Employing Remote Workers Carries New IT Challenges
Remote work carries with it a different set of risks than does a traditional workplace setup. Being forced to move in that direction only exacerbates the issue of figuring out how to operate under what people are calling the “new normal”. This month we thought we would go through a couple of the risks that come with having your staff working remotely, and what to do about them.
Before we get into it, we just wanted to recognize that not all remote workforces are due to the lingering global pandemic. A lot of businesses needed to provide computing support for employees who work out of the office due to travel and other factors. Many times, employees have to go to the customer to bring value and having a business that can properly mitigate the risks can mean better situations for those paying for the product or service.
Risk #1 - Lack of Focus Among Remote Employees
For the business that was against allowing remote work and forced to change their business strategy because of COVID-19, having employees that are just not as focused as they were when they were working in an office is probably one problem you’ve encountered. According to a Harvard Business Review study, many workers are feeling disconnected from their co-workers; a real costly problem if your business directly depends on collaboration or their ability to collaborate with your other staff members.
Studies suggest that over time remote workers improve their collaborative productivity, but can you afford to see your productivity drop at a time when there are so many demands on your business? You can if your business has dedicated and experienced workers that know what is expected of them and deliver on deadlines. If your business is working with inexperienced workers or new hires, having them work remotely may be problematic as there is an inherent lack of oversight.
The best way to ensure that your employees maintain focus is to promote dialogue about their jobs. This means clearly define your expectations and talk to them about stressors that may cause distress. For the worker that is not used to working from home, the shift to remote work may actually be detrimental to their mental health, and therefore will not help their work performance.
Risk #2 - Lack of Tools Needed to Accomplish Expected Goals
Another risk that should be pretty obvious is a workforce that lacks the tools to do the jobs they are expected to do. This could be as simple as getting them a workstation that allows them to efficiently do their tasks, or it could be an end-to-end issue that includes collaboration and communications tools. The remote workforce has different demands than does a staff that works in-house, so understanding that you may need to alter your strategies is a good first step in getting your staff the tools they need to succeed.
For the average remote worker, there will be a set of technologies that you will need access to, not to mention the access they will also need to the data and applications that allows them to directly complete their workloads. Some of these tools include:
- Video conferencing
- Productivity suites
- Remote desktop/virtual private networks
- Project management tools
- Communications (email, instant messaging, VoIP, collaboration tools)
- Cloud storage
- Business management tools
Ensuring that your employees have the tools they need to meet demands has to come before any demands are set, or you are going to look at displeasure from your workers and usually higher degrees of turnover.
Risk #3 - Maintaining Security
Another consideration that has always been at the top of any business owner’s mind is just how to keep their data and network safe from online threats. This certainly is exacerbated when you have a remote workforce. How can you succinctly monitor all of your business’ computing when they are operating outside the reach of your management software? Well there are three major things that every business needs to do to protect their digital assets when deploying a remote workforce. They are:
- Use technology to help stay secure - Using remote desktop technology and virtual private networks are great ways to create the secure connections needed to ensure that data isn’t intercepted en route. By using encryption and hiding the IP address of the device using the data that you host, you can ensure that any remote employee isn’t actively putting your company’s data and infrastructure at risk
- Utilize multi-factor authentication - Almost every software title released today allows you to set up two-factor (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA). Essentially, this strategy makes users piggyback their own password with a randomly generated code to access resources. For the company that has begun to move a lot of their productivity computing to the cloud, this process is essential to set up. Sure, you aren’t actively responsible for securing those solutions per se, but doing all you can to keep company-owned data and computing resources safe requires MFA.
- Build solid policies and train/test regularly - Finally, in this arena you need to train your employees as you would if they were sitting inside the office each day. They need to be trained on the best practices of spotting phishing, password hygiene, and other security-minded initiatives so that they can do their best to keep your business’ computing safe. You will want to create policies and procedures that promote data and network security, and you will want to test your staff regularly to ensure they are taking in the information. 40 percent of all data breaches happen as a result of mistakes/negligence/sabotage by your staff, so if you have a remote workforce, you will need to be extra diligent to ensure they get the training and knowledge they need to operate securely.
The new normal has a lot of people working from home at least some of the time, and it is important that business owners know how to identify the new risks out there that come as a result of this shift in workplace strategy. At ISC, our knowledgeable consultants can help you plan how to go about making the most of these new realities and help build a secure business computing strategy that will not only keep your data safe, but also support your remote workforce more effectively. Give us a call today at 502.292.5097 to have a conversation about how to make the best of this new normal.