The topic of remote working has never been so relevant as it is today; no thanks to the coronavirus.
Despite this global, frightening phenomenon, the popularity of remote working is ever increasing amongst businesses and their employees. This is partially due to the major shift in businesses adopting Cloud services or various forms of off-site infrastructure solutions; taking the onus of working away from being just office-based and instead, encouraging/supporting a distributed workforce.
This is reinforced by the vast improvements in web conferencing and collaboration technology, making it easier to communicate using voice, video and share content, from anywhere with a solid internet connection.
Many studies have shown that enabling a flexible remote working practice results in greater productivity and quality of work, more engagement, loyalty and reduced absenteeism. Outside of the office it also helps manage a work/life balance.
However, businesses are at various stages of their remote working strategy; some don’t even have one yet, whilst others are fully committed to it and have already enabled their workforce with the necessary tools to implement remote working.
No matter where you are on your journey, here are a few pointers to consider.
These will help those businesses and organisations who are at the early stages of a remote working strategy, to those who are already benefitting from remote working practises.
No remote working solution will work effectively if the connectivity foundations are not adequate and security measures are not fit for purpose.
Providing access to IT applications and resources remotely starts with connectivity to the Internet and the corporate network, mapping out how employees will securely interact to access what they need.
There is also the question of employees having reliable and fast internet access from their remote location. If staff are in areas that are not yet on the UK fibre network, you will find their experience of working remotely significantly diminished, having a direct impact on their productivity and morale.
It is wise to survey your staff in order to quantify how many are able to work remotely, as and when the need arises. For key staff or those in rural areas, you may wish to invest in new or upgraded Internet access from their remote location, or look into mobile Internet access, to ensure they are online.
The key to this is bandwidth. Quantifying how much bandwidth remote workers will need to replicate their in-office productivity is vital. This of course varies across sectors and industries depending on the nature of the data and how often it needs to be synced to the corporate network.
For media, design and production businesses, this requirement is high due to the volume of high resolution images and video that are pushed and pulled across the network. This can also have a significant impact on conferencing and voice services, if they are also delivered over the same connection.
Unified Communications and Collaboration Tools
The enhancement of reliable real-time collaboration tools, like Teams, goes a long way to alleviate the bandwidth issue, due to the reduction in frequent uploading and downloading of large files across the network. Teamwork is an essential part of any successful business, hence the need to support this activity despite the location, is a key part of any remote working strategy. This is where today’s modern workforce collaboration tools play a significant part in keeping workers connected, whether it is using Slack, Microsoft Teams, Workplace by Facebook, unified communications/instant messaging solutions from Avaya, as well as web conferencing/meeting tools like GoToMeeting and Zoom.
The collaboration tools you choose will have a direct impact on your remote workforce and their performance, hence it is wise to minimise the number of tools you throw at your staff. Where possible, take advantage of the tools that are available or bolted on from existing providers, to encourage the user adoption and also make tool management easier.
Delivering remote access to the corporate network, data and applications in a secure manner is critical. This needs to be deployed both at the user end and also on the network perimeter.
For users, this can be done by creating an encrypted network connection from their device to the corporate network, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) software application. VPN technology is reliable and proven to work, if installed, configured and maintain correctly. If not, there could be a detrimental effect on the performance of the device and the upload/download speeds.
There are a number of VPN solutions available that deliver an additional level of security and safety for your remote workers, so it is important to discuss this openly with your IT partner, to ensure you apply the right product for your business needs.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) should also be considered for the users, to double check their login procedure. In addition to their username/ID and password, 2FA is now commonly used to verify that only the designated users are allowed access. Again, your IT partner can recommend which 2FA service is fit for purpose, which the likes of Microsoft now including this service within specific Office 365 licences.
For the network, a fit for purpose firewall solution is a must. Again, they vary in size, spend and complexity. A firewall system should be designed to prevent unauthorised access to or from the corporate (or private) network, whether in hardware or software form, or a combination of both.
It begins and ends with your people, the most prised asset of any business and organisation.
Remote working is more than choosing the right technology, it is a cultural shift for many. Some may be against the idea and due to extreme circumstances, are forced to work remotely. What seem like trivial aspects of office life, like banter and the quick chat whilst making the tea or coffee, can have a major impact when missed.
Therefore it is essential that the transition from office based to remote working is made as simple and straightforward as possible….for the USER too!
It is critical that an equal amount of focus and emphasis is placed on user adoption when choosing the right remote working tools and applications, as well as being technically proven, cost effective and recommended from a trusted source (IT partner).
Having a detailed Remote Working Policy in place can make a big difference to act as a guideline for the business and staff when it needs to be implemented at short notice. It is highly likely that you already have remote workers in your business, hence the ‘power remote users’ can play a great part in making those new to remote working settle in efficiently.
Speak to a Trusted Partner
At AdEPT, we help thousands of businesses and organisations with their remote working needs, from designing networks and security solutions, to delivering Cloud services, hosted desktop and telephony platforms, to unified communications and collaboration solutions; all managed by our in-house IT support teams.
If you have any questions on how to tackle the current issues and get ready for remote working, get in touch today to learn more about our wide range of services.