When Remote Work Morphs from “Sometimes” to “All the Time”

By The Intersect Group

Although there’s nothing new about having people work from home, most full-time employees spend the majority of their time in the office perhaps spending a day or two per week working remotely.

Given the current circumstances, more workers will be spending their entire week working from home. We’ve put together a short list of items that might make the transition easier, more productive, and secure.One of the issues that complicate working from home scenarios associated with COVID-19 is that many workers have children home during the day as their schools have closed. Depending on their ages (among other factors), the presence of children can make your employees’ working from home more intricate – or not. Employers should be aware of, and sensitive to, employees’ family circumstances and temper their expectations accordingly.

Topics that might require greater attention to accommodate more remote workers include:

Cyber Security: Bad actors looking for a way to encroach on corporate systems might think that with more remote workers comes greater opportunity to find weak spots to exploit. Take steps to secure the corporate network from increased remote access. One of the most widely used options for shielding corporate networks is the use of Virtual Private Network (VPNs) gateways. VPNs aren’t failsafe however as they do not protect the employee’s computer which, if attacked, could still open an avenue for infected data to enter the corporate system. Employees who work remotely must stay diligent in using firewalls and virus detection programs to protect their computers. There are many VPNs from which to choose. Quality and cost can vary so the time spent researching options can be time well spent.

Another security option that might prove less costly than VPNs is to establish a corporate portal that specified remote workers can access. Portals give remote workers access to applications and data they need without having the increased risk of them downloading sensitive information or code to their devices. Additionally, using a portal might prove less expensive than acquiring VPN services.Regardless of the remote work options selected, the potential risks of each option should be well understood.

Worker Productivity: Multiple studies offer two consistent findings when it comes to remote work: 1) Between 40% to 50% of workers who can work from home have done so at least sometimes, and 2) Productivity of remote workers has been found to be greater than that of their office bound co-workers. Having such a large percentage of the work force experienced and comfortable with working from home is reassuring given the current circumstances, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be problems. Be ready to offer support and tips to remote workers:

  • Managers should clarify expectations and offer guidance on any technology hurdles that might arise. If, for example, a remote employee’s internet goes down and they can’t head to the nearest Starbucks – is using their cell phone as a hotspot or tether an option? Who can provide them the information they need to know in order to address tech issues? If their manager can’t answer their questions, they should know who, within the organization can.
  • Offer ideas on how to maintain a life/work balance when working from home. Remote workers who haven’t spent much time working from home might have misconceptions about how to maintain their productivity. It might be necessary to remind them that being productive at home follows most of the same practices as working at the office: take breaks, have set office hours, make to-do lists and follow them, etc.
  • Keep track of the most commonly asked questions or problems and circulate this information to the entire remote workforce, which brings us to our last topic.

Communication: One issue with working remotely is that you can feel as though you are out of the loop. Luckily, as long as remote workers have decent internet speeds, there are good avenues to have face-to-face meetings such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc.

Misinformation can spread quickly so some sort of online daily briefing is a good idea. Keep briefings focused and take the time to answer questions and make firm commitments to get back to people with information that is not at hand. Keep track of frequently asked questions, compile the important ones, and circulate to everyone.