Updated Mar 24 2020
:: by Alex Yumashev
Most remote work guides I see during these days of COVID-19, are all about optimizing for remote work in a remote company where everyone will keep working remotely forever. I haven't yet seen any realistic, simple, unsexy and "down to earth" guides on how to urgently switch a "traditional" old-school corporation to remote in 1 day.
Ages ago I worked at a company, whose office building had to be urgently shut down and evacuated for 2 weeks - we literally had to switch to remote within hours. We were not at the point when we needed all the fancy time management & motivational tips yet (you know, the "make your bed" or "get a standing desk" type) or Slack/Zoom best practices. We needed to move several hundred people to their homes, so here's what we've done - and you should too:
- Set up a VPN at your office and write very simple instructions for everyone. Make it VERY short and non-technical, and optionally save it as an image (!) so people can forward it to each other via WhatsApp etc.
- Use a simple protocol for your VPN no time to show off your technical skills and use Shadowsocks or whatever. Use something that's already included with Windows. This way you'll be able to set up a VPN connection with one line of PowerShell.
- The simplest way to start working is Remote-Desktopping to office workstations I know it sounds very, very ugly, but if you only have one day - you're out of options. As far as I remember, allowing RDP connections for all office workstations at once can be done via Active Directory group policy.
Once you're done with this part and people can begin trying to learn how to access their office files, emails and documents move on to the next step:
- Making your internal services accessible via Web - kudos if they already are. Moving away from RDPing means gradually making your services available online. Your internal email, project & task management, file storage, databases, code repos etc.
- Make office phones work via VoIP/SIP software your office PBX system probably already supports that. This way when someone calls a person's office number - the call is routed to their home computer, where they answer it using a headset. Later move on to installing a SIP client on their smartphones so they can answer calls on the go. If that sounds too complicated - start with simple call-forwarding.
- Install chat software yes, finally we got to the Slack part. Chances are you're already using it. Just make sure everyone keeps their "away/afk/on a meeting" statuses accurate. Make sure everyone has it installed on their phones, so you can "@-username" them in case something goes down, and they will get vibration in their pockets. And don't rush into creating more "rooms", "channels", tags and threads - keep it simple and stupid.
- Use SSO - when choosing a new SaaS tool to help with your remote work, make sure it supports "Single Sign On" via SAML or a similar protocol with your existing users catalog. This will allow people to keep using their existing corporate accounts instead of creating new usernames/passwords (most chat software including Slack and MS Teams already support that).
- Set up an ongoing "everyone in" Zoom call - which is a very nice hack at the beginning. Start a call, invite everyone (from your team/department, not company-wide obviously) switch it to "gallery mode" and simply keep this call on the background with the "mute" button pressed. Whenever you want to say something - unmute yourself and say it ;) This way you don't feel lonely and can actually see other people going through similar mess. It sounds silly but not being alone is a huge motivational bonus.
If you have any other simple tips please tweet me at @jitbit I'll add those to the post, keeping your name/link to original.
Alex has founded Jitbit in 2005 and is a software engineer passionate about customer support.