Remote Working & Transitioning Back for Records Management: What Have We Learned?

June 15, 2020

Organizations around the globe are dealing with unprecedented challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a vast now-remote workforce. However, whether in the office or in your living room, how you manage your organization’s records should be no different – everyone must still comply with records management policies and procedures.

With the ongoing possibility of remote working, we’re going to review some key considerations from a records management perspective. How are companies handling their records management processes and what are items to consider as we look to an even longer period of remote work? Or, how are certain processes impacted with some organizations now reopening/transitioning back to a physical office?


Records and related services requests

Without the ability to walk down the hall to check-in with people in a physical office, simple tasks like this now require extra thought and planning. With many companies having transitioned to remote work, it’s important to consider whether your organization has a way to handle key processes such as online records requests, internal or external, training courses, and staffing records centers and warehouses safely.


Electronic Approvals

Being remote has forced many organizations to rely on secure, audit-ready electronic signature capabilities for approvals. In fact, in May, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reflected, “We have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” It's becoming more important than ever to have a secure, permanent audit trail for activities and actions performed on your organization’s records - including a way to authenticate a user's identity before certain tasks or actions are approved. 

One way to ensure this is to make sure your records management software system offers electronic signature with single-sign on (SSO) support. Why use e-signatures with SSO? It not only authenticates the correct user but the system also logs each secondary re-authentication login, as required by a signature or approval action. 


Secure Access Remotely

One of the areas impacted the most during this unprecedented time has been employees’ ability and willingness to adhere to data security and device access policies. It’s easy to monitor employee access to data and system networks when they’re onsite, but what happens when they’re working from home, under the stress of a pandemic, possibly without all the necessary tools and systems provided to them in the office?

It should be a top priority for the IT team to ensure all employees have reliable, secure access to every tool and resource needed to do their jobs efficiently whether they are in the office or their living room. Without the proper tools, employees will find workarounds. These work-arounds can pose serious security risks and it could lead to:

  • Secure documents being sent in insecure ways, such as email
  • Secure documents being downloaded to personal devices
  • Secure documents being printed out and not disposed of properly
  • Sharing of passwords due to lack of licenses for all employees
  • Feelings of frustration, potentially causing lack of compliance in future IT initiatives

The above issues make it difficult to ensure compliance with all records, information management, and security policies. Scheduled, frequent reviews of role-based security and access along with well-documented users for all programs can make the transition to remote work easier on both IT staff and employees.

Records Management Policies for Remote Working

Can everyone in your organization easily access the records and information management policies remotely? It’s important for internal users to have no confusion on where exactly the final policies are stored and accessed in your organization. Without the ability to ask each other while in the office, it’s important that everyone, whether remote or in the office, to know where the policies are stored – if not, you open the door to more people not following key policies while remote.

Important considerations are:

  • Acceptable use of devices and handling of information
  • Records copied to a personal device
  • Records sent to a personal email
  • Device security: Home printers and use of flash drives

Another key items is getting your team set up to train users remotely – whether it be something simple like using video conferencing with a slide deck, it’s important to be able to gather your users in a virtual space and clearly communicate the policies involving records management and remote work.


Transitioning Back to the Office

It's no secret that COVID-19 has changed the future of work forever. According to this recent Forbes article, we can expect to see aspects such as office layouts, new approaches to hybrid remote/in-office work, and a greater focus on supporting remote workers and technology/chat literacy. Whether your organization will transition 100% back to a physical office space, create a new hybrid remote/in-office policy, or continue with remote work, one thing is clear - all of these options will take additional planning and preparation as we enter post-pandemic life.


Read next: Why Records Management is More Important Than Ever →