With vaccine rollouts increasing, we’re all eager for a light at the end of the tunnel and planning ahead to the end of the pandemic. For some people this means travel plans, dinners out in favorite restaurants, or time with friends and family—but for many nonprofit leaders, it means making decisions about when and whether to return staff to physical office spaces.
Whether that’s a full return to on-premises work or a hybrid model with some staff working remotely and some onsite—or even if you choose to sell the office or cancel the lease and let people continue to work remotely—you’ll need to consider the impact on your staff and take the appropriate measures to keep them safe and productive.
But what you may not have considered is the ramifications of that decision on your IT infrastructure. We asked Francis Johnson, Tech Impact’s Managing Director of Technology Services, what you’ll need to know to prepare for post-pandemic operations at your nonprofit. Here’s what we learned.
Network and Internet
Did you cancel your internet service with your ISP when you shuttered the office? Many providers have been empathetic toward organizations in recognition that it doesn’t make sense to maintain and pay for an internet connection in an empty office. If you suspended your service, contact your ISP to restore it. If not, test it—don’t assume your internet connection is working the same way it was before the lockdown.
Do a “walkthrough” to make sure all wireless access points are up-to-date and functional and test them for performance issues. Without staff in the office to notice—and complain about—issues, you might have encountered problems you’re not aware of yet. It’s better to resolve them before they become mission-critical.
For the most part, your network has been dormant for the last ten-to-twelve months, and probably feels abandoned. Even if just a portion of your staff were to return to the office, it would put enough of a load on the network to cause some pain if you’re not prepared for it. Consider all the monthly maintenance you would have been doing—you’ll have to make up for lost time. Make sure all software is updated, from the switch to the firewall, and reboot everything to clear the cache.
Workstations and File Sharing
A lot of organizations provided desktop computers for staff. When the pandemic hit, they scrambled to provide laptops—if they were lucky enough to find them. For organizations that weren’t so lucky, the pandemic forced them to make provisions to allow employees to use personal devices, like home computers. When those employees return to the office, you’ll need a plan to get them—and their data—back onto sanctioned machines.
Hopefully you’re already using a cloud file solution. If you’re not—well, you should be. Provide all staff with a path to transfer their files safely and securely in advance of their arrival at the office to ensure a seamless transition.
You’ll also need to make sure that all office desktops are ready for their return. Make sure their Operating Systems and antivirus software is up to date, all machines are connecting to the internet, network, and printers, and all hardware and monitors are functioning properly.
Getting the office ready for staff to return is not something you do the day before, or even the week before. It’s a significant process that requires time and planning. Once you have a start date for the return, allow yourself a month and use each week to tackle another stage of preparation. From an IT infrastructure perspective, it’s almost impossible to get everything prepped in a compressed time frame.
There’s a bigger point to be made here. When the pandemic hit, a lot of organizations were caught off guard when it came to being prepared to support a virtual workforce. Nearly a year later, you’re hopefully in better shape. Whether your organization decides to return all staff to on-premises work or continue supporting a virtual workforce in a hybrid model, the smart plan from an IT perspective is to keep the options open by remaining agile and prepared. If you purchased remote work solutions or Virtual Private Network (VPN) software, keep some of the licenses active and available. Whatever your work from home solutions were, keep them updated.
We may not be ready yet for a return to normal. In fact, “normal” may still be a long way off. Many of us were caught off guard by the change in IT needs when the pandemic struck. Some careful planning and preparation can prevent the same thing from happening when it ends.
If your nonprofit needs more assistance prepping your IT infrastructure for a return to the office, please schedule a call with one of our tech advisors.
Tech Impact provides strategic technology services to help nonprofits stay up to date as technology evolves. Our experience as a nonprofit organization that serves, exclusively, other nonprofits makes us uniquely qualified to offer cloud planning, IT planning, and IT leadership services.