Working remotely is something that has been gaining in popularity over the last few years, but experienced a huge surge over the last year thanks to many lockdown regulations and stay at home orders. Preparing your IT infrastructure for your employees working remotely comes with its own unique set of challenges but with the right ideas and assistance it doesn’t have to become an insurmountable challenge. Here are five things you should have on your list of considerations if you find yourself maintaining a remote workforce, or are looking to make the decision to allow your employees to work from home some or all of the time.
Enable Easier Communications
One of the biggest complaints from employees when working remotely is the feeling of being disconnected from colleagues and the challenges around communications which don’t exist in an office environment. This is why developing and employing a robust communications system is imperative as part of a move to remote working. This might come in the form of a communications suite like Microsoft Teams or Slack, which will allow for constant communication during the workday nicely organised into teams and groups, or it might come in the form of frequent check ins and pre-arranged video conferencing meetings and similar. Making sure your employees are well connected to management and their colleagues is of significant importance, and technology can enable this.
Step Up Your Security
A basic security policy that mandates the use of antivirus software and similar baseline things is essential, but complications arise when employees are going to need access to company resources like email and document storage as well as some of your company digital assets like a CRM or ERP system. This means you’re going to have to expose some of these services to the internet and that means you’re creating a cybersecurity consideration. This means securing your IT assets properly and ensuring all outside access is via secure and properly configured VPNs. Another option is to consider remote hosted desktops instead of direct VPN access.
Use Remote Hosted Desktops
Becoming increasingly popular for employees working from home is the use of a remote hosted desktop thanks to the savings you’ll benefit from when it comes to hardware costs and particularly software licencing. These remote hosted desktops are essentially a full desktop environment hosted either with a service provider or on premises which allow your staff to connect using a low power device and have access to a full desktop experience remotely, including your ERP or CRM and all the local files. This negates the need for much special off-premises strategic IT planning and can save you significantly in both cost and complexity. There are still some security considerations for remote hosted desktops to be aware of.
Equipping Your Staff Properly
The kind of IT equipment your staff need for remote work won’t differ much from what they’d need in the office, but an emphasis on portability should be top of mind. Desktop computers will fall out of fashion in favour of lighter, portable notebook computers, particularly if they will be coming into an office occasionally. You want your employees to be comfortable and productive at home and that means giving them equipment to enable that. Good quality keyboards and an external mouse as well as large screens should all be on the list of priorities. Don’t forget they’ll also need a headset and camera for those video conferencing calls. Now is also a good time to consider IP telephony instead of traditional, so your employee’s work contact number can follow them wherever they are.
Don’t Forget Backups
You might have a robust data retention and backup system on premises but now that your employees are leaving the workplace and are working remotely, you need to ensure this backup still happens, particularly because you’ll face external factors that will be a risk employees data that might not have been factors before, like theft from their homes or physical damage to devices while transporting. Cloud based solutions are likely going to be your go-to here so that backups can happen no matter where your employees are.
With such a sudden move to remote work and employees working at home, many businesses have been struggling to make the transition to work from home. There have been many IT systems and requirements to consider and put in place in a very short amount of time. Having a good way forward and some easy wins like those detailed here will put you on steady footing.