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Chris Nunn

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Top tips for offering remote working to employees

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Apart from severe weather there are likely to be lots of other reasons employees may request remote working. Chris Nunn gives his tips on what to consider.
 

 

New year, new you or so we are led to believe. After the break many employees return to work fired up by recently-made new year resolutions. Having spent time at home over Christmas, a very common resolution is to find a better work/life balance. This can often result in requests to work from home.

We all want to be good employers and offer staff as balanced a life as possible. In addition, research indicates that businesses that allow flexible working generally outperform those that don’t. But how can you ensure that home or other remote workers are as efficient and productive as when they are in the office? Below are five top tips for remote working, which provide a starting point for businesses looking at this issue.

1. Assess your remote working strategy (or create one)
Are employees equipped with all the necessary tools to work out of the office as though they were in the office? Asking this question is the first step in developing a remote working strategy. By knowing who needs what, the IT department can make sure the right people have the right devices – be they laptops, mobile phones or web cams – and that they are optimised for remote communications. This can include ensuring Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have been configured appropriately on all employees’ laptops or home computers, and assessing their broadband supply at home. The goal here is to determine the overall requirements for remote communications within the organisation, and the specific devices to give each employee. These measures can then be rolled into your flexible working strategy.

2. Ensure the IT infrastructure is ready
With a potentially higher number of employees potentially working from home, businesses need to consider how the corporate network will handle an increase in remote users accessing it. At the same time, organisations should identify their business critical applications and determine whether these need to be, and can be, accessed remotely by the right people. Will the necessary applications operate at business-as-usual speeds with up to half of the workforce accessing them remotely? If the network is congested and employees suffer delays clearly they are going to be less productive. Key to making sure this doesn’t happen is assessing what measures are required to ensure adequate capacity and therefore satisfactory application performance, and taking the necessary steps.

3. Secure remote devices
Employers should have in place a security system that will provide the same level of secure access to all workers, regardless of their location, be it their office desk, at home, at an internet café or at the airport. This can be done by using a small and unobtrusive software client and a VPN. The client allows the user to simply click on a remote access icon which invokes a secure connection to the company’s corporate network and underlying systems and data. The secure connection is not only an encrypted VPN tunnel, it is a fully protected working environment on the computer that guards the company’s systems against viruses, hackers and accidents, such as inadvertently copying confidential data to the home computer.

4. Make multiple communications channels available
Employees working from home should have, as they do at work, a range of communication channels at their disposal, such as a mobile phone, email, VoIP, corporate instant messaging and even desktop video conferencing. Businesses that have a unified communications (UC) solution are at a distinct advantage here in that they will be able to readily extend these channels to their remote workers depending on their needs. UC also offers enhanced functionality for remote workers, which helps support productivity. For example, UC-enabled presence allows users to display integrated real-time information on both availability and the ability to communicate, often in the form of a status indicator. This lets co-workers know the most convenient time to, and means of, communicating.

5) Trust your employees

Just because employees aren’t visible doesn’t mean they’re not working. Sometimes employers find workers are even more productive at home without the usual distractions of being in an office. However, a certain level of monitoring is necessary to ensure workers are using remote communications devices properly, so that productivity isn’t compromised and that security levels are maintained. The IT department therefore must be able to remotely manage systems and user access. This also enables IT staff to provide support to remote workers when needed.

The key to implementing a remote working strategy is preparation. Remote working is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but an accepted, integral part of business life. Therefore it is essential to have a remote working capability built into your IT and business strategy to enable flexible working and improve employees and managers work/life balance and in turn their satisfaction.
 

Chris Nunn, Director – Converged Communications, Dimension Data

About Dimension Data
Dimension Data plc (LSE:DDT), a specialist IT services and solution provider, helps clients plan, build, support and manage their IT infrastructures. Dimension Data applies its expertise in networking, converged communications, security, data centre and storage, Microsoft and contact centre technologies and its unique skills in consulting, integration and managed services to create customised client solutions.
www.dimensiondata.com

 

3 Responses

  1. Offer a simulation if possible

    Sheridan is right that remote workers need to be managed differently. It’s also true that not everyone will be successful at working remotely. Indeed, some people I’ve come across have been very clear they prefer to come into the workplace.

    One organisation I worked with offered a remote working "simulation" to those considering the option. This involved a remote and isolated suite of offices in their building, where aspiring remote workers would experience the reality without contact from others. If your organisation has the space capacity, this could be a prudent move. Otherwise, allowing remote working on a fixed term trial basis with a review of what’s going well and what needs to be adjusted is often better than simply leaping into the dark.

    The Health & Safety legislation around occasional remote working is exactly the same as that around permanent remote working and indeed the same as H&S requirements for workplaces, by the way.

  2. Remote Working
    Has anyone done work on the health and safety implications of occasional remote working? Thanks for the article. It was a useful reminder.

  3. Great practical advice

    What a good practical article for helping people to understand what is needed to implement remote working. It is a shame that many employers still resist it, but it cannot be ignored, and as the recent weather has highlighted, it can often provide benefits to the buisness, and not just the individual.

    Remote working needs a different kind of management though, and I feel that many managers are unsure of how to manage people that they do not see every day. This is something that has to be addressed if remote workers are not to be sidelined/isolated, and if managers are still to retain control over the work of their team. It is definitely something that should be encouraged and developed in the future.

    If it not against the rules of commenting, here is a useful resource of managing remote teams. http://www.keystonedevelopment.co.uk/pdf_files/Managing%20Remote%20Teams1.pdf.

    Sheridan Webb

    http://www.keystonedevelopment.co.uk