The latest on all kinds of information, news, and resources that help you make working remotely better.
Times have changed, and anyone with an eye on trends could have seen it coming. As the world went web-based, so did the traditional office space. A study by Global Workplace Analytics says, “Regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 115 percent since 2005.”
Innovative communication tools have evolved to accommodate this new work force. There are tools, apps and programs galore to reconcile time zone differences, connect people virtually and back up the promises of increased productivity.
If you are considering a remote startup, here is some advice on how to set up for success.
Cast a wide net.
One of the most noteworthy benefits of remote teams is that the talent pool instantly becomes global. In other words, your potential team is no longer dictated by the boundaries of your head office’s city and suburbs.
There are plenty of remote job boards to tap into.
Adjust for time zones.
While some say that time zones are outdated and counter-productive, we still currently live with them.
Instead of installing six clocks set to different times on your home office wall, consider tools like Every Time Zone or World Time Buddy. Easily customized, you can add cities at your will and watch a tracker in real time so you’re not expecting your colleague to answer a question at midnight.
Create a water cooler commons.
There are some excellent ways to create a virtual space where everyone is included but no one needs to wear pants. The two most popular options are HipChat and Slack, with Slack edging ahead of the competition. The virtual communication tools connect team members and offer messaging sub channels, direct messages, customized calendars, task assignments and so on. You can start a channel dedicated to awesome high-five gifs or unexpected animal friendship videos. This can be instrumental in building a company culture for people to become invested in.
One of the biggest trials is keeping your team on task and organized. Communication is key here, and using tools to create a virtual white board work well. Trello is a popular one that allows users to make boards, lists, and cards to stay organized and set priorities.
You also need a system to make it easy to share large folders and documents, like Dropbox Paper, which has added functionality for collaboration.
While having clear tasks is necessary, it’s also a good idea to organize and stick to a schedule for a weekly Skype session or time when everyone can join a Google Hangout. Having this kind of clear, reliable communication means that fewer things will slip through the cracks and trust between teammates will build.
Mandate a buddy system.
Remote work can get lonely, and without person-to-person contact, productivity can slip.
One interesting way companies combat this is by having mini team check-ins. It’s like a buddy system where you have an assigned colleague/friend. But, instead of making sure they are on the bus with you, you connect to make sure they’re on track with their job.
Bring it all together, now.
By now, your business should be taking off because you’ve hired the best people from around the world and have implemented the most cutting edge productivity practices, so you can afford it.
Having your remote team meet up at relevant trade shows kills several birds with one stone.It allows your remote folks work together as a face-to-face team, hone their sales and marketing skills in a direct environment, and gives them valuable feedback from clients and prospects.
If you ask remote employees why they pursued their remote position, the answer will often be because they didn’t feel productive or happy in an office setting. As a business owner or manager, this creates an interesting opportunity to capitalize on.
Running a tight ship takes strategy, diligence and flexibility. But, you might as well take a chance. If you don’t, you might get left behind.
According to a recent New York Times report, more than 40 percent of employees work from home at least part- time, and the option to telecommute is a highly sought-after perk among job seekers.
While multiple studies have shown the benefits of telecommuting in terms of productivity and employee morale, that doesn’t mean that it’s without risks. In fact, allowing employees to work remotely can create security risks. From data breaches to malware, without the right security policies in place, allowing employees to telecommute could be the equivalent of leaving your business wide open to hackers.
The Risks of Telecommuting
Remote workers can put your company’s data and networks at risk in a number of ways.
- Using unsecured networks. Employees working from home typically use their own internet connection, which may or may not be secure. Even worse, when they work away from home (such as at a local café) they may even use public Wi-Fi networks to work, potentially exposing sensitive data to hackers.
- Engaging in non-work activities. Particularly in BYOD environments, employees are going to use their computers and mobile devices for non-work activities such as playing games or using apps that require different levels of access, opening up the possibility of malware or hacking.
- IoT devices. Internet of Things security is a major concern these days, with most connected devices lacking strong security. Employees working from home may be unaware of these risks, and unknowingly put your company networks in peril.
- Lack of physical security. Often, people working from home don’t follow the same level of security as an office. They may leave their computers unattended, fail to follow password protocols, leave offices and filing cabinets unlocked, or fail to follow other basic security protocols, creating risk.
Telecommuting Security Policies
The best way to strike a balance between security and flexibility is to develop a comprehensive security policy for those employees working away from the office.
- For full-time employees who will be working outside of the office, most experts recommend supplying hardware. That way, companies can define acceptable use, as well as better manage security protocols such as updates and patches.
- Antivirus protection. A security policy should also address the antivirus protection standards for employee machines. Again, providing equipment allows you to control the installation and updating of antivirus software, but if that isn’t an option, providing guidelines and access to tools like a free virus scan can help protect against threats.
