Remote work has become commonplace for many organizations over the course of the last year, especially among small businesses. While remote work offers several time and cost benefits to both employers and employees (like reduced overhead, lower commute time and flexible hours), promoting a happy, healthy and productive workforce can be challenging without the proper tools in place.
Fortunately, there are ways for your organization to not only keep your team productive but also keep your data secure.
1. Leverage a Variety of Collaboration Tools
Not all employees work the same way. Remote employees tend to prefer different modes of communication based on job function, learning style and other factors, and these will warrant different tools for collaboration. Forcing a video-heavy collaboration style on who would prefer to collaborate via chat or email, for example, can drive stress and burnout. Conversely, requiring employees that are used to communicating face-to-face to conduct all business over email can reduce productivity.
To cultivate a productive collaboration environment that works for your team, listen to your employees and pay attention to the data:
- Check usage analytics: which tools do your employees use most often, and which tools receive the least use?
- – For the least-used tools, do employees have sufficient training to use the tool effectively? Training and awareness efforts are often great ways to revitalize an under-used asset or tool.
- Send an anonymous survey to employees asking about tool preferences. Try focusing questions on productivity, efficiency and ease of use. For example, you could ask employees to rate tools on a scale from “enhances my productivity” to “hurts my productivity.”
Implementing either a variety of tools or one single platform to offer different modes of communication will make sure there’s something for everyone on your team. Video conferencing can help emulate that face-to-face connection, while chat and instant file-sharing will help employees share information in real-time. Tools equipped with presence can help supervisors stay on top of employees signing on and off for the day, ensuring that staff isn’t working long hours and burning out due to a lack of work/life separation.
Finally, the tools you choose to implement must be intuitive and easy to use; otherwise, productivity and morale will suffer. Tools that are kludgy or not well integrated with one another will have a lower adoption rate among staff, which could result in unauthorized tool usage – and straying from established practices can cause work duplication, data loss, poor time and resource allocation, and security compromise.
2. Only Allow Work on Company-Provided Devices
Allowing employees to use the same devices for personal and corporate use can present security issues across your organization. The same devices that are downloading third-party apps, connecting to potentially unsafe public WiFi networks and accessing personal email accounts are often being used to access corporate data as well. Further, employers can’t require employees to update their personal devices, which could mean they’re working on outdated software – and 60% of all data breaches involve vulnerabilities for which a patch was available but not applied.
While the primary concern with an unpatched device is security, having a device that isn’t updated can also result in slower processing speeds, bringing productivity to a crawl. Equipping remote staff with the proper tools, like corporate laptops and phones, will ensure that these devices can be centrally managed by your internal IT team and remain updated.
3. Transition to Cloud Applications (Where You Can)
As organizations sent their employees home at the start of the pandemic, there was a mad dash to implement tools that would facilitate remote access to company resources. In this initial stage, the primary goal was accessibility, but not necessarily secure accessibility.
Hackers began to actively exploit the vulnerabilities this shift created. Now, organizations should be looking at streamlining and securing their data and tools to enable long-term remote access.
The cloud generally makes data more easily accessible from anywhere than on-premise servers, creating streamlined processes that eliminate vulnerable choke points and gaps. It also allows for browser-based interfaces that free up device storage and allow for device and location flexibility.
Further, global cloud hosting providers tend to offer several levels of security and configuration options to ensure your stored data and applications remain secure and compliant.
4. Keep Connections to In-House Data Secure
For those applications that you cannot move to the cloud, be sure to protect them from cyber threats by protecting their access with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). These secure tunnels encrypt traffic from end to end so you can be sure that the data transmitted between your servers and your remote staff is protected. VPNs boost productivity by allowing authorized employees to access secure data on a secure network from anywhere.
The Infinit Difference
At your small business, supporting employees who work from home doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right tools, technology can keep your team connected even when you’re apart.
Infinit Technology Solutions offers collaboration, security and networking solutions accompanied by the strategy and expertise to help small businesses like yours keep your employees working productively, no matter where they may be located. To learn more about powering remote productivity, download the SMB’s Essential Guide to Working From Home.