A recent Forbes article stated that 80-90% of the workforce revealed they’d like to work from home at least some of the time. For many employees, remote working is the ideal scenario and studies show remote workers have higher levels of job-related wellbeing, higher levels of job satisfaction and increased productivity (various studies suggest that remote workers are simply more engaged).
Yet, still, remote working can be difficult for employers to get to grips with. For an IT business in particular, there are certain challenges to overcome. Whether it’s maintaining connectivity across sites, finding intuitive technology or training and equipping teams to use new information and communication tools, there’s a lot to consider. But, it seems that in order to attract and retain top personnel in their field, businesses must learn to embrace it. Before you commit to a remote working policy for your IT business, consider the following:
1. Assess Your Technology Infrastructure
Before attempting to go any further down the remote working path, it’s vital to assess the strength and capabilities of the company’s existing technology infrastructure. Perform a robust assessment of components such as internet bandwidth and storage capacity to ensure your existing technology is secure enough and fast enough to handle regular remote operations.
If your core business already operates in the cloud, then it will be simpler and easier to work predominantly via the internet but even if your tech lives on site, there are still numerous tools and applications that can make the process of communication for remote workers (accessing email, communicating with onsite colleagues and accessing relative documents etc.) easy to achieve.
2. Establish a Remote Work Policy
Ensuring that all staff abide by the same set of rules is key. For example, who gets to work remotely and when? Is the privilege of remote working available to the entire workforce or will you require a minimum number of staff onsite each day? Do Work-From-Home days need to be agreed in advance? A company-wide policy should outline how the process works and be clearly defined and understood by all employees.
Regardless of which method will work best for your company, be sure to establish a clear protocol to keep employees on track when not physically on-site and develop contingency procedures in the event that remote workers encounter technical difficulties.
3. Prioritise Security
It probably goes without saying, but when operating with a remote workforce, emphasis needs to be placed on security. Cloud-based and mobile apps offer innumerable benefits but with them come certain security issues. The Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) practice, in particular, has played a huge role in increased productivity, but along with the benefits come downfalls and the use of personal devices can make company data vulnerable to a number of dangers, from peeping Toms to phishing attacks.
Consider Using a VPN
That should probably say strongly consider using a VPN. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) server is the third-party that connects to the web on your behalf. It allows users to establish secure online connections with a remote computer network and importantly will secure the communication between the remote employee and the company’s IT computer network.
Consider Multi-Factor Authentication
In the current online environment, the “username and password” approach to security seems rather primitive. Log-ins can be compromised in minutes and confidential data (such as personal and financial details) can become an open book, making your business an easy target for cybercriminals.
When it comes to authentication, there are three widely recognised factors: something you know (a password), something you have (such as a laptop or mobile phone) and something you are (retina scans and fingerprints). A multi-factor system simply means using two or more of these options. So, a traditional username and password model in addition to, for example, a code that is sent to a device that only the employee has access to, is a quick and simple way to upgrade your online security.
4. Use Reliable Tools
If your employees struggle to access important files, can’t log in to a conference call or regularly receive invitations to meetings that are impossible for them to attend, then the basics still need work. There are a whole host of applications available that make remote working intuitive and simple, discover what works for your business and develop clear processes that both remote and onsite workers are familiar with and have access to. The following applications are suggestions that support the following:
A Virtual Office
Slack, Asana and Basecamp all act as virtual office spaces for remote workers. When working at their optimum level, they allow businesses to organise and prioritise conversations and share files quickly and easily. They can generally be synced with other remote working tools so that the remote worker has all of their notifications in one place.
Collaboration and Co-Authoring Applications
Sharepoint, Google Drive, OneDrive and other co-authoring apps allow multiple users to work on the same document at any one time. Rather than sending and resending edits, changes can be made in real time with all employees having access.
Cloud Transfer Services
Dropbox and WeTransfer use the cloud to transfer large files without putting pressure on email servers. Both tools allow easy collaboration on files and folders and integrate well with a number of other remote tools as well as Microsoft Office.
5. Use Technology to Build Community
Building a sense of community when half of your team are based in a different country can be tough, but there are programmes to help. In a world where email and instant messaging are considered the most obvious forms of communication, it can be easy to overlook the power of actual conversation. Yet speaking face-to-face is invaluable. Not only does it allow a workforce to deep dive into projects, but it helps build trust between team members.
So, what to do when your workforce is split across multiple locations? Video conferencing could be key. With increasing numbers of employees working remotely, video communication is more important than ever. Virtual face-to-face meetings allow employees across locations to feel like valued members of the team, whether they’re indulging in a three-hour long creative pow wow or having a quick catch-up to discuss the design.
Take the time to develop dedicated spaces for celebrating birthdays, work milestones of specific achievements. Making this a priority can help to develop a culture that inspires communication, which can result in increased productivity and job satisfaction for remote workers.
A Growing Phenomenon
Whether your business chooses to embrace remote working or not, it seems that the phenomenon is only set to grow. And, with 80% of employees saying they were more likely to stay loyal to existing employers if they could work remotely and studies showing that productivity increases by around 13% when employees work remotely, the question is, can your business afford to overlook it? By implementing the policies above, your business can stay ahead of the curve and enable a strong remote workforce, dedicated to the success of your business.
At Computer Disposals Limited, we can help your office manage its old hardware. Head to our homepage or call 0333 060 5203 to discover what CDL can do for you.