Long-Term Remote Work: Everything You Need To Know To Optimize Your Staff’s Work-From-Home Environment
Remote work is no longer a “short-term arrangement.” However, you’ve managed remote work so far. If it’s to be a part of your organization’s long-term vision, you need to make sure it’s optimized and secure.
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LONG TERM WORKING FROM HOME
The COVID-19 pandemic will conclude at some point, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be done with remote work.
On the one hand, you could choose to continue with remote work after it’s safe to return to the office. You wouldn’t be alone in that decision — according to 317 CFOs recently surveyed by Gartner, 74% say they expect to move previously on-site employees remote after the pandemic.
Furthermore, although you may bring your staff into the office at some point, it’s important not to forget all the hard lessons learned during this pandemic. A second wave is a distinct possibility, and so you need to make sure you have a viable remote work plan in place that can be launched quickly.
The Upside Of Remote Work
The remote work model offers several benefits that you’ve likely taken notice of over the course of the pandemic. Remote workers have seen the benefits as well:
- 77% of remote employees say they’re more productive when working from home
- 76% of employees prefer to avoid their office completely when they need to concentrate on a project
- 98% of remote workers want to continue to work remotely (at least some of the time) for the rest of their careers
However, for all the ways remote work is beneficial to both the organization and end-users, it’s not without its challenges.
Is Your Remote Workforce Still Secure?
When the COVID-19 crisis hit, it hit fast.
Despite what, in retrospect, may have seemed like a gradual build-up, it was virtually over the course of a single weekend in March that businesses across the US had to pivot to a remote work model.
Obviously, the priority was maintaining business continuity. You needed to make sure your new remote workers had the technology and the remote access necessary to do their work.
But the process doesn’t end there. Security is a complicated undertaking for remote work models. In fact, 36% of organizations have dealt with a security incident due to an unsecured remote worker.
Continuing with a remote work model, whether entirely or in part, will require:
- Enhancing security measures
- Providing the right hardware for users working permanently from home
- Implementing more permanent file-sharing, collaboration, and communication tools
It’s important to recognize that when businesses start prioritizing remote access to data over that data’s security, they make an easy target for hackers.
Think of it this way: at the office, everything is protected by the same set of cybersecurity solutions — firewalls, antivirus software, etc. These are defenses that you’ve invested in and can trust. Is the same true of your employees’ home networks and personal devices? Probably not.
With so many employees operating remotely, working from laptops or smartphones, how can you be sure that your data is completely secure? Are you taking the necessary steps to maintain security while your staff works from home?
Many owners and managers assume that a VPN is enough to protect their business while managing a remote work environment. That’s not necessarily true — one wrong step and a remote worker can put your network at risk.
Effective remote cybersecurity requires:
- Two-Factor Authentication: Two-factor authentication is a great way to add an extra layer of protection to the existing system and account logins. By requiring a second piece of information like a randomly-generated numerical code sent by text message, you’re able to make sure that the person using the login credentials is actually who they say they are. However, this isn’t just for websites and common user accounts — 2FA should also be enabled for VPNs and Remote Desktops.
- Conditional Access: Conditional Access software gives you the ability to enforce controls on the access to apps in your environment, all based on specific conditions and managed from a central location. It’s an extra layer of security that makes sure only the right people, under the right conditions, have access to business data.
- Data Loss Prevention (DLP): A DLP policy tracks sensitive data and where it’s stored, determines who has the authorization to access it, and prevents the accidental sharing of sensitive information.
- Hard Drive Encryption: Encryption technology is a great way to protect important data. By making data unreadable to anyone who isn’t supposed to have access to it, you can secure files stored on your systems, servers, and mobile devices, as well as files sent via email or through file-sharing services. This is especially important for remote devices and employee-owned devices. Laptops and home-based hardware need to be properly encrypted.
Is Your Remote Workforce Communicating & Collaborating?
The ability to communicate quickly and effectively with your team is vital in the modern working world, especially during a pandemic. In fact, trouble communicating is second only to loneliness among remote workers surveyed this year as the most significant challenge they’ve encountered.
At this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, you should have a communication solution you rely on in place for your business, but that’s not to say it can’t be improved. You’ve likely had to incorporate a range of solutions, such as a video meeting platform, file sharing service, and more.
The bottom line is that communication and collaboration are foundational to productivity and continuity, whether you’re in the office or not. Whether you and your team can communicate effectively while working from home comes down to the tools you have in place:
- Microsoft 365 or another cloud platform for access to email, calendar, contacts, and more
- VoIP business phones for making and receiving calls via the internet
- Cloud-based applications, including ERP systems, CRM systems, and more
Is Your Remote Workforce Supported?
Don’t forget about the human element.
The fact is that remote work doesn’t come naturally to everyone. This new era of remote working has led to issues that managers would have addressed directly in the workplace. It’s not so easy now that you’re cut off from your team members.
A recent study has found that new remote workers across the country are encountering a series of challenges in their daily work life:
- 19% experience loneliness
- 17% have difficulty communicating and collaborating
- 8% have trouble staying motivated
You can promote a more engaged and healthy remote workforce by following these tips:
- Promote Accountability: Try having your team share to-do lists with one another to promote accountability in their work. Have staff members pair up and meet regularly to talk through what they’ve achieved and how they can improve.
- Set Firm Working Hours: Your team may be working from home, but that doesn’t mean they’re on call 24/7 now. Make sure to set and follow working hours. Emails and items that come up in the evenings or early morning can and should be left until the start of the next working day.
- Make Sure They’re Working In The Right Space: Make sure that wherever your staff is going to work is comfortable, distraction-free, and as in-line with their normal workplace as possible. They may need to invest in an office chair or even a second monitor depending on their work.
- Promote Balance In Their Workday: Make sure that your staff is striking the right balance at home. Just as they shouldn’t be slacking off because they’re not being supervised, they also shouldn’t overwork themselves. Make sure everyone is taking breaks to decompress, stretch, stay hydrated, and relax.
- Help Them Socialize: Switching from a full office to their quiet house can be difficult for workers. Don’t forget to schedule time for business and casual communication. Your employees should still communicate regularly with one another and with you.
Need Expert Assistance Optimizing Your Remote Work Model?
No matter how long you plan to continue with remote work, you may need to change your IT support model. As you and the other c-level executives at your business have likely discovered since the start of the pandemic, your ability to work remotely depends directly on your IT support.
Alvarez Technology Group can help — over the course of the pandemic, we’ve gained extensive experience in helping our partners to launch, optimize, and secure remote work capabilities. Now that the mad rush to go remote is over, it’s time to perfect your processes. You don’t have to do so alone.
Get in touch with the ATG team to get started.