For small businesses nowadays, it's not uncommon for many employees to work virtually; your IT manager could be in California, your sales reps could be scattered throughout the Midwest, and your marketing specialist could be in Vancouver. This approach helps small businesses increase employee productivity and creativity while decreasing discontent and complicacy.
While there are many advantages to this model, it also presents some challenges. If you can't see what your employees are doing, it's easy to draw the conclusion that they aren't contributing effectively. Also, no matter how advanced your technology, sometimes face-to-face communication is just easier and more effective. Lastly, remote employees are a risk to your company's network security. Each business is different, and it's important to weigh the pros and cons of remote employees. However, no matter what side you're on, one thing is clear: more people are working remotely than ever before, and the numbers are expected to increase in the future.
Here are some key things to consider when it comes to ensuring your company's network and data remain uncompromised, even with more people accessing that network remotely.
1. Set clear objectives. What do you want your remote workers to accomplish? Without clear objectives they will find it hard to deliver what your business needs. Give them targets and goals that stretch them, but are not impossible. Also, make sure they fully understand what's expected of them.
- Remote employee contract. Create a contract that holds employees responsible for what they do out of the office. For starters, it could state they need to have a home office, access to Wi-Fi, and their phone turned on at all times. Maybe you want employees to commit to coming into the office once a month, or having meetings with management via video chat once a week; this should all be explained clearly in the contract.
2. Set up easy ways to communicate. Work smarter, not harder. With a communication system in place, it will be easy for you to communicate with your employees. Every business is different, so explore your options.
- Project management system. An internal online system to log hours and keep track of any important documents, projects, contracts, etc. will keep everything in one place, making it easier for you and employees to keep track of everything and stay on the same page.
- Messaging. Tools like google hangouts, IM, Skype, or Facebook messaging all make it easy to chat with your co-workers and employees throughout the day. These tools allow you to get questions answered in a matter of seconds, whereas sending an email could take hours to get a response.
- Schedule meetings. As mentioned above in creating an employee contract, decide how often and what type of meetings will be necessary, then schedule them in advance.
3. Stay secure. Ensuring your company's network and data remain uncompromised, even with more people accessing that network remotely, is crucial. Select an anti-virus program with features robust enough to protect your small- to medium-sized business.
- Secure your network. Ensuring that employees working from home are accessing the company's network from a secure home network can reduce security threats dramatically. Consider creating and distributing a step-by-step guide to make the process simple for employees. Include screen shots, explanation of key words employees may not recognize, or a how-to video.
- Remote Access Server. Remote access servers help keep your network secure while ensuring that employees can access it remotely. A remote access server may also be used as part of a virtual private network (VPN). This, combined with security software, is ideal for small businesses.
- Create a company security policy. Clear guidelines will make everything go smoothly. Be sure the security policy is easy to understand so employees can maintain security both onsite and remotely. It should also lay out common violations of the usage policy and possibly include a brief FAQ.