'Surreal Photographer' Illustration by Paul Fleet

by Jeff Harris, Client Systems Architect, Cornerstone.IT
The following post is the third and final in a series of blog posts by Jeff Harris that address critical “work from home” topics.

Looking Ahead

With some areas beginning to ease restrictions, it is natural to look ahead to when your office re-opens. Many people will be excited to return to a normal routine, but IT teams need to be prepared. The start of quarantine/shelter-in-place came quickly, and the end could be fast too; states have been announcing changes only days before going into effect. Now is a great time to plan your firm’s transition.

NOTE: This post focuses on the technology aspects of re-opening offices.  For health and safety information, please follow all federal, state, and local guidelines.  Cornerstone has been collecting helpful resources for your reference as well.

Expect Some Pain

Returning to the office is going to be more complicated and difficult than going remote.  We recommend handling this event like a DR failback.  Your users (and likely their data) were offsite; now some (or all) will be coming back, possibly all at once.  As we outlined in our first post of this series, your users’ adherence to firm policies determined your risk exposure.  This will also define the level of work needed to get everyone back to “normal.”  Early and effective communication with your user base is key during a time filled with a lot of change and uncertainty.

Data Handling

In case people have not been following the firm’s data policies, IT should be on high alert.  If work was done being off-network, you could be looking at an influx of outside data, which must be scanned for viruses and malware.  Begin preparing a system for people to safely upload data back to your network, keeping server and bandwidth capacities in mind.  If personal laptops are brought into the office, they should always be on the DMZ/guest network.  If anyone was given administrative rights to install software on a firm-owned laptop, those should be treated like personal laptops until IT wipes and re-images them.  Err on the side of caution, and make sure your users understand why this is being done.

The New Hybrid Office

The re-opened office may look a lot different than it did a few months ago.  Buildings may have capacity restrictions, and some staff may need to continue working from home for health or childcare reasons.  If everyone is not coming back to the office, you may be building out a new hybrid system.  With some staff on-site and others remote, communication and data policies will need to be modified.  We discussed some challenges and solutions around phones, video conferencing, and user training in our previous post.  With many firms unfortunately having to downsize, people may be taking on additional roles, so expect a high number of requests around permissions and rights changes.

A plan that worked last week may not work next week, so your IT team should always be evaluating the needs of the user base and adapting accordingly.  Cornerstone has experience in planning and implementing strategies in complicated times.  We are here to help.

We hope this blog series has been helpful.  Please email me with any questions, feedback, or topics you’d like to see covered in future posts.

Thanks for reading.