Allowing Workers to Telecommute? Make Sure Your IT Facilitates Collaborative and Secure Remote Work.

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Telecommuting is increasingly common in today's business landscape. For some businesses, it's a worthwhile model for boosting productivity and adding flexibility to their workforce. Depending on your company's culture, this may be an attractive option.

It’s important to remember, though, that a productive telecommuting policy requires significant investment in and strategy around IT. Technology is, after all, the lynchpin that will keep your remote workers connected with others in your organization and with the assets—from business data to key software applications—that will keep them productive. And telecommuting necessarily involves relying on technology that is outside of your physical premises, leading to a greater potential for cyber security risk.

With the right approach to technology and the right safeguards in place, though, businesses can implement smart telecommuting and remote work options that can boost employee flexibility and productivity—and thus positively impact the bottom line.

Why are companies offering employees the option to telecommute or work remotely?

Telecommuting and remote work are a growing trend in the business world. In a 2017 Gallup Poll published in the Harvard Business Review, 43% of respondents reported working from home a portion of the time, and 5.7% reported working from home full-time. Many businesses see telecommuting and the option for in-town employees to work remotely as ways to offer flexibility to employees to decrease stress, increase job satisfaction, and, thus, increase productivity. And recent research suggests they are correct. 82% of telecommuters report lower levels of work-related stress, 80% experience a boost in morale, and 69% miss fewer days of work thanks to the chance to work from remotely.

What technologies facilitate productivity and true collaboration between telecommuters?

Again, the ability to truly leverage the benefits of telecommuting—both from the employee’s and the business’s perspectives—depends on having the right technology in place, so that employees can stay connected to their coworkers and have the same access to company tools as they would in the office. Here are just a few items to think through as you create a strategy around facilitating productive remote work:

  • How will remote employees communicate and collaborate with coworkers? Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams go beyond simple chat functionalities to facilitate meaningful communication between individuals and teams.

  • How will remote employees communicate with vendors and customers? Modern business phone applications protect the privacy of the employee and securing calls within the company. With these tools, remote workers are able to call from a company number instead of a personal home or mobile number.

  • How will remote employees access and share company data? While cloud storage and file sharing services like Dropbox and Google Drive are popular, and perhaps essential for remote workers, the free, personal accounts these vendors offer do not include the safeguards necessary to keep your data secure. There are, though, business-grade versions of such services that work to safeguard your data—and ensure that it remains under your control.

  • How will remote workers access key applications? This is a trickier question to deal with than many businesses initially realize. Licensing and installing software on remote workers’ individual computers may make sense in some cases, but usually, it’s best to avoid sequestering key data on individual workstations—especially when they spend most of their time outside your company network. It’s important, then, to think through remote desktop and terminal server options that allow remote employees to access key data and applications in a controlled environment.  

How to address the security risks associated with telecommuting or remote work.

It's essential to know that taking company assets outside of the company's network, while convenient, comes with potential risk factors. Employees outside of the company's headquarters will be working on networks not under company control. It’s crucial, then, to implement policies, safeguards, and training to ensure that increased risks to your cyber security are appropriately mitigated.

True cyber security for telecommuters and remote workers will require a comprehensive strategy that involves both technical safeguards, from a virtual private network (VPN) to remote device management solutions, and ongoing supervision by a technology expert.

Ready to make a plan for facilitating secure and collaborative telecommuting and remote work?

Affinity Technology Partners is ready to help your company maintain flexibility and productivity without sacrificing cyber security. Our vCIOs (virtual CIOs) are equipped to have in-depth conversations with each client about how to best implement remote work capabilities to fit their unique needs. If you’re ready to boost both both collaboration capabilities and security measures to get the most out of telecommuting and flexibility around remote work, contact us today.