With COVID-19 seemingly dominating literally every facet of media, remote working is very much on the corporate agenda at the moment. But while many organizations already have it as part of their standard office culture, it is by no means a ubiquitous option. Although it simply isn’t practical for many occupations, research has found that 70% of people around the world work remotely at least once a week and 53% do so for at least half the week.
Many businesses are now looking at the process anew, and from video conferencing and collaboration services to file sharing and communication tools, there is no lack of powerful and affordable technologies out there to help make it happen.
But alongside a range of security considerations, organizing and managing remote workers can be challenging for businesses with less experience of the advantages and pitfalls. Both issues are central to ensuring that remote working can be delivered as an asset to the employer and a valued layer of flexibility for workers, because when done right, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.
Securing Remote Workers
Despite the power and versatility of today’s security applications and services, humans remain the weakest link in the chain. Indeed, one recent piece of research suggested that 99% of cyberattacks require human interaction to succeed. However, people who are trained to recognize and avoid threats such as phishing scams when working remotely will significantly lower the security risks their organization face.
For example, mobile app security can become an issue as employees often use them more frequently for remote working. Organizations should be diligent and ensure employee devices are not already compromised before allowing them to become part of their remote IT infrastructure. They should also be aware how their employees may be using mobile apps, are aware of potential risks and have step-by-step instructions of how to use them to connect to corporate systems.
This feeds into the considerations about the wider role of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) technology in the workplace. At the very least, organizations should have a policy in place on company-owned versus BYOD, because winging it and allowing employees to decide which devices to use is to invite trouble. Do they need to provide laptops to employees that currently use a desktop device, for example, in order to mitigate the risks of BYOD? If so, that may be new for those employees and additional training may be required.
Some businesses opt to minimize the use of BYOD, and those employers who decide to provide additional technology for their remote workers should have a plan in place to distribute devices efficiently so teams can have their equipment quickly prior to being out of the office.
Managing Remote Workers
Organizations who haven’t previously offered remote working may need to adjust or update their internal policies to cover the new situation. Part of this process requires good communication to remind people of company policies regarding remote working (such as acceptable use of technology) and the rules around securely accessing corporate systems to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Time tracking is often imperative to keeping everyone efficient and on task with the potential distractions of being at home. Organizations should be mindful that the remote working process shouldn’t cost any additional time, and they can maintain current rules and practices around time tracking.
For example, if an organization has a dispatcher — a role typically designed to send people into the field — the dispatcher needs to understand the boundaries and potential impact of remote working. That’s why it’s important to prep the dispatcher on any remote work situations and ensure they are prepared to “dispatch” time to a client when an on-site client visit may not be possible.
Then there’s the impact of people management when colleagues and teams aren’t in the same building. Remote meetings are a great example and companies often find that instead of changing their culture to fit circumstances, maintaining face-to-face communication with a ‘camera-on’ policy ensures they can have the same face-to-face touch points. Just because colleagues might be more remote than before, it doesn’t mean they should skip stand-up meetings or team huddles, for instance.
So, keep those familiar meetings in place and send out an agenda prior to the call so everyone can maintain focus. People often find that using a round-robin approach can ensure everyone has a voice in the meeting and can provide their updates as needed.
Viewed as an opportunity, remote working can help organizations improve their agility, boost staff retention and even save on business overheads. A common thread across both security and management processes is the need for relevant training, and viewed as an investment, it can help everyone to deliver on the opportunity. With remote working quickly becoming a ‘must have’ across any industry sector where it is practical, getting the approach right from the start can avoid having to correct culturally embedded problems later on.