How VPN constrained remote working will lead to depressions and how to fix it

Written by , in category Remote Collaboration

24 March 2020

Today many organisations are fighting the limits of their VPN infrastructure and send out quick fixes to people, block more outside websites and applications and more of this. A necessary action to guarantee connections to all in the short run but not something to keep for the long haul.

No video allowed, limited audio allowed, only connect with others for work related meetings, no insights of people whereabouts and interactions will lead to social isolation symptoms.

There is no harm in these limits in the short run, when it is for a couple of days or maybe even a week or 2, there is time to take action to remove obstacles in a structured way and prevent social isolation symptoms to arise. Keeping rich social connections to the limit of the people living in the same house will lead to depressions, burnouts, poor sleep quality, accelerated cognitive decline and more at every stage of life. There is a lot written on that subject already and many research papers have been published and this small article is providing some good résumé on the subject. I will not get into this, imagine why “isolation cells” are/were used as punishment and torture that should say enough.

I predict that, in case COVID19 keeps us locked up for a longer time, many people will start to suffer from the symptoms mentioned above. Taking action when these are there is going to be too late, it’s time to act now.

How do we prevent this from happening?

For those without the VPN bottleneck, having all their tools at hand from within the cloud, don’t worry too much and make sure you are connected with video all the time, do some fun stuff like virtual games, create some fun challenges to spice up work meetings and setup a virtual office so people can share coffee time, and much more. Check out the public Collaboration Superpowers remote courses or book a custom inhouse one for more tips & tricks

For those struggling with their VPN infrastructure, there is only one way out: remove the VPN need as much as you can.

  • Make an inventory of the main tools used in your organisation to get the job done.
  • Mark which need VPN and which don’t.
  • Send out a company wide communication that people that are mainly using the non-VPN tools should, by default, not use the VPN at all and only activate it for the time they need to complete a task that requires VPN access.
  • Create persona’s of the people working in your organisation and make some assumptions on their tool usage. Pro tip: set up an online, cloud based, tool that does not need VPN access to gather feedback and input from those you target.
  • Use the persona information to prioritise your list of VPN dependent tools
  • Take the first one of the list and take action to move it outside your VPN constraint
  • Inform your entire organisation about the change and ask those of which this was the tool they were, by default, still using VPN to switch to non VPN default connection.

Hopefully it is not that bad in your organisation and in a couple of days, weeks you’re having less people being limited by your VPN and for those still needing VPN by default there is enough bandwidth to be allowed to use continuous video streaming to colleagues and stay sane.

This is one guideline we used many times when supporting organisations moving to a digital first setup and mindset, this is still very valid in today's crisis. We can only hope this article will help you and your organisation to prevent further mental breakdown for all around.

Looking forward to your feedback and other tips in the comments of this article. It might help others reading this one to move ahead in uncertain times.

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