face-to-face meetings without the associated costs of large spaces and travel. This video presence also helps decrease the likelihood of people talking over each other, as involved parties can perceive body language and social cues. While these types of meetings are not the same as those in person, they do help bridge the gap better than traditional phone calls and allow the conversations to be more personal. At KCIC we have had great success with this approach, and we have remote employees who continue to feel a part of the team in thanks to our use of this technology.
Online Document Libraries
Having documents online is a game changer. When clients transition their files to KCIC’s Ligado platform, one of the biggest benefits they notice is that having files in one centrally located online resource allows users to have access to the files they need when they are at the office, working at home, in a deposition, or on the road. They don’t need to worry about leaving a file behind or not having access to critical information when they need it. This concept holds true for any industry, not just the mass tort claims management with which we assist our clients.
Our own consulting and software-as-a-service company has made many of these forward-thinking changes already, proving that both traditionally in-person work benefits just as much as traditionally impersonal work. Having access to your files anywhere simply means you can always make progress, no matter where you are. Should we start to see travel restrictions within the US, planning to have your files easily accessible and sharable is crucial. That way, your business can continue to operate from anywhere, even if that ‘anywhere’ is different for every employee.
Stop Using Paper
We know, it is hard to stop writing things down on paper. It's so easy to access when you have a random thought or want to jot down some quick notes. However, continuing to use paper means that only the holder of that paper can benefit from its wisdom. How many times have you been in a situation trying to describe to someone where you left a note in a pile on your desk? In our increasingly electronic and online world, continued reliance on paper is both untenable and ecologically irresponsible.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t ever use paper again – it definitely has its purposes. But as working environments continue to evolve, this practice will need to as well. Perhaps you have a paper for tracking your thoughts throughout the day, but then a daily practice to transcribe these to online files at night? There are many programs available now that serve the same functionality as paper for many items like task, to-do lists, sticky notes, etc. Lastly, with the advances in touch-screen technology, taking notes with a proper stylus on a computer is, in many ways, the exact same as a notepad. In some cases, this method can even provide more flexibility than traditional paper and pen.
One of the biggest questions and concerns we hear from people is how to keep all your data/files safe and secure when they are stored in cloud environments. KCIC has previously written about some of the recommendations considered best practices in many technology rich environments. Still, as with any technological system, standard data practices are key. Using strong passwords and a multifactor authentication system help protect the most easily compromised vector for attack: user accounts.
Maintaining strong policies for user account security can help protect your company’s ability to telework securely. Additionally, ensuring that users are on the latest browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and modern Microsoft Edge, alongside up-to-date antivirus software is critical for staying ahead of exploits, breaches, and infiltrations. Another technology to consider using is a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, which allows remote users to create a secure tunnel into your company’s resources providing additional layers of security.
Overall, events like the coronavirus can and will have impacts on business and people worldwide. However, being as prepared as possible with your business to prevent interruption and to keep processes moving forward is possible with a little preparation. And who knows, if more businesses make some of these technological advances now and continue them into the future, perhaps we will see more business and innovation growth as a result.
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Carrie Scott is KCIC’s technology lead, both in operations/infrastructure and for development. “I work with a talented group of people to make sure our technology stays innovative and top of the line to support our client’s needs,” she says. “I also focus on the Consulting side of our practice, leading many clients through their day-to-day and long-term strategic goals.”Learn More About Carrie