If you are part of one of the many companies who are needing to send their employees home during these uncertain times, you’re having to adjust to the new “work-remotely” territory very quickly. Our entire North American team has worked entirely remotely for the past two years, and we – the knk Group – would like to support you in this process. This article contains tips that will help your teams maintain their ability to work. We have also included several links which we believe contain useful information or guidelines (though we don’t claim this list to be complete).

Tips for implementing a new work-from-home policy:

  • Ensure coordination: Appoint a key contact person in your company to coordinate the changeover process. Just like other projects, various pieces of information must be obtained, and individual tasks must be coordinated. Having a single point person coordinating the effort will help streamline the process.
  • Organize communication and ensure that employees can be reached: In addition to coordination, communication is also a central issue in the current situation. Working remotely requires tools that enable the efficient coordination of different employees at different locations.
    • Central Communication Channel: We recommend naming a central communication channel (e.g. on the intranet or a collaboration tool) where employees are regularly informed about next-steps and planning. Close coordination between management and internal communication is essential. In this article, possible communication steps are summarized very well from our point of view: Click here
    • Mobile Phones: If you do not already use online telephones in your company, and your employees may be using private telephones (not business mobile phones), make sure that caller ID is switched off for outgoing calls to protect the employees’ data.
    • Collaboration: There are several online meeting and collaboration tools that you can use. Within knk we mainly use the following programs: Microsoft Teams, TeamViewer, WebEx, and Zoom. Due to the current situation, some providers have set up special conditions for the use of their services, therefore you should always review the provider’s website for particulars before making a decision. For example, Microsoft is providing free licenses for Microsoft Teams until January 2021. These licenses include video conferencing for up to 250 people and live events with up to 10,000 participants – see here for more information.

We have also found similar offers from Google for G Suite customers, and WebEx

Based on our own experience using Microsoft Teams internally, we will offer a webinar on Tuesday March 24 at 10:00AM Eastern Time Zone, to familiarize you with the basic functions and to also report on our experience with digital conferences and formats. You can register here.

  • Establish connection from outside: If you already have policies for remote working, these points might not be relevant for you.
    • Terminal Servers and corresponding licenses are available (or obtainable): In this case, you can grant your employees access to a terminal server via a secure VPN connection using a remote desktop connection. The secured VPN connection is a mandatory requirement. You should agree with all departments on which programs and systems must be available on the terminal server to ensure that the various departments are able to work. This includes access to e-mail accounts, ERP, CMS and CRM systems, payroll and/or HR systems and other business applications that employees need for their work. The terminal server should be integrated into the existing backup solution like any other server.
    • 2-factor authentication: The introduction of 2-factor authentication should be well thought out and organized to minimize the risk of employees not having access to important programs and documents.

Note: If 2-factor authentication has not yet been implemented in your company, we advise against introducing it on short notice, since the setup requires intensive support from your in-house IT department.

  • No terminal server or corresponding licenses available: In this case, it is possible to use TeamViewer to set up a connection from the employee’s computer at home to the work computer at the office. Make sure that TeamViewer is installed as a host (with a very strong password) and define the account of the respective employee as the sole authorized user via Whitelisting.

Why is an installation as host necessary? If this setting is not applied, the password for dialing in via TeamViewer could possibly change and interrupt access when the computer is restarted.

  • Reduce server load: If your existing terminal server reaches its limits due to intensive use, check the following options:
    • Avoid Idle Sessions*: inform your employees about the proper logoff process. When your employees finish their work, in most cases it is not enough to simply disconnect—your employees must log off completely. (*Idle Sessions = employees were logged on to the Terminal Server, but disconnected without logging off)
    • Decide which tasks can be carried out without access to remote systems (i.e. locally on the employee’s computer without login to the terminal server). If such policies are needed, please note that individual computers are not as well protected by a backup as the terminal server. Business-critical tasks should always be stored on the terminal server or in a location secured by a backup to prevent data loss.
    • Define fixed periods of time during which the different departments can work on the Terminal Server to distribute the workload.
  • Ensure firewall and virus protection: While working remote, it is important to ensure that the established protection mechanisms of the company systems are also available on the employees’ devices. Make sure that the firewall is activated, and that virus protection is active on every device. You should use the same virus protection that you already use in your company.
  • Organize hardware for employees: To ensure accessibility for remote working, your employees should have at least the following equipment: Laptop, multiple outlets at the workstation, headset, and external camera (if these are not included in the laptop). Depending on the model, a USB hub or adapter may also be useful, however this depends on the model used.
    • We have been told that the increase in short-term purchases can lead to long delivery times, such that it is not possible to equip employees promptly. In this case you should consider the following options:
      • Are there devices in the IT department that have already been taken out of service and can be put back into operation if necessary?
      • Are there simple laptops that can be purchased in regional electronics stores? These should be sufficient for simple work on a terminal server.
      • Involve your employees—even old private devices can be formatted and reinstalled by your IT to bridge the short-term bottleneck. In this case, your employees should make sure that they have backed up any personal data from the device that they hope to keep.
    • Ensure data protection: Please review your policies with your Data Protection Officer. We also recommend that you remind your employees to the topic of data protection when working remotely—this includes, for example, how to handle and dispose of printed documents outside the office.
    • Involve your Workers’ Council: In addition to the Data Protection Officer, please coordinate the planned steps with your Workers’ Council, if available.
    • Observe labor law regulations: There are also a number of issues relating to employment law that are of concern to both employer and employee. In the linked article from the US Department of Labor, questions on corona virus & labor law are addressed: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/flsa/pandemic

Our checklist for ensuring workability offers a practical guide for the transition to remote working.

We will offer an FAQ session with our IT department end of this week in which we will be happy to answer your questions as best as possible. Please send us your questions in advance so that our colleagues can prepare themselves. Please send your questions to knkServices@knk.de and we will provide you with further details on the FAQ session.

Please understand that we will mainly talk about general procedures and processes. Due to individual situations in your institutions, it is possible that we may not be able to answer all detailed questions.

In addition to that we offer a free webinar “2 years of working entirely in virtual Teams, this is what we learned” to share tips and best practices for working remotely on:


Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash