Today, many people regularly work from home offices, coffee shops, and hotel rooms. The constant availability of the internet combined with the speed and performance of today’s laptops has made remote work easier than ever.
Remote work vs. in-office work
For various reasons, some employers discourage or don’t allow remote work. Manufacturers may feel it’s unfair to let operational staff work remotely when plant and warehouse workers have to come in. The office environment is naturally conducive to building friendships, fostering teamwork and encouraging collaboration. In an office, employees have fewer distractions and it’s easier to keep company information secure. You may not have the technology in place to allow remote work.
Amidst concerns about Coronavirus, employers who didn’t setup remote work capabilities in the past are now looking for ways to keep the business running. One of the easiest ways is to allow employees to work from home.
Obviously, working remotely and in-office are not the same. You don’t have the same fluid interactions between employees as when they’re within walking distance from each other. Paperwork and contracts can’t be passed around. Some software systems may only be available on premise.
So, what exactly do you need to do before letting your employees work remotely so they can be productive, and your business can continue to function smoothly?
5 Key Considerations When Setting Up Remote Access for Employees
1. Off-site data security
Decide which employees are eligible to work from home, and what software and systems you’ll make available to them. Most employees are loyal to your business, strive to act in a professional manner, and would never intentionally cause a data breach. Despite good intentions, studies show that employees are consistently the top source of data security breaches.
In the office, you can have layers of firewall protection and data security monitoring built into your local area network. Offsite, you can implement security protections in various ways. However, if you don’t already have the technology in place, it will take time to setup.
Some of the simpler ways to enforce data security standards are by:
- Setting up VPN access (more on this later)
- Enforcing security protocols like two-factor authentication through IT policies and procedures
- Ensuring all computers have firewalls and antivirus software installed and activated
- Training employees where to store files and how to secure their computer environment (like removing password sticky-notes from their monitors)
- Thoroughly testing the backup and recovery process
If your company works with sensitive information, you want to be especially careful in setting up remote access. You’ll want to limit access, printing or downloading for records like:
- Patient health records
- Trade secrets
- Sensitive financial or security information
- Compliance or legal data
In addition to working with the software vendor to configure the application security settings, call an IT Service Provider like us (586.263.1775) to help setup the remote working environment.
2. Devices used for remote work
Decide who will provide the computers and laptops employees use for remote work. If your company buys them or allows employees to take company equipment home, you have more control about what you allow on the device. Make sure your employees are familiar with any new IT Policies related to remote work equipment.
Microsoft Office 365 and other IT vendors have software available that enables employers to wipe remote devices in the case equipment is lost or stolen.
3. Enabling secure off-site file access
What about file access? If employees aren’t working in the office, how can they access company files? You have two main options here – a VPN or the cloud.
VPN – Virtual Private Network – You can restrict access so that employees must exclusively connect through a VPN, providing a direct, encrypted connection between their remote device and the main office server. This is a way to offer full, but secure access to remote employees. Be prescriptive about which VPN tools employees use. Consumer-grade free VPN applications may expose your company to malware or adware. Learn more in our prior article about setting up a small business VPN.
The other option for file access is to use a cloud software like G-Suite or Office 365. If you already have a cloud software set up, you’re good to go! If not, migrating to the cloud is a great way to keep files secure while giving employees access to their work anywhere.
Both G-Suite and Microsoft Office 365 can be set up relatively quickly. If you have a large amount of data or lots of users, the process will obviously take a bit longer, but is worth it in the long-run. These software suites include email, calendar, spreadsheets, documents and a whole host of other business productivity tools. See which Office 365 applications are available, depending on the plan you select. We are happy to help you figure out the most expedient and practical way to get started.
4. Video communication tools
You probably already rely heavily on email for communication. That likely won’t ever change. What does change with remote work is that you should consider adding a video communication tool to share desktop applications and see friendly faces via webcam. Video communication tools to keep everyone in touch and on task. Some of our favorite tools are:
- Microsoft Teams
- Google Hangouts
5. Set expectations for remote employee work
Let everyone know your expectations for office hours, availability, and results expected. Especially when remote work is new, make sure employees know how to login, how to communicate and who to call if they experience technical difficulties.
Working remotely can be challenging for everyone at first. Don’t get discouraged.
Keep in mind that some employees will have difficulty working from home. They may have children or other family members clamoring for their attention. They may not be comfortable with video chat and need extra time to learn technology and change their processes to find new ways to collaborate. Be patient and keep in close communication. It’ll make the entire process run much more smoothly.
Need help setting up remote workers?
We’re here to help – as much or as little as you need. We can do everything from ordering and shipping laptops, to setting up remote access, to helping review your IT policies and procedures. Our team is here to help your business thrive by supporting remote work through a strong business continuity plan.