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How can IT teams support the remote workforce?

(Image credit: Image Credit: llaszlo / Shutterstock)

Remote working has quickly transformed from a nicety to a necessity, catapulting businesses across the world into unfamiliar territory with little time to prepare. Without sufficient planning or the infrastructure to support this sudden switch, it’s no secret that many IT departments are struggling to support hundreds, and, in some cases, thousands of new remote workers across the globe.

IT teams are being asked to implement massive changes on a daily basis, all while maintaining focus and professionalism. Communication, collaboration, and support processes that worked well in the office must be re-engineered on the fly. Monitoring tools built for the corporate network may not apply. And deskside support must be replaced by something virtual, automated, and scalable.

As well as implementing these changes effectively, IT teams are also facing unprecedented pressure to deliver the same great digital experience that employees experienced in the office. A recent study found that 84 per cent of employees believe their organisations should be doing more to improve the digital experience at work. The current crisis has only exacerbated this concern, with IT leaders now responsible for managing the remote working experience for its employees on a much larger scale than before.

While this is no mean feat, IT teams can rise to the challenge and keep their companies productive by following a few simple steps:

1. Understand the network

When transitioning to a remote working environment, it’s critical that IT teams have complete visibility over the network. To prevent any backend impact to remote workers, IT departments need to confirm who is working remotely, what different devices are being used and which critical applications they are connecting to. It’s important to also manage compliance, particularly when employees are connecting to a VPN, to ensure the business stays secure.

2. Walk a mile in your employees’ shoes

IT teams can work towards creating a stronger digital employee experience by putting themselves in the position of their employees and implementing a monitoring platform that looks at issues from the user’s perspective. By establishing an ongoing measurement that calculates accurate, real-time data from employee’s devices, web browsing and collaboration tools, IT teams can identify, assess and remediate issues in real-time.

This proactive approach allows IT to prevent technology issues before they arise, issues that are symptomatic of a larger problem across the entire network can be identified promptly, and prevented before they reach others. Managing the digital disconnect demands more than just fixing problems case-by-case — IT teams need the tools and technology to identify, assess and remediate issues in real-time.

3. Adopt a proactive approach

In order to minimise productivity losses, it is critical for businesses to focus on holistic IT service optimisation. This doesn’t just mean responding to IT requests or complaints in a timely manner. A major part of managing the remote worker experience is changing the discussion from a reactive one (responding to an issue) to a proactive one (avoiding issues before they arise or resolving them before the user calls). By using real-time data to tackle incident resolution proactively, businesses will be able to gain back productivity and give end-users their deserved efficiency.

4. Encourage self-help

IT teams often have their hands full trying to manage both on-premise and remote employees. With the right engagement and automation tools, IT can offset their workload by establishing an easy-to-use employee self-help system. This can include the creation of free IT resources to solve common problems, which is especially effective when paired with proactive solutions and improvement recommendations.

5. Increase visibility into collaboration tools

Collaboration tools have gained considerable traction as employees try to maintain effective communication across the business. However, without sufficient IT visibility and support, managing an existing collaboration tool or migrating to a new one can be difficult. The performance of collaboration tools is tied to local device and network performance – two things that IT has less visibility of in a remote work environment. To enable a seamless collaboration experience, businesses should consider solutions that increase IT visibility into these tools.

6. Shine a light on shadow IT

Ensuring a safe and compliant experience for remote workers is one of the hardest challenges for IT. During this time of remote work, it is to be expected that many employees will use their own personal devices to conduct business from home. In order to minimise the associated security risks and maintain control, IT teams should endeavour to understand why employees are using alternative IT services. By doing so, the business can seek ways to develop a standardised approach that better meets the needs of the workforce.

7. Open the lines of communication

As remote workers become much more isolated, IT is rightly concerned about being able to deliver the support that they need. To keep the lines of communication open with end users, IT should consider rolling out engaging feedback tools, such as email surveys. By creating personalised surveys that ask relevant questions at the right time, businesses can expect to see a greater response rate, whilst gaining more truthful and constructive feedback from their employees. This is crucial in order for IT teams to meet employees’ demands and improve their remote working experience.

It would also be beneficial to provide employee education as part of this dialogue, so that they will have a better understanding of how the remote network operates. For example, by educating employees about which applications need to use the VPN and which don’t, IT teams can prevent this network from becoming overloaded.

The shift to remote work has taken place almost overnight for many companies. Having to rapidly adapt to a large-scale remote workforce, without months of planning, pilot rollouts, or performance stress tests, is generating lots of new challenges for the IT department in particular. With remote workers dependent on their digital tools for productivity and collaboration, IT teams must maintain effective communication with the end user to better understand and accommodate their needs. By moving to a more proactive approach, encouraging self-help and opening the lines of communication, businesses can improve the digital employee experience for remote workers across the entire organisation.

Jon Cairns, VP Solution Consulting, Nexthink