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Coronavirus Plan: How IT Can Enable Remote Work

Is your organization prepared to implement widespread remote work to protect employees against coronavirus? Here's what you need to do.

Is your enterprise IT organization smelling a little more like hand sanitizer these days? It's going around. As organizations in the US and around the world prepare for the advance of the coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, plenty of unknowns remain about the virus that has killed thousands around the world. Several US metropolitan areas have reported cases of the illness, and the spread can be tracked by this dashboard and map from Johns Hopkins.

Public health officials are also tracking the spread, and the corporate world is proceeding with caution.

"When you walk into an event like this, there's a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt," said Rick Barr, Chief Operating Officer at OneLogin, an identity management and workforce access company that also helps customers with business continuity. That FUD is already changing how organizations do business.

Several companies, including Apple, Amazon, Cargill, EY, Salesforce, and Twitter, have curtailed all but essential business travel. A number of big industry events have also been cancelled including Mobile World Congress in BarcelonaGoogle Next and Adobe Summit are going digital only. The Game Developer Conference (which is owned by Informa, the same company that owns InformationWeek) is postponed.

That's a lot of disruption for the technology industry and for most industries, especially since the virus has not spread very far in the US yet. Still, public health experts recommend keeping a "social distance" from other people of 3 to 6 feet. That's hard to do if you are wedged into an airplane seat, a keynote auditorium seat, an open-office workstation, or even one of those old-fashioned cubicles. That's probably why many companies are also allowing or even encouraging employees to work from home. In some cases, the directive to work from home is just if the employee is sick. In other cases, such as Twitter, all employees are being encouraged to work from home.

Is your enterprise IT organization ready to support the entire workforce of your company working from home? Thanks to digital transformation and cloud computing, you probably already have migrated a lot of work to the cloud. You may also have collaboration tools in place such as chat software and video conferencing. Still, are you ready for the day your CEO tells everyone to work from home tomorrow?

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