Working Remotely: How to Ensure Success for Your Team
In these unprecedented times, working from home is becoming a reality for millions of workers. While the prospect of working remotely can be an option many of your employees are thankful for, getting everyone set up to work from home is easier said than done. There are several things to consider to ensure that your business is uninterrupted.
Options for Working Remote
First things first, you need to figure out how your team is going to access those critical systems and databases they need to work on. There are a few ways that your employees can go about this.
Using a corporate-owned laptop or desktop, they can connect to a remote desktop through a VPN connection. A virtual private network can be set up by your IT partner. It encrypts the connection and provides loads of additional security layers to protect sensitive information.
If they are taking their computer home, make sure they have everything that they need. In addition to all the essential information and remote access credentials, they need every piece of their setup. This includes:
- Power supplies for computer and monitor
- Connection cables
- Internet cable
- Phone power and connection cable
- Computer Tower
- Docking station
- Check scanner/printer
A remote desktop server or Windows virtual desktop (WVD), can be used as well. They can be hosted on the cloud or are centrally managed elsewhere. These systems can provide remote access to your company’s network, which will help to maintain productivity as your employees work from home.
Using personal machines to remote into your systems is not recommended in most scenarios. You should consider the additional risks that arise from remote working with all setups, but especially when personal computers are a piece of the strategy. VPNs do not prevent data transfers and are vulnerable to ransomware if you’re not controlling what computers your staff is connecting to your business network. Make sure you review your data and financial security protocols and ensure your personal device users have advanced anti-virus/malware as well as patch management installed on their computers.
You could also use an application that provides remote access. This includes Log Me In, Splash Top, and TeamViewer. It’s always better to just pay for these titles upfront. There are no reliable free versions and the paid versions work great when you’re in a pinch. As a warning, just like using personal computers with VPN, there are security. If data is moving back and forth between someone’s home network and your business network your company is vulnerable to viruses, data breaches, and other attacks.
Finally, there are hosted versions of your software. You can host Quickbooks, Sage, and even simple CRM databases remotely for access by your team. It’s a bit easier to use than VPNs but provides the same levels of functionality. Keep in mind transitioning to these hosted options can be easy, but they can also be extraordinary difficult. Depending on the software and the other automations that connect to it can make this an out of reach option at the moment.
What Your Team Needs at Home
One of the biggest tips we can give you to help your team is plan for extended remote work in the event this becomes necessary for your team. Yes, this will require implementation of technologies, but your employees will also need new processes, meeting cadences, and information sharing to offset the loss of in-office engagement. Setup a morning huddles through video conference. Getting everyone on the same page in the morning will not only help keep everyone on track it will also keep everyone calm.
It also may be a good idea to create an internal team to handle COVID-19 relief for your company. They will have a list of areas they should focus on and have separate team huddles to prep for all the things coming (issues with providing your services, client retention, broken internal processes, etc.).
Remind your employees that the professionalism and work ethic don’t stop once they start working remote. It can be a bit of a challenge for some employees to get into the swing of things. This is especially true when there are tons of distractions at home.
You can prepare your team for this shift ahead of time by having them prepare a good space at home. They’ll need a nice quiet space that’s free of distraction. It should be away from television, kids, and pets. Also, the space should have a good supply of power for all of their workstation equipment and the Internet to stay connected.
Finally, make sure that they have a suitable background. The last thing you or your clients want to see is a junk-filled room during a professional meeting. This is going to be more acceptable while the craziness of COVID-19 is still fresh but depending on how long your people are working remote it will become a distraction to those who they are visually communicating with.
Other Important At-Home Considerations
Once everything is set up to work from home, your team needs to make sure that things continue to run smoothly. One of the biggest problems remote workers face is bandwidth issues. Internet in the office is often blazing fast and cap-free.
That’s not the case with the connection at home. Bandwidth limitations can affect how much work your employees can get done. While their connection speeds might seem suitable at first, congestion will make things slower. For example, if your kids are watching Frozen 2 in the other room while your spouse is having a video conference call in another, connection speeds will suffer.
Have everyone send a test email to see how those bandwidth issues affect connectivity. It may take longer to send out, which your employees would need to compensate for.
And as always, make sure that everyone on your team knows who to contact if something should go awry with their technology. If you don’t have a process for them to get support, you should create that ASAP.
Main Channels of Communication
Once your team has all of the remote access details in place, you’re going to have to plan how your business is going to be reached when no one is at the office. Your phone system is crucial. Not only do you need to be able to communicate with team members and other employees, but your clients need to have a way to get ahold of you, too.
Plug-and-play VoIP phones are the easiest solution. They’re easy to set up and get running. However, you need to ensure that your team has the appropriate network switches and PoE adapters to get the equipment running.
An alternative option would be to use softphones. Softphone apps are readily available. Plus, your employees could use their own hardware to set up their home office.
Business Continuity For VoIP
Hopefully, you have a business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place for not only your servers, but also your phone system. This plan is going to be particularly useful when your entire team is working from home. It ensures that your business can operate smoothly from a remote location regardless of what’s going on with your office’s IT infrastructure.
To keep things business as usual, you can forward calls to a personal phone or a desktop option for those who have headsets.
Video & Collaboration Tools
Luckily, several good tools exist to simplify the process. Perfect for working remote, these simple apps keep your team in constant communication and can have everyone focused on the same project.
Check out Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Zoom.
Camera and Internet Requirements
To use these tools, your team is going to need some reliable equipment. If it’s not already built into the user’s computer, they will need a decent HD camera. They typically cost in the neighborhood of $100 to $200. An ultra-high-definition 4K camera isn’t necessary so don’t waste your money.
As for Internet speeds, a minimum of 20 to 30 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up is recommended. This is enough to keep the connection smooth. It’s a good idea to get your employees to perform speed tests at home to make sure. They can do this for free by tying into Google Speed Test.
For power users who need even higher speeds, it’s good to modify Internet traffic. You can work with your IT partner to prioritize business traffic over anything else.
Other Important Considerations
Don’t forget to prepare your employees for all forms of communication. If your business uses fax machines to send documents to clients, everyone will need access to an eFax service.
Having an up-to-date address book is also paramount as well. Pay attention to all those small details. The information your team needs every day is not going to be readily available for them, so make sure they have access to it at home.
Despite all of the craziness that’s going on in the world, business must continue. Working remotely allows your company to continue operations while keeping everyone safe. Work with your IT partner and have a candid discussion with your employees about what you expect from them. Urge them to prepare their workspace and take care of all the essentials. With some careful planning, things should go smoothly.