Punchline for Those Who Despise Lots of Reading

The World Health Organization has defined COVID-19 as a pandemic.  Human life is precious, and it must be valued; however, we cannot maintain our health and welfare without commerce.  Without a doubt, COVID-19 is and will continue to have severe effects on commerce.  With over 70% of American workers employed in a service industry, these effects will have extended implications due to cascading failures caused by reduced productivity, travel, and general consumption.  COVID-19 will likely cause financial and job contractions across the whole economy; we have already seen a market correction.

Your organization needs to ready itself for the worst-case scenario.  Frankly, all organizations should have been prepared for this scenario.

At minimum, your company should:

  1. Draft a risk mitigation plan to slow the spread of COVID-19 among your staff,
  2. Prepare contingencies for cases where large portions of your team member population may be unable or unwilling to come physically to work,
  3. Create technological systems, such as VDI, published applications, and/or shared server desktops, to permit your staff to work from home,

Note:  If you have adopted cloud applications, we would not encourage you to permit access to your cloud applications from non-corporately owned devices.  This step would create other significant risks to the confidentially, integrity, and availability of your organization’s data.

  1. Secure this remote access with appropriately orchestrated digital controls,
  2. Consider the implications of OSHA and your state’s department of labor rules for exposing staff to pandemic-like scenarios and providing the ability to work from home,

Note:  There are potential legal risks associated with COVID-19 and working from home that should be considered [depending on your state].

  1. Securely, manage access to cloud applications and data.

Only time will tell if COVID-19 causes fatalities like Spanish Influenza; however, we know now that it is already having pandemic type effects on the world economy.  There is no better time to ready your business continuity plans and technological systems.

Thankfully our customers that have adopted our call for “extreme” mobility [including VDI, cloud apps, and cloud phones], implementation of our layered approach to security [we have our own security in-depth model], and security program orchestration are ready.   These clients can provide secure remote access to their computer task workers with no significant challenge or security risk [though there may be other non-IT related risks].

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For Those Who Want to Read More:

The History

As more infections and deaths are reported around the globe, the realities of a pandemic are setting in. While many are comparing coronavirus to Spanish Influenza, only time will tell if the COVID-19 will have similar effects worldwide.  According to the CDC, Spanish Influenza fatally infected about 50 million people around the globe; however, according to the CDC [as of March 11, 2020], there have been 938 documented COVID-19 cases within the United States and 29 deaths.  Thirty-nine states within our country’s union have reported cases.

Human Nature

Since the 1918 Spanish Influenza, arguably, the world is in a much different place technologically and medically.  Unlike the days of Spanish Influenza, information on treatments, infections, sequencing of viruses’ RNA/DNA, and deaths spread around the world in seconds.  Whether COVID-19 ever reaches Spanish Influenza level impact on the world’s population from an infection and death point-of-view has nearly zero impact on the realities of how it has and will continue to impact commerce globally.  With non-stop reporting of infections and deaths via social and mass media productions, people become hysterically fearful.  Thus, they travel less, under advisement from their own judgement and elected officials, spend less, and work less while worrying more, washing their hands more, purchasing more sanitizer, fighting over toilet paper, etc. These responses are predictable behaviors considering the circumstances.  People become fearful, and fear creates all kinds of mostly negative responses; however, hysteria is never positive.

The Impact to Commerce

Naturally, COVID-19 creates a human resources challenge and massive complications to the continuance of business.  As infections and deaths continue to grow, staff become more fearful of being around others.  Thus, staff will use their sick and vacation time to prevent exposure, and many will pressure their employers to permit them to work from home.  Various statistics have been reported on work from home; however, they seem consistently stating that roughly 30% of the US population has the option to work from home.  As of July 2019, 107.8 million Americans, or 71%, work in the service industry.  Unfortunately, like at Conversant Group, many of those positions require physical human interaction and, at minimum, concerted human effort that requires physical presence [to touch gear, cables, machines, serve patrons, etc.].

Challenges:

  1. Staff do not want to be exposed.
    • Some team members may have weakened immune systems, and/or family members with weakened immune systems that exposure would be of a more severe risk.
    • Understandably, these team members will desire to remain far from the possibility of exposure.
  2. There seems, as reported universally, to be little one can do, except standard sanitization processes, to prevent infection: wash hands regularly, avoid contact with others who appear ill, sanitize frequently, and avoid contact with face, mouth, eyes, and nose.  Thus, staff expect their employers to “police” the health of staff by providing means to wash away, sanitize away, and avoid infection.
  3. Staff, though not desiring to be exposed, must be, in many organizations [like Conversant Group], put at some level of infection risk for commerce to simply continue. Their jobs require person-to-person interaction and/or contact with physical gear that cannot be serviced from home [someone must turn a wrench or a screwdriver eventually].
  4. We cannot simply all go home to work for commerce to continue. Truckers must keep trucking, shippers must keep shipping, convenience stores must stay open, farm workers must keep farming, IT workers must keep installing firewalls, switches, servers, storage, etc.  We just cannot stop all or most business processes that require human hands and physical presence.
  5. Most companies do not have a technical means to allow most of their staff to work from home securely.
  6. For our 11 years of assessing companies’ policies, plans, security, and infrastructure, we would argue that most organizations are ill prepared for pandemic style impacts to the workforce.

These challenges, if ill-prepared, will have significant financial impacts upon companies.  The need to protect staff must be balanced with maintaining reasonable production and service to customers.

Someone stated recently as a jest: “We can all go home, but Amazon workers must keep working.” Reality is far more complicated than that!  Amazon requires manufacturers, shippers, and many other service companies to get products to the consumer.  Our businesses are additive.  If you subtract one key piece, the whole house comes tumbling down.

So, what do we do then?  [repeat of the punchline above]

Your organization needs to ready itself for the worst-case scenario.  Frankly, all organizations should have been prepared for this scenario.

At minimum, your company should:

  1. Draft a risk mitigation plan to slow the spread of COVID-19 among your staff,
  2. Prepare contingencies for cases where large portions of your team member population may be unable or unwilling to come physically to work,
  3. Create technological systems, such as VDI, published applications, and/or shared server desktops, to permit your staff to work from home,

Note:  If you have adopted cloud applications, we would not encourage you to permit access to your cloud applications from non-corporately owned devices.  This step would create other significant risks to the confidentially, integrity, and availability of your organization’s data.

  1. Secure this remote access with appropriately orchestrated digital controls,
  2. Consider the implications of OSHA and your state’s department of labor rules for exposing staff to pandemic-like scenarios and providing the ability to work from home

Note: There are potential legal risks associated with COVID-19 and working from home that should be considered [depending on your state].

  1. Securely, manage access to cloud applications and data.

Only time will tell if COVID-19 causes fatalities like Spanish Influenza; however, we know now that it is already having pandemic type effects on the world economy.  There is no better time to ready your business continuity plans and technological systems.

Thankfully our customers that have adopted our call for “extreme” mobility [including VDI, cloud apps, and cloud phones], implementation of our layered approach to security [we have our own security in-depth model], and security program orchestration are ready.  These clients can provide secure remote access to their computer task workers with no significant challenge or security risk [though there may be other non-IT related risks].

For more information, see:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.html
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21523/
  3. https://www.masslive.com/politics/2020/03/coronavirus-prompts-questions-about-who-can-work-from-home.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html
  5. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03-11/covid-19-risk-healthy-young-person