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The phrase “working from home” is on everyone’s mind due to the shocking headlines about the COVID-19 coronavirus. To contain the spread of this flu-like sickness, large tech companies such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have closed some of their office buildings and asked thousands of employees to use secure internet connections to work from home for a few weeks. Microsoft went above and beyond for their hourly workers in building operations—most of whom do not have jobs that must be physically performed onsite—by continuing to pay them during that time.
But for the small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) with an office full of employees on computers, the goal is to stay productive without seeing your company’s name in the same headline with the words “COVID-19 coronavirus.” If your SMB uses either the Microsoft 365 or Office 365 cloud-powered solutions, then you have all the tools needed to enable everyone to work from home. Amaxra, a Gold-level Microsoft Partner, has helped numerous SMBs to increase their productivity and successfully enable remote working with Microsoft 365 and Office 365. Here are a few real-world remote working tips we’ve learned from our clients:
Collaborate effortlessly with Microsoft Teams
Although many equate Microsoft Office with the Excel, Word, and Outlook apps, the wildly-popular Microsoft Teams app is more important than ever in work from home scenarios. Microsoft Teams is a core app in both Office 365 and Microsoft 365 solutions; quickly evolving from a business-oriented chat app to the premier unified hub for teamwork. Teams is deeply integrated with all Office 365 apps along with the hundreds of 3rd party cloud-based apps (such as Jira, Salesforce, MailChimp, and many others) and secure online storage (such as Dropbox, an SMB favorite) that remote employees rely on to collaborate on files, communicate, and streamline processes.
The integration of Microsoft Teams with Outlook email enables remote workers to either schedule online meetings in advance or instantly start secure online meetings with full video conferencing and real-time collaboration with just one click. Because Teams is a cloud-powered app, these online video conferences can be conducted using iPhones, Android tablets, and (of course) laptop PCs.
For more real-world ways that your remote workers can use Microsoft Teams, read our “7 things you should know about Microsoft Teams” blog post.
Keep employees secure with multi-factor authentication
The large tech companies asking their employees to work from home all have strict cybersecurity rules when it comes to remote work. The IT departments at large tech companies employ cloud-centric tools for their remote workers to connect to their corporate network using multi-factor authentication (MFA). This cybersecurity method requires every user on the network to provide at least two types of credentials to prove they are authorized to connect to the network. Most MFA tools require users to either receive and acknowledge receipt of an automated phone call or text to their personal phone number for authorization.
While MFA provides an additional layer of security to minimize security breaches, it is a tool that some SMBs do not use or even know about. For some business-oriented software as a service (SaaS) tools in the cloud, MFA is only available as a premium option and require a team of IT professionals to correctly configure. Subscribers to both Microsoft 365 and Office 365 solutions get a free version of MFA in the cloud called “Azure multi-factor authentication.” While it comes standard at no extra charge, this powerful feature is not enabled for all users by default.
Learn how Microsoft 365 and Teams provides your employees with a secure modern workplace
Connect with coworkers with real-time video calls
One aspect of remote work that is often overlooked is that some people who work from home can feel isolated. Ignore the headline-grabbing panic of the COVID-19 coronavirus and think about a co-worker who never goes into the office: We should think of them as a person rather than “just a co-worker” in those situations. To make and keep an emotional connection with that person is difficult in just email.
Both Amaxra consultants and a significant number of the SMBs for which we’ve deployed Microsoft Teams use the real-time communication and collaboration features of Microsoft Teams daily. Whenever possible, we try to have our consultants use the video calling feature in Microsoft Teams to instantly start secure online meetings—and stats show how video communication increases overall engagement. For example:
- IMCCA, a non-profit tech industry association, notes that nearly nine out of ten remote employees say that video chats help them feel connected to their colleagues
- Wainhouse Research found that 94% of businesses say video conferencing increases productivity
In Microsoft Teams, video conferences can be scheduled in advance via an Outlook Calendar invitation or started ad hoc with one click from inside the Teams app on any device. Teams also makes real-time collaboration easy by enabling anyone on the video conference to share their screen by clicking the Share icon (look for a square with an arrow pointing up) in the Teams app. It’s no secret that high-quality video conferencing can be taxing on a network. According to Microsoft, they have seen a 500 percent increase in Teams meetings, calling, and conferences with a 200 percent increase in Teams usage on mobile devices since January 31. The good news is that Microsoft has added capacity to their cloud-based infrastructure to ensure Microsoft Teams stays rock solid for all users globally.
Deploy a secure work from home strategy with Amaxra
While our hearts go out to everyone affected by COVID-19, Amaxra recognizes how fortunate businesses are to have collaboration solutions such as Microsoft 365 & Teams to empower employees to work from home in a secure and healthy way. If your small to midsized business is looking for a way to enable secure remote work, then connect with Amaxra. Our deep technical knowledge of Microsoft 365 and Office 365 sets us apart from other partners—enabling us to be your direct line to Microsoft when you need support.