Working From Home: 10 Technology Tips to Help Your Company

1. Make it easy for users to get started

Remote users may need to set up devices and connect to important services (Mail, Internal Services, SalesForce, etc.) without physically handing them over to the IT department. Ask us about products (security and otherwise) that offer a Self Service Portal (SSP) that allows users to do things themselves.

2. Ensure devices and systems are fully protected

Go back to basics – ensure all devices, operating systems and software applications are up to date with the latest patches and versions.  All too often, malware breaches an organization’s defenses via a rogue unpatched or unprotected device. Users home computers magnify this threat.

3. Encrypt devices wherever possible

When people are out of the office there is often a greater risk of lost or stolen devices; for example, phones left in cafes, laptops stolen from cars. Most devices include native encryption tools such as BitLocker – be sure to use them.

4. Scan and secure email and establish healthy practices

Home working will likely lead to a big increase in email as people can no longer speak to colleagues in person. The crooks are wise to this and already using the coronavirus in phishing emails as a way to entice users to click on malicious links. Ensure your email protection is up-to-date and raise awareness of phishing.

5. Enable web filtering

Applying web filtering rules on devices will ensure that users can only access content appropriate for ‘work’ while protecting them from malicious websites.

6. Enable use of cloud storage for files and data

Cloud storage enables people to still access their data if their device fails while working remotely. Don’t leave files and data in the cloud unprotected and accessible by anyone. At the very least, employees must successfully authenticate. Multi factor authentication takes that a step further.

7. Manage use of removable storage and other peripherals

Working from home may increase the chance of people connecting insecure devices to their work computer – to copy data from a USB stick, or to charge another device. Considering that 14% of cyber-threats get in via USBs/external devices*, it’s a good idea to enable device control within your endpoint protection to manage this risk.

8. Control mobile devices

Mobile devices are susceptible to loss and theft. You need to be able to lock or wipe them should this happen. Ask us how to implement application installation restrictions and a Unified Endpoint Management solution to manage and protect mobile devices.

9. Make sure people have a way to report security issues

With home working people can’t walk over to the IT team if they have an issue. Give people a quick and easy way to report security issues, such as an easy-to-remember email address.

7. Make sure you know about “Shadow IT” solutions

With large numbers of people working from home, Shadow IT – where non-IT staff find their own ways of solving issues – will likely increase. Bedrock partner, Sophos recently discovered ‘public’ Trello boards containing names, emails, dates of birth, ID numbers, and bank account information. Ensure users report use of such tools.

If you are unsure how to implement any of these tips, Bedrock  can help.

Contact us today to find out how.

 

 

Employer Information

Summary of important information:

  • Unemployment Compensation Information for Employers:
    • Employers are encouraged to work with their employees who are unable to work due to COVD-19 to exhaust any paid leave that is available. Employees without access to paid leave or who have exhausted their paid leave may be eligible for unemployment compensation (UC).
    • Your UC tax rate will not increase if you are a contributory business who temporarily closed due to COVID-19. You will be granted a Relief from Charges.
    • Are you self-employed, an independent contractor, or a gig worker? Details about your unemployment options are now available. File your claim here.
    • UC FAQs for employers
  • Paid Leave Information:
    • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Effective through December 31, 2020.
      • Paid Sick Leave and Expanded FMLA Policy:
        • Generally, employers must provide all employees up to 2 weeks of paid sick leave paid at either the employee’s full rate or 2/3 rate of pay if the employee is impacted by certain circumstances related to COVID-19.
        • Covered employers qualify for dollar-for-dollar reimbursement through tax credits for all qualifying wages paid under the FFCRA.
        • U.S. Chamber of Commerce Employer Guide to Paid Leave Programs
      • Employers are required to notify all employees of their rights under FFCRA. Below are posters from the U.S. DOL that can be used to meet these requirements.
      • FAQs for employers regarding FFCRA
  • Employee Retention Tax Credit:
    • The Employee Retention Credit is a refundable tax credit against certain employment taxes equal to 50 percent of the qualified wages an eligible employer pays to employees after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021. Eligible employers can get immediate access to the credit by reducing employment tax deposits they are otherwise required to make. Also, if the employer’s employment tax deposits are not sufficient to cover the credit, the employer may get an advance payment from the IRS
    • More information regarding the Employee Retention Tax Credit can be found here.

 

 

Employee Information

Summary of important information:

More details for employees can be found online at the Office of Employment Compensation.

