6 Remote Work Considerations for SMBs

Coronavirus Outbreak Prompts Unprecedented Remote Work Experiment

The Coronavirus outbreak has prompted something of a remote work revolution, with many businesses taking the unprecedented move of asking their workforces to carry out their work from home.

While telecommuting in general has seen increases in adoption over the last few years, these employees make up just 3.4% of the entire US workforce.

When we look at business as a whole, only 7% of employers in the US offer work-from-home options to most or all of their employees.

With that in mind, there’s a substantial number of organizations all across the country that are going to have to learn very quickly how to operate under what amounts to effectively a new business model.

Do you have the resources and measures in place to meet this unexpected challenge?

Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the key considerations you have to make when preparing your workforce for an extended period of remote work.

Key Remote Work Considerations for SMBs

1. What Hardware Do Workers Need?

Businesses that already operate work-from-home policies will likely have equipment on-hand and a clear understanding of what their employees need to be able to perform their job outside of the office.

Those who are new to this will have no such luxury, and might be unsure of how to best approach this issue.

Most workers will require a laptop to continue their jobs at home, but be sure to consider professionals whose hardware is integral to their working lives.

For a data scientist, for example, a personal laptop or even standard company-issue laptop might not be nearly enough for them to use hardware-intensive applications.

Similarly, professionals in creative fields often rely on specific brands and hardware specifications in order to run what they need to do their job.

Carefully assess the needs of all employees who will be working from home and make sure they’ve got the right tools for the job—you could be setting them up for failure by not being thorough.

2. How Will They Use Work Software?

Your organization’s office setup will be completely different to employees’ home setups, where they may only have access to a laptop and an internet connection.

Workers will have an established expectation that they have access to all the software they need on their regular work desktops or laptops.

Being sent home, however, is a different matter—they won’t have access to locally-installed software on their computers, and may be unsure of how to get ahold of the applications they need while away from the office.

It’s crucial for businesses to consider how workers can transition to a work-from-home environment and still be able to use all the apps they need.

Think about your software licensing for the apps you use.

Most cloud-based software solutions will allow users to sign in from any device, but older legacy applications often need to be installed on a device-by-device basis.

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Are you prepared for this? Do you need to adjust the number of licenses you have so your remote workforce can use what they need?

Consider whether you scaling your software licenses is necessary for employees to work from home effectively.

3. Do Remote Workers Need to Use a VPN?

If remote workers need access to the company’s internal network, then think about using a VPN to ensure the security of your organization’s data.

While it’s manageable for companies to have a secure business with everyone under one network, working from home means multitudes of employees accessing valuable company data from a wide range of networks with varying levels of security.

A virtual private network means you can effectively create a secure bridge between your internal network and the devices of your remote employees.

Only those with the correct credentials can gain access, and therefore when a remote worker is using one, no outsiders can “see” the network, like they can a regular WiFi connection, and important business data won’t be susceptible to being stolen.

This has the additional benefit of employees being able to use public WiFi, which would otherwise be extremely risky.

After their own homes, the second-most common place for employees to conduct remote work is in coffee shops, with 37% of respondents indicating they use them

So long as they’re connected to the VPN, their data is encrypted and safe from attack.

If you anticipate remote workers need to gain access to internal company data, strongly consider utilizing a VPN to avoid any risk of a breach.

4. Do You Have Guidance and Procedures In Place?

For many employees, this could well be their first experience of working from home.

Make sure that they understand exactly what is expected of them and aren’t left with only a vague set of guidelines as they continue working.

The shift of workers from offices to their homes is profound, and organizations should do their due diligence by outlining a policy for them to follow while they’re out of the office.

This can include any number of things, but will typically pertain to working hours, communication expectations, and responsibilities.

63% of company departments have at least one person who works remotely for a significant amount of time, but 57% of businesses have no formal work-from-home policies

Not only will this benefit the business and the workers in the short-term, it will also provide a basis for the future, where remote work is already an increasingly popular choice for many.

Remote work has seen growth of 91% during the last decade, a trend that is likely to continue once we return to normal, so for many drafting a policy will be good practice

5. How Can I Keep Good Communication Between Staff?

Naturally, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome with a remote workforce is keeping them communicating with each other.

Needless to say, this is significantly harder when workers aren’t in the same room, but nonetheless there are ways to mitigate this.

Provide your workers with access to messaging, video conferencing, and chat platforms like Teams and Slack so that they continue to communicate with each other as seamlessly as possible.

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Don’t forget or neglect the social aspect of communication, either.

Employees will be used to talking and socializing with their colleagues in person, and with that taken away, it can lead to loneliness.

In a survey, loneliness was found to be the biggest struggle for remote workers, with 21% of them citing it as an issue.

To keep your workforce happy during this uncertain time, encourage them to communicate and collaborate as much as possible, and give them the software to do so.

6. Security Awareness Training

You can be the most forward-thinking business in the world; you can take every security measure imaginable and still come undone because remote workers don’t have the knowledge to stay safe from cyber threats.

It’s an unfortunate reality that human mistakes are responsible in one way or another for the majority of data breaches.

Human error is the number one cause of data breaches from cyberattacks, with 52% of incidents directly attributable to them

With employees all under one roof, it can simple enough to secure your network, but with remote workers, you’re often relying on their ability to look after business data on their own.

Now, more than ever, organizations—SMBs in particular—are under threat from a climbing number of criminals looking to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.

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All it takes is one breach to bankrupt a business, so leave no stone unturned in ensuring that staff are well-equipped to meet anything that comes their way, especially phishing or ransomware attacks.

In light of recent events, many organizations have found themselves playing catchup, trying to implement makeshift digital solutions to make up lost ground while their workforces transition to remote work for the immediate future. 

Impact Networking has been in the business of helping SMBs for over 20 years, and our solutions for remote work are used successfully by our customers every day. Learn more about remote work by checking out our Productivity Suite offerings.