Managing an office has never been an easy job. Especially when your office suddenly becomes a remote workforce distributed far and wide. You’re looking at a fresh set of challenges and it’s probably throwing you for a loop and could be putting your company at risk.
Challenges with a Remote Workforce
If you’re dealing with a newly-distributed workforce, your problems might seem legion. It’s hard to know where to begin, because every issue seems entangled in every other issue.
But in fact, there are just three major challenges confronting just about every industry today: security, communication, and productivity.
We’ve been a ROWE company since 2007 so we have been managing a remote workforce for ourselves and have learned how to avoid these pitfalls both for our own business, and our clients.
When you have your employees all under one roof, a sound IT strategy meant fortifying the borders of the office. Now that companies are forced into remote work, maintaining IT security for a distributed workforce looks radically different.
In many cases, offices simply weren’t set up – at all – for remote workforces. That means that there was a bit of a mad scramble as we figured out how to give staff access to the network, and to all the tools which had always been centrally located in the office.
In the process, security tended to fall by the wayside. And that probably resulted in some unpleasant consequences down the road. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably been putting out fires caused by that lapse for a while now.
What should IT security look like when your workforce is distributed?
We asked ourselves what security should look like for a distributed workforce, and then we flipped the question. Instead of asking what security should look like, we wondered, how can we securely extend all of your normal business activities outside of your office, and into the broader world?
How can you provide a consistent level of protection, when everyone on your staff is working from their own devices and you’re dealing with a huge range of endpoints? How can you make sure that everyone can safely access the network, browse, send messages, and do all the countless activities that make up your work? What are you doing in terms of remote authentication?
These are all questions which a good managed service provider can help you tackle. And in fact, it’s is going to look slightly different for each business. The main goal, though, is a shift in perspective. Your office is no longer your central base. Security needs to be built up, piece by piece, around each of your unique set of work products. This way your staff can continue doing everything they’ve always done – securely, and from wherever they are today.
When everyone is together in the office, communication is easy and informal. A lot of important conversations just crop up naturally when everyone is clustered around the coffee machine or going out for lunch.
But when everyone is remote, conversation gets a lot trickier. There are no more serendipitous moments when you can casually exchange ideas with your colleagues. Everyone is operating in a silo.
The sooner we accept the new reality, the sooner we can improve our situation. Implementing an effective platform that enables casual conversations between employees and small groups, we prefer Slack, is a step in recreating that water cooler conversation.
It’s also a good idea to schedule one on one time between managers and staff. One on one conversations build trust and engagement, in a way that group chats don’t always do. Make a point to leave room for banter and to check in on a personal level before tackling the agenda.
Now, all of this really needs to come from the top. Don’t wait for your staff to set up a platform on their own, because they might not do it – you might wind up with a lot of fragmented, separated chats which don’t build group morale at all. This is an area where the leadership really needs to take initiative and organize. It’s also an opportunity for rogue platforms to gain access to critical internal systems. By trusting your IT partner to recommend and implement those platforms will keep your business secure while fostering good company morale.
Productivity is a natural outgrowth of good IT security and communication. When your staff feels connected and you have securely managed IT, your workforce is going to become more productive, almost automatically.
A good managed service provider should take the friction out of technology. They can help make sure that you have your IT under control and make sure you’re getting great advice about security issues. Our Humans First philosophy helps your people get their work done with whatever tool is right for their job and makes working with IT as easy as possible.
Obviously, when communication is stalled, you’ll wind up with some major bottlenecks which will slow down projects and will also discourage your staff. This is especially key for any projects that need feedback or approvals in order to proceed.
In general, your productivity will take off when you encourage your employees to talk about their concerns and their goals. Holding regular meetings, via video or even via chat, is a great way to keep in touch with your staff. This also reminds them that they are part of a team – even when everyone is miles apart.