  • If your employer temporarily closes because of COVID-19, you are eligible to file for unemployment compensation (UC). The fastest way to file a claim is online at uc.pa.gov. You will receive a confirmation email containing important details once you submit your claim.
    • If you are currently employed but have been directed by a healthcare provider, medical professional or public official to isolate or quarantine, you may be eligible for UC.
    • If your hours have been reduced because of COVID-19, you may be eligible for UC.
    • If you are a part-time employee who must self-isolate/quarantine or are unable to work because you tested positive for COVID-19, you may be eligible for UC.
  • As of March 16, 2020 all work search requirements pertaining to UC have been waived. The waiting week for UC has also been waived for all claimants.
  • Once your claim has been processed and approved, it should take 2-4 weeks to receive your first payment. You should continue to file your biweekly claim during this time.
  • You should exhaust all paid leave available through your employer before filing a UC claim. If you know you will exhaust your paid leave, you may file a UC claim.
  • FMLA Policy
  • Labor Law FAQs
  • COVID-19: Scenarios & Benefits Chart

FMLA Policy

Overview:

  • Provides eligible employees whose child’s school or place of care has closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency with a new federal source of paid leave.
  • An eligible employee may take up to 12 weeks of leave if he/she is unable to work (including telework) because the employee must care for his/her child who is under 18 years of age and whose school or place of care has closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
    • The initial 10 days of leave are unpaid, but the employee may elect to use his/her accrued paid sick leave and/or accrued vacation during this otherwise unpaid period.
    • After the initial 10-day period, an employee is entitled to receive from the employer two-thirds of his/her normal wages for the number of hours he/she would be regularly scheduled to work, up to a maximum of $200 per day and $10,000 in total.
    • All eligible employees may apply for expanded FMLA leave beginning on April 2.

More information can be found at the Department of Labor website.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Summary:

  • All provisions apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees, but employers with fewer than 50 employees may later be deemed exempt if the regulations will jeopardize the business’s viability.
  • Emergency Paid Leave Policy
    • All employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees, regardless of the length of their tenure with their employer, are eligible for paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.
    • Full-time employees receive 80 hours of paid sick leave. Part-time employees receive the equivalent of the number of hours they would work, on average, during a two-week period.
      • Eligible employees will receive paid sick leave at their regular rate, except that in no event shall the amount paid exceed $511 per day and $5,110 in total.
      • All eligible employees may use paid sick time beginning on April 2. Employers may not require eligible employees to first use other paid leave provided by the employer before using paid sick leave under the Act, so this leave is in addition to any paid sick leave or PTO currently provided by employers.
      • Employers must post a notice that advises employees of their rights under the Act. The Secretary of Labor is required to create a notice by March 25.
  • Fact sheet for employees
  • Fact sheet for employers
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act FAQs

Review the full Act here

Appel Technology Solutions: COVID-19 Assistance

As a local small business, Appel Technology Solutions, LLC understands that this is a very difficult and confusing time for many of you. We have published this page to provide support to those of you working from home (telecommuting). We can provide remote technical assistance, to both current clients or otherwise, for a wide range of issues you may experience by working from home.

We are also able to conduct most meetings virtually; if you are looking for consulting or advice we can help you discuss options. We will work hard to resolve any issues remotely; phone and email support is available as well.

We hope you can use these options to make the transition to working from home a little bit easier and minimize your stress and frustration.

Above all, we are committed to the health and well-being of our staff, clients, and their families. We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis and will continue to keep you updated should any other changes occur.

We wish you all the very best as we all go through this situation together.

Useful Links

DHS CISA Coronavirus IT Risk Management and Telework Guidance

CDC Coronavirus Informational Site

Pennsylvania Department of Health Coronavirus Informational Site

ATS Contact Options

Phone (Local); (570)-851-0925

Email: support@appeltechsolutions.com

ATS On-Demand Remote Support Options

(please contact us via phone/email or book a time yourself on our Facebook page before using the links provided)

On-Demand PC (Windows) Support:

Windows download

On-Demand Mac (Apple) Support:

Mac download

On-Demand iOS (Apple Mobile) Support:

iOS download (watch setup tutorial)

These services provided using SplashTop SOS.

After downloading, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the downloaded program.
    It may be in your Downloads folder.
  2. Give the 9-digit number to your IT admin.

When you want to end the support session, be sure to quit the program.

This ensures your computer cannot be remotely accessed any more until you download and run the program again.

To current Managed Service Clients:

All of the above options apply to you as well, and additionally your can use the resources available on the ATS Customer Portal as well using the client login.

Pathways Consulting Group Operates Remotely

Pathways Consulting Group continues to operate remotely. Pathways helps companies automate their business workflows and hope to take on projects as companies evaluate what working from home may mean for them in the future.

