Are You Ready for Your Remote Workforce?
Are You Ready for Your Remote Workforce?
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, you might have made the decision to go remote or not based on what’s best for your Atlanta business.
You might have done a cost-benefit analysis that balances team cohesion against other factors like reduced office expenses and the benefits of being able to offer more flexible work arrangements.
But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses had to transition quickly to a remote workforce, without the luxury of considering whether it works for them long-term and without putting proper measures and policies in place that facilitate success.
This is a huge shift for companies that have traditionally operated on-location, even if the jobs involved can be done at home. An IT managed service provider can help advise you on the best options.
Whether your team is just going remote now or you’ve been operating this way for a while, there are measures you can put in place to make the transition smoother for everyone and ensure your workers stay productive.
When setting up a remote workforce you will want to:
- Define your policy and communicate with your workforce
- Define how employees will track their time
- Consider the employee’s other challenges
- Ensure your team has the equipment they need
- Set security policies
Here, we’ll expand on some of these points.
Define Your Policy and Communicate with Your Workforce
You’re much less likely to have performance issues with remote work when all your employees understand what your expectations are, and how their performance will be measured.
How do you expect your employees to conduct their workday? How do you plan to communicate? How will their performance be evaluated and what are the expectations for productivity?
You won’t be able to simply swing by an employee’s desk anymore to talk to them personally. That means you’ll need other ways to communicate, and you’ll have to define your expectations here.
Clear policies should be implemented that define those expectations — whether those include relying on email, phone calls, or regularly scheduled zoom meetings.
In addition, you’ll need a way to measure productivity that does not rely on an employee’s presence in the office. Establishing a formal schedule for your team that lays out goals, deadlines, and volume of work to be completed can help.
You’ll also need to consider how your workforce communicates with each other and manages large projects — as they won’t be able to do this in person anymore. Tools such as TeamLogic IT Cloud Drive can be of help here, as well as Zoom or MS Teams.
Defining How Employees Will Track Their Time
How carefully employees must track their time worked — as opposed to simply complying with certain productivity and deadline requirements — depends to some extent on your industry and the nature of your workforce.
The Fair Labor Standards Act does not exempt remote workforces from overtime pay, for instance. So if your employees are non-exempt, they will need a reliable method for tracking their hours and determining whether they are eligible for overtime pay.
Employers are also entitled to put measures in place limiting employees from working more than a certain number of hours in excess of the 40-day workweek or requiring advance approval for working more than a certain number of hours.
Your work-from-home policy should include clear expectations about overtime pay and limits on overtime hours, and how employees should track and record their time on the job.
Consider the Employee’s Other Challenges
One thing to bear in mind is that, in the midst of the pandemic, your employees are likely under considerably more stress now, and face more demands on their time during the workday, than they did in pre-pandemic times.
With many schools closed or transitioning to remote education, many parents are struggling to balance working at home with making sure their kids get the care and schooling they need, with no separation of parenting and work duties as they had in pre-pandemic times.
And even employees without children may have additional caring duties to worry about including caring for elderly parents or a sick relative. The pandemic has forced many people to take on additional caring roles to ensure vulnerable people in their families get the help they need.
As an employer, your instinct may be to preserve a sense of routine for your employees. And that’s not necessarily a bad instinct. For many employees, the loss of a regular routine can be one of the most destabilizing aspects of a sudden transition to working from home.
But when trying to impose an outside schedule, consider what other pressures your employees are under now. Try to avoid scheduling online meetings that aren’t absolutely necessary, just to keep a routine going.
And consider putting routines in place that help employees maintain a work-life balance—such as mandating that the workday have a specific beginning and end, and reassuring your team that they aren’t obligated to respond to emails after hours.
Ensure Your Team Has the Equipment They Need
Does your team have the equipment, hardware and infrastructure they need at home to do the same work they did at the office? Some things to consider include:
- Computers and laptops that meet the appropriate performance requirements
- Software, including proprietary and legacy software
- Remote access to internal systems and platforms
- Peripherals such as printers and scanners
- Reliable broadband Internet connection
Your team will be relying on their home Internet connection much more than they do under normal circumstances, so that will require particular attention. Some things your employees might need include:
- A reliable connection, 50Mb x 5Mb or higher, that can support video calls, VoIP and multiple endpoints.
- LAN-hardwire connections and dual-ban wireless routers.
- Proper remote access to your company phone system through VoIP or other means.
- Security measures that protect proprietary data.
You should also have proper policies in place regarding the dissemination and maintenance of all equipment that you supply to employees.
Usually, if the company supplies the equipment, they take responsibility for maintaining it, but if the employee supplies it, they are responsible for maintenance.
Security becomes a bigger concern when your workforce is remote. When they’re not in the office, they may be using unsecured wireless connections to access proprietary data, answering confidential emails on personal computers, or performing other actions that could result in a security breach.
It’s crucial to make sure your employees have the tools and hardware in place to protect your corporate data, and that they fully understand and can comply with crucial security policies.
Some policies to put in place include:
- Implementing strong password protection policies and multi-factor identification to enhance login security.
- A policy regarding the use of personal devices for work-related tasks and ensuring proper security measures and training.
- Ensuring a clear, enforceable, and up-to-date remote work and network access policy.
- Ensuring all system access protocols are clearly laid out and followed.
In addition, you can help strengthen security by implementing certain technologies and solutions across your entire remote workforce, including:
- Secure, segregated connections to IoT, critical applications, data, systems, and platforms.
- A secure VPN on all servers.
- The most up-to-date and secure operating systems, browsers, antivirus software, and applications on all devices your employees use for work.
However, no matter how strong your policies and technical measures are, your company will always be vulnerable to security breaches if employees don’t understand what actions to take on an individual level to protect IT security.
It’s crucial to ensure that your employees understand the additional security risks that come with remote work, and to consider what additional training remote workers need to address and mitigate those risks on an individual level.
Some issues to address include:
- Employee use of unsecured wireless networks—such as those at coffee shops or libraries—to do company work.
- Use of personal devices for work, including answering company emails, that may not have adequate security measures in place.
- Measures employees can take at home to ensure devices that contain proprietary data are not lost or stolen. This may include installing file cabinets or desks with a drawer that locks.
- Standardizing password setting and maintenance requirements to protect proprietary data, networks, and systems.
How an Atlanta Managed Service Provider Can Help
No matter whether you’re about to make the transition to a remote workforce or have been doing it for months in compliance with COVID-19 lockdowns, a Managed Service Provider can help make the transition easier.
A knowledgeable Managed Services Provider can be your partner in establishing security measures robust enough to handle the risks of a remote workforce, as well as evaluating and choosing the right tools to enhance productivity and communication.
They can also help ensure your team has the right equipment and software to handle their job duties from home and guide you in defining and establishing appropriate remote work policies from an IT perspective.
Call TeamLogic IT today at 770-847-9611 for a free, confidential consultation.
Rick spent his career in technology before starting TeamLogic IT in 2015. He and the team live out our philosophy to stand up, be bold, and live the truth, even when it’s not the easy choice.
As a part of TeamLogic IT and a small business owner himself, Rick focuses on bringing solutions to businesses ranging in size from solopreneurs to 1,000 employees.
He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two sons and enjoys staying active and volunteering at his sons’ schools.