As our clients start 2020, a common inquiry we’re hearing is how to establish a secure and effective remote work environment. A range of factors are contributing to the popularity of working away from the office, including commuting hassles, rising rents, broadband availability, and the desire for a healthier work-life balance. More and more, Terminal B is fielding inquiries from companies that have taken the remote-work idea to its logical conclusion: they have no dedicated office space, yet have employees statewide, nationwide, and even worldwide.
The New Normal
Remote work is no longer just a trend. As of 2020, 83% of US businesses have introduced a flexible workspace policy, or are planning to. The driving forces are obvious: Remote workers tend to be happier and more efficient, resulting in higher performance and lower costs.
The data heavily supports this. In their 2019 year-end review, the employment site Flexjobs found that 80% of U.S. workers would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working. And regarding performance, their surveys show that 85% of businesses reported increased productivity from employees working remotely, while 77% found it lead to lower operating costs. Clearly, the tipping point has been reached.
Past the Tipping Point
So, offering flexible workspace options has become essential to productivity, profitability, and to attracting and retaining talented staff. Let’s then return the question of how to set it up. Enabling a successful mobile workforce requires a change in a firm’s technology focus: The paradigm must shift from the end users’ possession of company data, to their access to company data.
Any transformation that empowers employees to work anywhere at any time demands that technical barriers be removed. But obviously, this has to be executed in a manner that does not compromise the security of the organization. If you're preparing your business to implement remote work policies, make sure to consider these five key factors.
5 Key Technical Considerations that Enable a Successful Remote Workforce
- Reconsider Your Network Infrastructure
In the modern work environment, an organization’s network includes all the locations an employee could work from. Without quality bandwidth, remote access can be frustrating and the benefits lost. Firms can ensure quality bandwidth by reimbursing some, or all, of remote bandwidth costs. Firm-managed firewalls such as the Meraki Z3 Teleworker Gateway can create a secure, restricted connection within a remote network, greatly simplifying user access and support.
- Be Present
Working exclusively in virtual teams can make remote workers feel isolated. To prevent this, “in-office days”, when possible, and the productivity tools discussed below enable the personal interactions employees crave.
- Security: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
Organizations must take the initiative to secure their employees’ remote locations. Connecting to unsecured networks like those in airports or coffee shops increases the risk of cyberattacks. No location, including home office networks, should be considered 100% trustworthy.
This applies similarly to devices – significant cost-saving and productivity benefits can come from bring-your-own-device (BYOD) polices, but only if they are properly protected. Company technology tools (antivirus, administration, etc.) and policies must be updated and enforced, regardless of who owns the assets used to access company data. And all devices should be encrypted to mitigate the impact of physical loss or theft.
To minimize security risks, make sure you should:
- Use a VPN and encrypt data to render it unreadable in the wrong hands
- Install security patches as soon as they become available
- Set controls so that employees can access only the data they are authorized for
- Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) protocols
- Employee Training
In any network environment, the majority of data breaches are caused by human error. So before letting employees work off-site, it’s more important than ever to train them on cybersecurity. Make sure they can identify social engineering scams like phishing emails, and how to be vigilant toward fraudsters aiming to trick them into giving up vital information like login credentials.
- Empower Your Remote Workforce with Office 365
Office 365 combines the Microsoft apps everyone is familiar with, and cloud computing solutions like Exchange and SharePoint, into a single subscription service. It’s readily deployable and it’s secure, with built-in privacy and compliance tools that make it easy to keep your data safe. On top of this, it’s familiar, and employees are less likely to commit security mistakes in a familiar environment.
If you have been thinking about mobile work as a trend, it is time to realize that has become much more than that. For many of your most attractive customers and employees, it is the new normal.
Partner with Terminal B to adopt the remote work model and secure your organization's future. We are experts in Office 365 and one of only 300 Direct Microsoft Cloud Solution Partners in the United States. Call us at 512-643-9038 or leave us a message to find out more.
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