- Establishing Virtual Private Networks helps you have more control over how your employees access your network. Not only does a VPN keep hackers out, you can also encrypt data and restrict what your employees can access.
- There are plenty of applications that allow your employees to collaborate, share and send information and data, and save files. Your policy should address which tools and applications are acceptable, and which are prohibited.
- Physical security. While you cannot control what employees do in their homes, you can require that work devices be password protected, have two-factor authentication in place, and enforce acceptable-use policies to protect the physical security of devices.
- A disaster plan. What should employees do when things go wrong? Your policy should tell them what to do and who to call if they suspect a security issue.
An effective telecommuting security policy can mean the difference between a safe and secure remote work environment, and a costly data breach. By educating your employees about the risks and providing rules and guidelines for working securely, you can feel more comfortable letting employees work from home.
It’s the latest debate on the table, and we’ve got a few thoughts about it.
While new stats are coming in every day, there are quite a few factors that are already contributing to the argument that remote working is healthier for humans than commuting to and working from an office. From cutting out the commute to getting more sleep, here’s what the numbers are telling us so far.
1. Remote Working Cuts Out Commuting
A Gallup survey reveals that longer commutes correlate with more recurrent neck and back problems. Those who have long commutes are also more likely to have been diagnosed with high cholesterol and obese BMIs, two factors which certainly aren’t doing the body any favors.
2. Remote Workers Eat and Sleep Better
CoSo Cloud, the trusted private-cloud solutions provider for Adobe Connect, found in a recent study that 42% of remote workers reported eating healthier than they do while working from a traditional office environment. To further the argument that remote workers are living healthier lives, the same study found that 45% of remote workers are getting more sleep.
3. Remote Workers Exercise More
The aforementioned CoSo Cloud survey reported that a whopping 35% of remote workers are getting more physical exercise than they did when they worked in an office. When you cut out the commute and can take those middle-of-the-day yoga classes you’ve always dreamt about taking, why wouldn’t you want to exercise more?
4. Remote Working Lowers the Risk of Getting Sick
A survey conducted by Wakefield Research found that 69% of working Americans don’t take sick days, even when they’re ill. To further make you cringe, the Wakefield Research also found that 62% of employees have gone to work sick. Ever caught a cold from a cubicle mate? Yup, that doesn’t happen with remote working.
5. Remote Workers Are Less Stressed
PGi, a leading global provider of collaboration software and services, revealed that 82% of remote workers reported lower stress levels according to their study. Makes sense to us. It’s amazing the amount of stress that glides off of one’s shoulders when someone isn’t constantly looking over them, right? Right.
Small business budgets are tight, especially where IT is concerned. But technology upgrades can pay for themselves quickly by improving IT performance and enabling employees to accomplish more in less time.
Here are a few steps you can take to make sure your business technology is functional and up to date.
Run the latest operating system
Older operating systems, like Microsoft Windows 7, have potential security flaws that hackers take advantage of, making a system more vulnerable to malware and other attacks. It’s not enough to run a current protection suite, such as one that combines antivirus, antispyware and a firewall, because the operating system itself may contain security holes. With new cyberattacks being launched daily, your organization could easily fall prey to a ransomware attack or malware infection.
The latest OS lets employees take advantage of a host of new apps and programs that boost productivity. And because Windows 10 runs on all kinds of devices, including smartphones and high-end laptops, your employees get a consistent user experience regardless of which device they use.
Update hardware technology
Keeping old equipment in use might seem like a money saver, but it requires more maintenance than new equipment in the form of upgrades and repairs. And waiting until your server crashes to replace it is risky, potentially setting your business back for days at a time and resulting in loss of revenue. Consider an upgrade cycle of every three years for computers, or more often if you can afford it.
Digitize and centralize documents
The low cost of online storage makes cloud services a good business value, and documents are available 24/7 from any computer or device. Another plus is that you don’t have to maintain backups yourself. Cloud service providers back up your data automatically as part of their core services, and rescuing data that’s been accidentally deleted is much like fetching files from the Windows Recycle Bin.
Worried about security? With proper folder organization, you can set simple user and group permissions to prevent users from accessing documents they shouldn’t see.
Maintain a reliable, high-speed network
A high-speed network connection that’s available 24/7 enables organizations to run modern applications, like office suites and customer relationship management software, that might tax older, slower networks. Employees appreciate an optimized network connection that allows them to complete work faster and move on to the next task.
Another important benefit of a reliable network is collaboration. Online collaboration services let staff use voice or video applications to meet one-on-one or in teams, and they make remote employees feel like they’re an active part of the office.
Crafting a technology refresh plan is one way to support your organization’s mission, goals and strategies, and to keep employees working productively.