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If You Have Remote Workers, Then

If you have remote workers, then how you manage your business and employees has, and will continue to change. We often talk about the technology that makes remote work efficient and that can help integrate teams. But supporting remote workers requires a broader perspective and understanding of the workplace.  As employers, we remain responsible for providing a safe, effective workplace regardless of where our employees work. Here a few considerations as you plan your hybrid and remote work strategy.

If you have remote workers, then you …

  • Are responsible for their work environments, including the same health and safety regulations that apply in the office.
    • Ensuring safe and appropriate workspace ergonomics, sound levels, lighting, etc. are responsibilities of the employer.
    • Provide your remote workforce with appropriate furniture, lighting, and ergonomic tools.
    • And yes, an employee working from home might be eligible for Workers’ Compensation if they trip over their dog while working.
  • Need to accurately track and manage working hours for non-exempt employees.
    • Avoid wage and employment related liabilities by ensuring hourly workers are compensated for all work time, including when they respond to the random off-hours email.
    • Setting clear policies and expectations can help avoid work hour, wage, and employment issues.
  • Are responsible for ensuring their work is secure.
    • Remote work environments must be managed and secured to the same levels as those working in the office.
    • Data privacy regulations, such as HIPAA, PCI, and SEC17, do not end at the office door.
    • Networks, systems, applications, and data require the same levels of protection regardless of location.
    • Similarly, physical protections must be in place for printed documents.
  • Can be accountable for intellectual property stored on personal devices.
    • Establish a clear policy and procedures for the use of personal devices for work.
    • Include the need for the company to install software or tools to manage the business’ information on the device, including but not limited to cyber protections, personal/work data separation, local encryption, backup/recovery, and the ability to remotely remove work related data in an emergency.
  • Want to avoid “in-person” bias.
    • Remote workers need mechanisms to participate in the informal conversations and interactions we take for granted when working in an office environment.
    • Supervisors and managers should help workers establish and build effective relationships, including those that offer mentorship and guidance, with direct co-workers and others in your firm.
    • Measures of performance should, explicitly, avoid the implicit bias that in-person visibility correlates to better involvement and teamwork.
  • Should understand the tax implications for your business, and employees related to working remote.
    • Having employees in other tax jurisdictions can make proper payroll tax withholding and filing more complex.
    • States may or may not have reciprocal agreements and some states are imposing new rules.
    • Remote workers may create nexus in some jurisdictions, triggering sales tax and other tax obligations.
    • Work with your attorney and financial advisors to understand your requirements and to ensure compliance.

Your Next Steps

Cloud technologies help facilitate remote work and hybrid work environments. You can deploy systems, apps, and tools to make remote and hybrid work efficient and secure. Remote and hybrid work models, however, span every aspect of your business.  Policies, procedures, operations, and culture all require attention, planning, and support.

Work with your legal and financial advisors, and your HR resources, to ensure  your remote/hybrid plans will benefit your business.

COVID-19 Survey: Revenue Losses and Diminishing Cash Reserves

In a national survey of more than 2400 businesses conducted and published by American City Business Journals finds that small and midsize businesses are seeing severe impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Impacts: Profits, Revenue, Cash, and Survivability

About 69% of respondents have seen revenue decline since the major onset of COVID-19 in March 2020.  Of those seeing revenue decline, close to half see revenue falling by 50% or more year over year.

Additionally, 47% indicate that they have not been profitable and nearly one third report being cash flow negative over the first six months of the pandemic. About 70% of those losing money are losing more than $10,000 per month and 64% will run out of funds within the five months.

About 40% of respondents raised cash through loans or equity investments since March 1, with 91% of these businesses receiving loans from a federal stimulus program, such as the Paycheck Protection Program. These funds were predominantly used to cover payroll and operating expenses as opposed to funding investment or growth.

Change in Focus

With the stark financial impacts, most smaller businesses are changing their focus. Rather than looking forward one to three years, most SMBs are focuses on the current and next quarter. The shift from strategic to tactical is a direct response to the many unknowns of the pandemic, the near-term economy, business sector and market impacts, and government recovery and stimulus plans.

The near-term focus makes sense as we look to minimize costs, conserve cash, and ensure profits and our sustainability.

Where IT Services Can Help

Leveraging the right IT services can help you prepare and react to changes as you navigate the on-going unknowns.  Here are 5 ideas to consider.

Audit your IT services for redundant services.
  • Most businesses find they are paying for multiple services with redundant or overlapping capabilities.
  • In many instances, we see businesses paying for third party services that are available for no additional cost in their productivity suites.
  • Eliminating duplication will require some change of habits, but can dramatically reduce on-going IT costs.
Audit your communication tools.
  • Are you paying for, and not using your available communication tools?
  • Chat, video, and collaboration tools are standard in Microsoft 365 and G Suite, and can reduce or eliminate the need for expensive voice, teleconference, video conference, and online meeting solutions.
  • A modest investment in training/education can help minimize communication costs.
Replace file servers with file services.
  • Most businesses using Microsoft 365 or G Suite are storing files in these systems; these same businesses still run on-premise or hosted file servers.
  • OneDrive, SharePoint, My Drive, and Shared Drives make it easy to save, share, and manage files.  The OneDrive and Drive File Stream clients connect your end user applications to your cloud file services.
  • Moving files from servers to cloud services eliminates the need for physical services, monthly MSP monitoring fees, backup/recovery costs, anti-virus costs, and more.
  • If your staff need to access your on-premise services remotely, you may also be able to reduce or eliminate expenses related to VPN and other remote access services.
  • While you will still want and need to protect cloud-resident files, your cost to store, share, and manage files will be lower.
Move applications and systems from on-premise to cloud
  • You can lower you monthly operating costs and give you the ability to scale your resources and costs up and down as needed on a monthly basis.
  • Make it easier to reduce your physical footprint for potential savings on rent and utilities.
  • Scale your services up and down as needed to avoid unnecessary costs and capital expenditures.
Execute a service and data governance strategy
  • Scale services up and down as needed to manage costs
  • Ensure data is secure, managed, and protected
  • Leverage data archiving services to minimize active account costs

To explore your options and best next moves, contact us for a complimentary Cloud Advisor session.


 

Happy New Year: Looking Back and Forward

At this time of year, we are often bombarded with “year in review” and “our prediction” articles, news stories, and specials.   As a change a pace, I thought I would take a look at how some past predictions have actually been on the mark.

This video, dating from October 1954, is a segment from GE that aired as part of a televised celebration of the Diamond Jubilee for the electric light.

The video predicts future technologies, including automatic dishwashers, VCRs, DVRs, cellphones, flat screen TVs, 3D TV, and more.

(Note: The video and audio start at 0:08)