In a span of three short months, we now find ourselves working from home with meetings taking place through video conferences.

For companies like Cisco that are borne out of technology when it comes to remote working, this switch comes naturally. However, being kept to the confines of our homes comes with its challenges that everyone today – whether they work for a Fortune 500 firm or a mom-and-pop store – finds themselves facing. Come to think of it, today everyone is operating like a small or medium business. Everyone is working from home and the technology needed to get our work done is very similar, which also means we all have similar expectations of how these technologies should work.

We are acutely aware that it’s Small and Medium businesses (SMBs) that are most affected in this new normal. At this juncture, your business is faced with two major challenges – grappling with the need to adopt technology to make this remote working period as painless as possible and maintaining productivity. Cisco stands alongside you and remains committed to providing you with all the support you require to weather this storm and emerge from this stronger. As a business owner, you should also keep in mind the need to consider how you can sustain in the new normal to ensure that your business is future-ready.

Embrace Technology Yet Don’t Neglect Security

Prior to this, your SMB may have had digital transformation as part of a five-year plan. Now however, you find yourselves having to think, plan and quickly adopt technology in a matter of days or weeks to maintain business operations and a semblance of normalcy. This spells huge opportunity and also comes with a big responsibility to bear. Opportunity because having the right technology can make all our lives easier. Responsibility because technology firms like Cisco, along with our partners, have to stand by, guide and equip you with the most secure and relevant tools necessary to ensure secure business continuity.

Collaboration tools, such as our Webex platform are the first port of call for any business looking to enable remote working and ensure that employees can remain productive despite the situation. Globally, Cisco has hosted 20.3 billion Webex meeting minutes in April compared to 14 billion in March, more than double the number in February. In Asia Pacific, Webex usage grew 3.5 times in March compared to before the pandemic.

During this unprecedented time, remote working collaboration tools (including video conferencing) have become a lifeline for organizations of all kinds – businesses, schools, hospitals and governments – to stay connected and productive. Cisco has seen the need for collaboration technology skyrocket and the demand of Webex’s secure capabilities has increased dramatically. However, collaboration tools must ensure security and privacy; there should never be a trade-off for convenience and simplicity.

Secure Your Remote Workforce & Virtual Workplace

Unfortunately, this rapid change has also exposed potential security weaknesses, as well as new or increased opportunities for attackers and adversaries.

There is also the added challenge of securing personal devices that your employees might use to access the company’s systems or having to monitor a network that’s also being used by them for their work devices at home – which may not be the most tightly secured. This would present easy opportunity for cyber attackers looking for a way to capitalise on the situation.

In today’s times, the last thing your business needs to worry about is the security of a tool or platform that it has implemented for their business to utilise. Thus, you should look for tools and platforms that has security as an integral part of it. A great example is Webex.

Maintaining Productivity

Maintaining productivity while outside the confines of the office might be a challenge to many. While having the right technology in place certainly helps with that, sticking to a routine and adapting where necessary is key too. As a veteran when it comes to remote working, I would like to share some lifehacks with you to get through these challenging times:

  • Stick to the same routine that you would normally have if you were physically in the office – make your coffee and read the papers before you dive into work like you always do.
  • Take your designated lunch hour – you can order in from your favourite restaurant or pop on a mask and head out to takeaway food from your favourite spot.
  • Pay attention to your health – cabin fever is real, so do take the time to go out (with mask on of course) and get some fresh air and exercise!
  • Be patient when life interrupts work – dogs barking, babies crying and toddlers interrupting videoconferences are a thing – take it in your stride and maybe even wave hi!
  • Communication and transparency are key – stay engaged with your team, even if it’s a virtual coffee or an update on the company’s current situation; these will be vital to maintain morale and productivity.
  • Schedule virtual catch ups with a ‘no work’ rule – this helps you to stay connected and check in on how your team is doing. You could even have the team show up in masks, hats, or a beverage of their choice to inject an element of fun!

Looking Ahead

We understand that the situation we are all facing is not ideal, but we are all in this together. It is important for all of us, especially as an SMB, to take this as an opportunity to reflect on the current situation – what challenges you faced, what you did well and what can be improved. The actions you take during this period such as implementing collaboration and communication tools to enable remote working can be viewed as a litmus test for further transformation.

Adopting technology and embracing remote work will battle harden your business and make you more resilient to future challenges. The real challenge is how do you continue to sustain productivity and performance? No matter what, Cisco will continue supporting you to maintain that status quo.

Have any tips about working from home? Share it in the comments.