Working from home: IT benefit or burden?
For many businesses, the prospect of some sort of hybrid working model is very real. Even if firms are dead against people working remotely, we can be almost certain of future lockdowns and so the infrastructure of the business will still need to be configured to make home-working a possibility.
But what does it mean for you? Do you see a reduction in office rent or an increase in flexibility as a benefit? Or is the thought of managing your people and your data one big burden that you’re not sure how to deal with?
Cloud 9 or storm on the horizon?
For most businesses, the answer to this will depend on whether they are operating in the cloud or not. A recent study by Statista.com showed the share of UK companies buying cloud services used over the internet was 42%. There’s still some way to go until cloud computing is fully adopted in the business world. Of course, it is the ideal solution for remote working as it gives 24/7 access to system files but, if you’re not there yet, what do you need to consider?
Firstly, you need to decide who is allowed to work remotely and what software and systems you will make available to them. There can be different degrees of firewalls and security protections within one organisation which allows for some flexibility – but note it will take time to set this up so start planning and engage with experts early if you plan to outsource this.
Secondly, there will need to be a process in place to cover the various hoops your employees need to jump through to access their data:
- VPN (Virtual Private Network) access is the most likely, so you’ll need hardware to support this and training in how to use it;
- Consider enforcing two-factor authentication to bring your security standards up to a consistently high level for anyone accessing data remotely;
- Assess whether you will supply hardware (pros: firewalls and antivirus software can be pre-installed; cons: financial outlay) or configure people’s own laptops (pros: saves initial outlay; cons: lots – no guarantee of performance, inconsistency of operating systems and software releases, highly time consuming and logistically difficult);
- Train your employees in where to store files so you don’t compromise the network file structure or end up with lots of locally stored data that can’t be backed up;
- Thoroughly test your back-up and recovery processes. Depending on the decisions made for the above points, you may be needing it much more frequently!
Thirdly, there will be an additional dimension to this decision based on the market or sector in which you operate. Those who work with sensitive information will need to carefully consider the risks of allowing remote access via VPN. You might also need to write policies governing accessing, downloading and printing information.
A good compromise?
Finally, consider other cloud-based options that don’t involve a full migration. There are several robust options for cloud software, including Google Workspace or Microsoft 365’s One Drive. These can be set up relatively quickly and will also give you access to extra productivity tools, such as email and calendars. All these add to the authenticity of being part of a larger organisation even if you’re based in your front room and that can be important for morale and a sense of team.
Change isn’t easy
Like any change, moving to a remote working model will bring challenges and resistance. As many workers have sampled this approach over the past year, this may not be the blocker to success it once was, but it’s important to bring your people with you and make sure any questions or concerns are addressed. Don’t forget there are also some excellent communication apps available which can also add to the social aspects of work that often get lost when people are not in an office.
Most importantly, don’t feel discouraged. Make sure your people know how to ask questions and keep them updated on progress.