Concern about the spread of the Coronavirus is changing the way most businesses are operating in South Africa, and has triggered the largest ‘work-from-home’ mobilisation in history. Lauren du Plooy, Director at Rae & Associates, shares some advice to lead your team from home and ensure a seamless transition to a remote workforce:
- Create a handbook: This is a go-to tool for all the pressing questions that your staff may have. It should also clearly feature the expectations and common questions around new apps and technology as well as how to access the systems and other instructions to streamline this new process.
- Select a responsible leader: It is crucial to have a central contact who will drive this change and lead your team from home. They will also be the motivation behind leading your team down this new road and will be in charge of keeping the handbook up-to-date with challenges and new solutions.
- Set up a communication plan: “In our business, we have briefing meetings every morning at 9am to discuss our plans for the day. I also set aside free time from 3 pm – 5 pm where I am available for any employee that needs to touch base. We use Zoom for these team meetings and collaboration spaces so that we can manage expectations and communicate clearly with each other.”
- Provide training: When implementing any new technology it is vital to ensure that your staff is comfortable and trained extensively. It’s important that they can use the tools they are given to be efficient.
- Outline clear expectations and learn to trust your staff: This change in culture can be challenging, but as staff follow their leadership, make sure you have the buy-in from the leaders in your company. “I believe this could become the new normal even after this tough time subsides, so now is the perfect time to make sure you are not left behind in this constantly evolving economy.”
“For companies that aren’t able to work remotely, now is the time for business owners to plan and strategise for the future,” says du Plooy.
Some questions business owners should be asking themselves now include:
1. What opportunities do you have that you can take advantage of during this interruption?
2. What have you learned about your business during this time that you didn’t know before?
3. If you could have done something before the interruption what would it have been?
4. In the future, what opportunities are there for you to better serve your customers?
“With all of this in mind, this is a very stressful time for most local small business owners. We advise SMEs to be upfront with suppliers and financial institutions and to let them know what is happening in their businesses,” concludes Du Plooy.
IT experts warn of cyber risks
Unfortunately, with the nationwide lockdown and many companies having implemented work-from-home policies, businesses are being warned that cybersecurity risks may be at an all-time high, with a significant spike in ransomware attacks and phishing scams predicted in the coming weeks.
This is especially concerning for smaller businesses with employees working from home for the first time, notes Terence Govender, Director of the newly-established IT Advisory division of Mazars South Africa. “SME’s tend to be most vulnerable as they typically have fewer measures in place to protect their systems and data. And with staff working remotely, IT personnel may not be monitoring systems on a real-time basis – assuming they have not invested in real-time monitoring software.
Govender provides the following checklist to minimise the risk of becoming a target while staff are working remotely:
■ Ensure that all employee laptops have up-to-date anti-virus software and that all systems, including emails and USB ports, are enabled in order to be scanned;
■ Ensure that the relevant Virtual Private Network (VPN) software is enabled and/or two factor authentication (2FA) is implemented;
■ Where possible, ensure that hard disk encryption with maximum password requirements are applicable;
■ Ensure that the remote work security policies are the same as working on the network in the office;
■ Deploy collaboration software on laptops ahead of time and advise staff against downloading and/or configuring software independently or via instructions; and
■ Remind staff to change their passwords as per the password policy and do not allow for an extension of the period for password changes, e.g. from 30 days to 90 days.
■ Remind staff not to open any suspicious emails or emails from unknown sources at this time.
Since most people will be spending a lot of time online as a result of the national lockdown, everybody needs to be especially weary of the websites they visit. “During this time, people should stay clear of transacting on sites that do not have the https: in the URL. The ‘s’ at the end of HTTP, means that the site offers some security.”
Lastly, Govender says to resist the urge to download any COVID-19-related applications. “Rather use certified news platforms to receive updates, as there have already been reported cases of Malware that has been written into so-called COVID-19 applications,”
This article first appeared in the April/May 2020 issue of Your Business magazine. Read the issue online or download here.