This article was written by Eli Nussbaum
The abrupt shift to remote work has been a struggle for many. Having to master new technology and workflows to successfully work from home has meant plenty of frustration — and more than a few calls to tech support.
A survey of the common topics raised in those calls during the first month of remote working offers valuable insight into the biggest tech roadblocks. It also highlights issues firms need to address, both as current stay-at-home orders continue and as their policies evolve in the new remote-work normal.
1. Work-From-Home Setup
Many lawyers were probably used to taking their laptops home and doing some work, but most were unaccustomed to doing all their work from home. Virtual private networks have been a major issue for some users in the last month. Since plenty of work can be done without VPNs, some lawyers didn’t even realize they were necessary.
When you need to access all the tools required to do your full-time job, though — things like document management or billing systems — VPNs become crucial.
Many lawyers realized that they had never set up VPN access, or if they had, they didn’t remember how to get into it.
The same is true of remote access solutions like Citrix or VMWare. Many lawyers doing a small bit of work from home haven’t needed them in the past, but they’re now necessary if they want to access all the features of their firm’s system. Remote workers have run into problems setting up remote access or installing their firm’s remote access client due to out-of-date home computers.
2. Home Printer Setup
Printers have caused office workers much grief over the years, and now they’re giving us headaches at home, too. Countless remote workers have struggled with printing, whether it’s connecting home printers to work laptops, getting personal laptops to print work materials or printing from within remote access tools. While past setups may have worked seamlessly for personal purposes, printing has been a giant hassle in the work-from-home world.
Many firms limit users’ ability to download third-party or nonapproved software, like printer drivers, on their work machines. While that may have made sense in the past, it’s now necessary for extended remote work. Additionally, pass-through printing via remote access tools doesn’t always work seamlessly on home computers. Help desk support has had to make several changes on the spot to walk users through unlocking or enabling tools to accommodate remote work needs.
3. Two-Factor Authentication Setup or Reset
Most firms already had some sort of two-factor or multifactor authentication requirements. However, many users had never set them up, so help desks have been busy assisting with first-time setups. Many other users have needed a refresher because they either lack the current key or have been locked out for other reasons over time. Often users assume they can’t log in because their passwords aren’t working when in reality, it’s the multifactor authentication that needs to be set up or reset.
4. Remote Conferencing Tools
Anyone working remotely understands the sudden importance of videoconferencing tools like Zoom, Webex and Microsoft Teams. In many cases, users need to use more than one videoconferencing tool, depending on the meeting’s originator. Each tool has its own quirks that frustrate users. These frustrations are compounded when users try to make the software function within remote access tools. Often, the videoconferencing tools need to be installed on the firm’s equipment rather than personal equipment, even if users are accessing the tools virtually on personal equipment.
The number of moving parts involved in video communication has created many headaches for users, who now find it impossible to conduct business without these tools.
5. Endpoint Security Blocks
As we saw with printers, most firms rightfully prevent users from installing nonapproved software on firm equipment for security reasons. In these unusual times, though, lawyers now need tools like conferencing software, printer drivers and software for external hardware like dictation devices, even though they might not have been previously authorized to use them at home.
While firms are making individual exceptions to the rules to accommodate current events, they’re also trying to balance those needs against the crucial prerequisite of maintaining overall security. Taking shortcuts now can quickly undo a security posture that a firm has painstakingly built up over several years.
Planning ahead for these kinds of scenarios ensures firms aren’t accidentally opening the door to security risks during these unprecedented times.
Ongoing Demands of the New Remote-Work Normal
While these issues dominated tech support calls at the outset of the new remote-work normal, they continue to arise as people settle in for extended work-from-home periods and gradually refresh their home office setups to accommodate the new demands.
COVID-19’s impacts on how we work have been unprecedented, but this virus won’t be the last thing to disrupt business as usual. Learn from these times to create a playbook and implement processes to eliminate tech roadblocks when future remote work scenarios inevitably arise.
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