More and more companies are looking at allowing their employees to work from home. Whether it is just for emergencies or for full-time remote employment, executives need to look at their IT infrastructure to ensure they are ready for remote working.
First off, why do employees want to work from home?
Some employees want the flexibility to stay home with a sick child or even if they are slightly sick. Having access to work allows them to stay functional and not burn PTO (Personal Time Off) days and to meet deadlines. Other employees seek to work from home to focus on work without the distractions of an office, such as people knocking on their door or the noise of working in an open environment. Working from home also lets employees with long commutes shrink their workday because they do not need to spend hours commuting. Heck, they can get by with a quick shower instead of getting dressed up for work, which also saves time.
As an employer, you have benefits too.
You should consider having employees work remotely because they miss fewer days due to sickness, are happier about the flexibility, and can be more efficient without the office distractions. (Forbes found 93% of employees think they are more productive working remotely!) This work arrangement allows you to retain key employees, even if they move out of your geographic area and you can recruit top talent out of town. It also lowers your operational expenditures because you need less square footage at the office.
If interested in a more depth look into remote working, I suggest reading Jason Fried & David Heinemeier’s book Remote – Office Not Required.
Once you decide to have employees working remotely, you need to consider what tasks remote employees need to do.
Employees probably need access to their email and potentially a work phone, which you can forward to a mobile device. (You can also get an app that works as an extension of your office phone system.)
Employees probably need access to select files on the server and need to back up their computers remotely. Many companies use a core application, such as a DMS (Dealer Management Software) at auto dealerships. Employees will need secure access to those applications as well.
Technologies Needed for Employees to Work from Home
- Access to Files
- VPN (Virtual Private Network) – Since employees need access to your server or core application, that usually means using a VPN to send and receive data with clients and other employees securely.
- Access Management – Whether employees are working remotely or not, everyone should not have access to everything on the server. A good IT firm will recommend creating user groups so marketing can access marketing files and not accounting files (and vice versa).
- Security Requirements – If your industry is regulated; you may need specialized software or need to take extra security measures to protect your data. For example, medical practices must meet HIPAA guidelines and banks are regulated by the FDIC.
- Web Filtering – Regardless if employees work remotely or if everyone works from a central office, we suggest that our clients utilize a web filtering service. This service prevents employees from visiting inappropriate and potentially dangerous websites that could infect the network.
- Anti-Malware Protection – Treat your remote employees like they are in the office and use anti-malware and anti-virus protection software.
- Physical Firewalls – For full-time and frequent remote employees, a good IT firm will recommend using a physical firewall at the home office for a secure connection from end to end.
- Company Computers & Devices – Provide your employees with company-owned workstations, even if they are working remotely. This policy prevents viruses from personal computers from entering your network and allows your IT support team to access their computers to service them. [When firing remote employees, IT having access to their computer is vital to blocking them from your network and private data. See Firing a Salesperson for more info.]
- Phones – You can create remote offices that can access your phone system and have an extension, so it works just like having their phone at a desk in the office.
- Optimal Work Station – Make sure your remote employees have a workstation that works. No one can be efficient, especially for long times, purely working from a laptop. Provide a second monitor, mouse, & keyboard to increase productivity and ROI just like you would for employees working in the office.
- Increased Bandwidth – With more data moving in and out of your office, you may need to increase your office’s bandwidth to accommodate remote employees. Using a cloud-based application or server requires additional bandwidth and some companies provide a stipend to ensure remote employees have high-speed internet at home.
- Bandwidth Monitoring – Because employees will be accessing your server remotely, they will use more bandwidth than someone in the office on the local network. A good IT firm can help you determine your bandwidth needs by monitoring your usage during normal and peak times. [See Good Internet Speeds for more information.]
Besides the benefits of retaining and recruiting top talent for your firm and saving on office expenditures, setting up a remote work infrastructure also prepares your company for disasters that may cause your team to work remotely unexpectedly. [See 3 Types of Disasters That Can Destroy Your Business.]
A good IT firm will help you plan and set up a remote working infrastructure. A great IT firm will help you determine and measure the ROI of working remotely to see if it makes sense for your company.