As offices around the country scramble to become fully remote, here are steps you can take to set your organization up to be an effective remote workplace.
Not so long ago, having a full remote office was the hallmark of startups and Silicon Valley powerhouses. For the average business, having remote workers was considered optional at best, and in many cases, to be actively discouraged. While many businesses have seen the value in having employees able to sign in to work from home, for the most part, showing up in an office has remained the norm.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to transition to a remote work environment faster than they had planned. For many businesses, the abrupt shift has been difficult to manage, adding chaos and frustration at work to the stress and anxiety of the current crisis.
Many businesses are struggling to operate during this time, and some, following CDC recommendations, have had to close their doors. Others are fortunate in that they are theoretically able to operate remotely—they just may not have an appropriate infrastructure to do so effectively.
If you are finding yourself in the latter category, you may want to consider ways to transition your IT systems to a more remote friendly structure. Here’s where to start.
1. Enhance the Accessibility of your Core IT Systems.
Moving your IT infrastructure and key Applications to the cloud is the easiest way to establish a remotely accessible work environment. At its most basic, cloud infrastructures allow employees to store files in a cloud drive where they are accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection. Microsoft 365 is a leading cloud environment that is seeing significant adoption from the business world.
If your organization needs to own and control your Servers and Applications, consider moving your infrastructure into a Data Center that offers multiple redundancies in internet connections and power. Finally, you may be able to achieve some redundancy with your own facilities, although this is generally a costly proposition.
2. Ensure Secure and Authorized Access to your IT Systems.
A cloud environment is only effective for businesses if it is sufficiently secure. However, remote access poses several concerns that businesses should be prepared to meet, from employees accessing work docs through their personal computers, to signing into the system through an unsecure wireless connection.
Many organizations deploy laptops to their end-users that can be used at work and remotely. This allow them to limit access to only properly secured and managed devices. Remote Desktop Services are another deployment option that is often considered, but should be evaluated carefully. Besides the device that is being used, it is often a good idea to implement multi-factor authentication to ensure that only authorized users are accessing an organizations environment—wherever it may be.
3. Put Tools in place to track and measure performance.
One common concern of employers when it comes to remote offices boils down to: How will I know my employees are working? The irony is that employees themselves often feel the same stress. Studies have shown that employees who work remotely often increase their communication in the form of emails sent or calls made in order to signal that they are still getting their work done. Unfortunately, this can lead to added stress and burnout.
Instead of letting a system of mistrust grow between employer and employee, implement or leverage KPIs (key performance indicators) to track and measure how employees are doing. Make your KPIs visible so that both managers and employees can see how they are doing. Just make sure that expectations are set and known by both management and the employee.
4. Set up an integrated communication and collaboration system.
Every organization should have a system in place for anyone to chat, call, or even meet via a video conference. Similarly, there should be integrated ways of having people work together and share documents.
Microsoft Teams is a comprehensive communication and collaboration system. It is included in most Microsoft Office 365 plans, yet most organizations that have it are unaware of it or only use small pieces of it. If you have access to a tool like Microsoft Teams, it would make sense to invest some time into learning how to use it to enhance your organizations communication and collaboration.
5. Create a channel for office culture to thrive.
One of the biggest reasons businesses hesitate to move to a remote environment is that employees often struggle to feel connected to the company or their coworkers when they aren’t in the office every day. Company culture has value to businesses, in that it creates more loyal, long-term employees. But it’s also helpful to employees in that it keeps them from feeling isolated and disengaged from their work.
That said, many companies have found ways to build a healthy office culture, even when their employees are all working remote. This is usually done by way of an office chat environment, through regular team meetings, or some other established office communication system. However you chose to create a remote office culture, don’t let it be an afterthought.
Now is the time to invest in an IT infrastructure that offers the fluid ability for your teams to work remotely.
While the transition to remote may come as a shock to some companies, setting these systems in place now will help businesses become more resilient. Remote ready offices can take advantage of a larger hiring pool, and don’t have to worry about losing their best employees when they have to move away.
Your current transition to a remote ready IT environment might be born of necessity, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right strategic move for your business. If you make your decisions now with the long-term health of your business in mind, you can be paving the way for a robust working environment that will flexibly serve your business needs for years to come.
Contact us to discuss the best options for your organization. We can help you map out and plan your remote-work-friendly IT environment.