Recent concerns about COVID-19 (coronavirus) are spurring more companies to implement widespread work-from-home (WFH) policies. With over 20 years of experience managing an almost fully remote workforce and providing remote IT support to customers, we share a few tips to ensure employees have what they need to remain productive, supported, and successful.
In an attempt to limit the recent spread of coronavirus, many companies are limiting employee travel and requesting their teams work remotely to limit their exposure.
During this shift to full-time remote work, it’s critical for companies to ensure that their employees have the IT support they need to securely access and utilize corporate systems and the resources to stay productive at home.
With over 20 years of managing a remote workforce and providing remote IT support, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to minimize the IT challenges that can hurt productivity when employees work from home—whether they’re a full-time remote worker or are only telecommuting temporarily during a coronavirus quarantine.
Here are our six best practices on helping employees work from home efficiently and effectively:
- Prioritize remote accessibility to core systems.The number one issue for remote workers across all organizations is getting access to systems, applications, and knowledge-sharing portals while at home. We address this by enabling remote password resets, automated account management workflows, authorized access controls, identity management, and IT support staff that are easily accessible via chat, email, video, remote access, or phone. This ensures quick and easy resolution to any accessibility challenges, an important consideration especially in our line of business—providing remote technical support to both businesses and consumers.Putting these processes and tools in place proactively, if they aren’t already, and having a clear communication plan posted of how employees can access help for similar technical issues will save everyone a lot of time and frustration.
- Set up strong security protocols for remote access.Position critical systems and data behind a VPN that all employees must access when working remotely. Additionally, leverage multi-factor authentication to validate employee identities and prevent unauthorized access. If your company does not already have a VPN in place, there are many economical options available in the market that are relatively easy to implement and maintain.If implementing a VPN isn’t an option, then encouraging strong password requirements and providing two-factor authentication options for cloud-based applications can provide additional layers of protection.
- Ensure up-to-date anti-virus protection.Require that any device that connects to the corporate network has the latest anti-virus, spyware, and malware protection; this includes any personal devices that employees may use when working remotely. If employees use their own computers, you want to ensure they are using a strong endpoint protection solution. You may be able to secure additional license(s) at low or no cost as part of your corporate agreement.We also recommend providing software licenses or reimbursement to your employees who may need to use their personal devices to complete job-related tasks.
- Clearly communicate telecommuting policies.Once access and security concerns are addressed, you should document and proactively communicate your telecommuting policy. The policy should outline expectations on core working hours, working environment, tool and ISP requirements, as well as non-taxable reimbursement—if any—for any use of personal equipment, etc.For example, our policy for tech support teams requires that all work locations must be in a confined area with a door that prohibits entry to anyone other than the employee during working hours to ensure a disruption-free customer experience and to provide secure protection of information. We also provide a variety of scheduling options so that employees have the flexibility to attend to personal needs. In addition, certain employees at Support.com receive a non-taxable reimbursement added on to all hours worked, compensating them for using their own workspace and equipment.
For immediate implementation during coronavirus quarantines, companies’ work-from-home policies should communicate a few expectations to ensure all employees are on the same page and feel confident about their abilities to continue working effectively despite the disruption to their normal workflows.
Companies should also be prepared to develop more extensive policies that incorporate the protection of information and expectations of privacy.
- Provide access to virtual collaboration tools.Virtual collaboration tools can help make working in teams seamless, regardless of location. We use a variety of web conferencing tools, such as Zoom, messaging tools, like Slack, and document sharing portals, like Confluence and Google Docs, to allow for real-time, collaborative editing and knowledge management. Over 98% of our workforce is spread across the United States, but with these tools in place, teammates are able to collaborate on projects as easily as if they were sitting around the same conference table.
- Expand your IT support team capacity and flexibility.An increase in employees working from home can place extra demands on your internal IT organization. With a fixed amount of technical support staff usually located onsite at a local office, responding to fluctuating demands can be difficult for IT teams, especially if that staff also ends up working remotely. Supplement your in-house IT staff by partnering with an organization like Support.com that is adept in providing Remote Help Desk Support to better leverage your IT teams during times of high demand from remote employees.
While the current environment is forcing many companies to consider new telecommuting policies, we firmly believe that, once implemented, many companies will continue to evolve and offer flexible work arrangements as a part of their normal course of business.
Our employees value being able to work remotely and cite the flexibility and the lack of commuting time and expense as key benefits. Specifically, our remote employees report that the reduced commute time enables them to spend more time with their families or on self-care. As a result, we achieve lower attrition rates and higher customer satisfaction scores (happy employees, happy customers!). We also benefit from the ability to source talent from any geographic location and from potentially under-served populations, such as veterans, people with disabilities, or others for whom commuting would present a hardship. There is also a tremendous environmental benefit to employing a remote workforce: We estimate that we save over 4,000 tons of CO2 emissions every year by taking cars off the road.
By following the six best practices above, your company can also be prepared to weather the current threats without disruption and provide a valuable benefit to your employees. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how we can help augment your own internal IT resources and provide Remote Help Desk support to employees working from home.