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Reaping the benefits of remote working by controlling the risks

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/bikeriderlondon)

Remote working is a growing trend in leading edge companies. Two key drivers for this are happier employees and more efficient teams. 86 per cent of workers feel that working at home allows them to “hit maximum productivity” according to recent survey by SurePayroll.

As businesses grow, the demand for talent increases. In the past, ideal candidates have been off limits for businesses because they’ve based in the wrong locations. Today, remote working is enabling greater synergy between businesses and the right people for specific roles, no matter where in the world they’re based.

It could be that the perfect candidate is only located an hour away from the city office where the position is based. But overcrowding in cities makes living closer to the office challenging for the candidate due to higher rents and a higher cost of living.

Commuting into the city will either cost the candidate or the business. Both options require lifestyle compromises that impact the candidate’s likelihood of accepting the role.

Remote work has been well received in many organisations, to the point where it’s becoming an expectation in the workforce. Airbnb’s Future of Work report released in January finds that 71 per cent of workers state that person-to-person interaction is no longer essential for their work and 73 per cent agree the quality of the work they perform is not restricted to the confines of a centralised office location.

Over the last few decades, globalisation has also meant that businesses have spread their operations into different global markets. For many businesses, this doesn’t necessarily mean opening entire new facilities in new regions. Instead, many will employ small local teams to deliver on the business objectives in markets that are new to the business but known to those in the teams.

Weighing up the pros and cons

The evolution of technology means that businesses can access the right talent and stimulate business productivity by providing employees with a significantly improved work-life balance. While there are clear benefits that will satisfy the HR department, remote working and flexible working make life challenging for the IT department.

Whether using the company’s devices or their own devices, employees can experience performance issues that can impact business productivity. This is the exact opposite of what remote working is supposed to achieve. Ultimately, poor productivity can impact the bottom line. There are also security issues that have to be considered. With employees accessing company servers from outside the protected workplace, ensuring end-to-end security can be a real headache for the IT team.

When considering a remote working strategy, businesses must take various factors into account. Firstly, they must assess whether remote working is feasible for the organisation or specific job functions. For obvious reasons such as the potential of data leaks, remote working is exactly feasible in the government, education and healthcare verticals. However, certain job roles such as those in the purchasing department could be performed remotely.

Anticipating performance issues

From cyberattacks to slow networks and hardware issues, IT teams must carefully consider the factors that might impact the performance of employees working remotely. Stringent standards must be put into place around cloud, mobile, Wi-Fi, ensuring the correct security measures are in place and up to date with compliance. Then all business apps including mail, CRM, Office and any other apps specific the remote working roles must be moved to the cloud.

In the interests of efficiency, remote workers must be trained to a competent level when it comes to installing, troubleshooting and working with business apps on smartphones, tablets and laptop devices. In the wake of recent high profile cyberattacks such as WannaCry, Meltdown and Spectre, the need for rigid security measures has become increasingly evident. Implementing the correct security measures is critical to the safety of any business’ data and systems as remote working means an increased number of vulnerable endpoints.

Antivirus software must be kept up-to date but patch deployment must also become a priority. Many cyberattacks have exploited software patches that have not been updated. For IT teams, staying on top of patch deployment on every piece of software used throughout the business can be a momentous task. A patch management solution will autonomously check for patch updates and ensure every piece of software is updated with the relevant patches as soon as they are available.

Productivity can also be marred by elements such as limited high-speed internet access. This can be avoided by ensuring employees that are often on the move are given a suitable data package for the smartphones, dongles or cellular enabled tables that they will be using when they are traveling.

System slowness and failure to backup data properly can also be detrimental factors. To counter these, remote workers must be trained to understand how and when to update their operating systems and ensure all data is deployed to the cloud.

Ensuring you have a well-equipped IT team that deliver 24/7 support and providing vital education around troubleshooting techniques will guarantee the best performance and security from every endpoint. Achieve this and your remote working strategy will have the best chance of delivering strong productivity, avoiding any detrimental impact to the services your business provides.

Mathivanan V, Vice President, ManageEngine