As a technology company, Pathways is using Zoom video every day at every meeting.  Conducting on average a dozen client and internal meetings. The following link is proof of how we are cheering each other up through video conferencing:  https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6647134309046075392

Pathways participates in a two minute segment on Philly Radio 1210 every Sunday night on the Susan Rocco Women to Watch show.  The following link is this past Sundays’ topic (juggling work from home):  : https://pathwayscg.com/working-from-home-women-to-watch-tech-watch/

Additionally, we are continuing our efforts to help the Scranton Community.  This months donations will go to Friends of the Poor.  Last month was Children’s Advocacy.

 

Horizon Dental Care is Currently Open During Regular Hours

The recently declared COVID-19 pandemic is obviously a serious concern for all of us and protecting the health of our patients, staff, and their families is our highest priority during this time. We wanted to take this opportunity to reassure you that, at Horizon Dental Care, we take our role as your trusted dental health care partner to heart.  Together we are confronting the COVID-19 pandemic and it is more important than ever to take care of one another and be diligent and wise in our daily activities.

Please by assured that we practice universal precautions for every patient on a daily basis, even when not faced with the threat of the Coronavirus.

Our first job remains to safely deliver the care that our patients and our community needs, when they need it most.  Providing emergency dental care will alleviate the burden placed on hospitals and emergency departments. NO one should ever have to suffer with a toothache.

To ensure the safety of our patients and staff Horizon Dental Care is following all guidelines and standard precautions issued by the CDC and the ADA regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus).

For the safety of all we are advising patients who may meet any of the following criteria to reschedule their visits.

  • Fever (Temperature greater than 99 degrees F)
  • Flu like symptoms including body aches
  • Any acute respiratory illness – including coughing and/or shortness of breath
  • Recent traveled outside the country or to any location with a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for COVID-19 (coronavirus).
  • Close contact with an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Thank you for your patience and cooperation for helping us to ensure the safety of our valued patients and staff.  If you have any questions or concerns, or to schedule or reschedule an appointment please call our office at 50.342.8800 or www.Horizondentalcares.com.

Geisinger Proactively Addressing Blood Supply, Seeks Donations

Geisinger is asking the public for support during a communitywide blood shortage. Geisinger will be hosting several blood drives in the next month.

The novel coronavirus has interrupted our daily lives, including blood drives and donations across the U.S. Geisinger leadership is asking for the public’s support to address a communitywide, critical blood shortage amid appointment cancellations.

“Through this national emergency, there are still surgeries, traumas, cancer treatments and life-saving care for premature infants. Our neighbors still need blood,” said Gerald Maloney, D.O., chief medical officer of Geisinger hospitals, who was among more than 100 Geisinger employees who donated blood on March 19 at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. “If you are looking for a way to contribute during this unprecedented time of need, consider donating blood. It takes only an hour, and it’s perfectly safe.”

You can schedule an appointment below, which will limit the number of people gathered in one location. Remember to maintain social distancing, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently and avoid touching your face.

 

Geisinger Buckhorn Office Building 
Thursday, April 2
8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Schedule an appointment here.

Geisinger Shamokin Area Community Hospital
Thursday, April 2
9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Schedule an appointment here.

Geisinger Justin Drive #2  
Monday, April 6
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Schedule an appointment here.

Geisinger Woodbine     
Tuesday, April 7
10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Schedule an appointment here.

Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre      
Wednesday, April 15
1 – 5 p.m.
Schedule an appointment here.

Geisinger Glenmaura Office Building
Thursday, April 16
9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Schedule an appointment here.

Geisinger St Luke’s, Orwigsburg  
Tuesday, April 28
1 – 6 p.m.
Schedule an appointment here.

Geisinger Medical Center  
Wednesday, April 29
11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Schedule an appointment here.

Coronaviruses are not known to be transmitted through blood transfusion. Additionally, out of an abundance of caution surrounding the novel COVID-19, Miller-Keystone Blood Center is taking precautionary steps to keep donors safe. Here are a few facts to set your mind at ease about donating blood:

  • All equipment is decontaminated between uses.
  • Everything that touches the blood is disposable (including the blood bags, needles and test tubes).
  • Because of appointments, blood drives and donor centers are rarely crowded
  • We expect only people feeling well to give blood, so the risk of exposure at a blood drive or donor center is exceedingly low.
  • The need for blood to treat cancer patients, trauma victims, premature infants, surgical patients and others is constant.
  • Blood is perishable and there is no substitute — the only source is the volunteer blood donor.

Those who should not give blood at this time: If you are age 70 or older, take medicines that suppress the immune system, have underlying medical conditions, have traveled to one of the areas of major outbreak, have been exposed to anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 or are recovering from the virus, we ask that you continue to practice social distancing and not give blood at this time.

Any businesses interested in hosting a drive may contact Kathryn Rowinski at (570) 449-5586 or krowinski@giveapint.org.