As the number of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) cases increases, businesses everywhere are having to figure out how to deal with the outbreak and its effect on the workplace – meaning preparing their teams to potentially work from home.
While this particular outbreak has already caused organizations to implement mandatory remote workdays, it’s important to think about business continuity for anything like this in the future too.
If you’re already utilizing tools and technologies, like Office 365 and Microsoft Teams, that allow your employees to communicate, collaborate and remain productive remotely – you’re a step ahead. These tools are the building blocks of a digital workplace, allowing team members to collaborate effectively and meet deadlines.
Even still, some employees are not used to teleworking. How can you ensure you have a plan in place for enabling remote work in a situation like this?
Here we share Microsoft’s own outline of key preparedness activities to ensure continued service delivery during this event. Below, is also some guidance regarding best practices under the “Actions you can take” section that will help maximize the benefits of Microsoft 365.
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The three areas of focus during any situation that challenges normal operations are as follows:
- Impact to systems – does the event have a potential impact on our systems used to deliver and support Microsoft 365?
- Impact to location – are the locations from which we deliver, and support service effected and what is our response?
- Impact to people – are we prepared should there be impact to the individuals responsible for delivering service to our customers?
While the following provides the high-level efforts in each of these areas, there are significantly more activities that relate to our business continuity efforts for Microsoft 365 that are beyond the scope of this communication.
Impact to systems – First and foremost there are no known impacts to Microsoft 365 services. Heightened awareness is in place for the following areas:
- Service scale and operations – One of the benefits of a cloud service is the ability to scale dynamically, including utilization of our significant supply chain, reallocation of resources between services and redistribution of load. We have seen an increase in the utilization of Teams which we have responded to and continue to monitor closely.
- Supporting systems – A general principle of cloud service operations is remote management and administration. We see no effect to our ability to manage the systems used to support Microsoft 365, and have confirmed adequate capacity for staff to work remotely at scale.
- External systems – We are working across industry with a focus on networking infrastructure. We are seeing some utilization issues with public ingress/egress to China, but otherwise, there are no issues identified.
Impact to location – Our services are designed for remote administration; however, with the recent news that the greater Seattle, Washington area represents a higher incidence of COVID-19 we wanted to provide specific details around support of the service should Microsoft engineers be constrained to work from home.
- Microsoft employs a security-first approach to administering Microsoft 365 service. Each engineering resource that is accountable for managing the service has the ability to securely administer the service without direct access to the corporate location.
- Microsoft maintains multiple geographic locations outside the Seattle area with individuals who are capable of maintaining and managing the service.
People – As the largest provider of commercial services, we have the capability of ensuring continued operations with multiple subject matter experts in each discipline, with geographic diversity being a consideration.
- Employees responsible for managing the service all have access to needed resources to take action from home or the office.
- A “deep” on-call rotation allows for sustained support should issues arise and ensures that resources are available should individuals fall ill.
While Microsoft puts the safety and well-being of its employees at the forefront, our “defense-in-depth” approach is expected to allow for uninterrupted service operation should the virus spread significantly.
Actions You Can Take:
- Follow a similar program to Microsoft’s program above ensuring consideration for your systems, people and work locations.
- Leverage application templates such as Crisis Communication application built on Powerapps.
- If your organization is looking to accelerate its move to Teams, overview information regarding Teams can be found here.
- If you do have an increase in remote work, follow these best practices to maximize your use of Teams.
- Ensure your organization’s network is prepared to support the use of Teams by following these recommendations.
Lastly, here are some tips regarding working from home if you’re not used to teleworking:
- Dress for success: dress as if you are in the office so you feel like you’re working.
- Video ON: video adds the additional personal touch, and you’re already dressed for work, might as well show it.
- Mute when not speaking/where possible: Whether it’s noise from the AC or the dog walking on wood floors, reducing noise keeps things more like a conversation.
- Take a break: Don’t get stuck to your home office chair, you’d be getting up and walking to meetings if you were in the office. Stretch your legs.
- Recognize your colleagues, partners, clients are in the same boat as you: If you have a doubt about how the conversation is going, ask – others may not be used to having in-person meetings online.
Of course, don’t forget to take the necessary precautions to stay safe and healthy.
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