Keep your Employees on the Move and your Data Safe with These Telecommuting Best Practices
The old saying of “time is money” probably holds truer today than ever before. Modern technology puts businesses and their employees in a position to work from almost anywhere, at anytime. This ensures time wastage is reduced and therefore increases employee productivity as well as promoting real time communication, which in turn can lead to increased customer satisfaction. On top of this, telecommuting also helps companies in enabling employees to strike a good work-life balance.
No matter what you call it, the phenomenon of Telecommuting / mobile working is on the rise and is reshaping how companies and their employees do business. Where telecommuting and modern technologies such as Unified Communications (UC) meet provides companies with almost limitless possibilities in terms of cutting costs, increasing productivity and freeing employees from the confines of the office. Moreover, being “Out of the Office” these days no longer just means being on holiday, it could just as easily mean travelling, being on site with a customer, at a convention abroad or simply being at home looking after the kids and as such it is of utmost importance to find a balance between corporate goals and those of employees.
However, telecommuting also poses a 2 massive problems. Firstly, how can a company monitor and manage remote employees and secondly, how do companies implement a telecommuting strategy that both mobilises and delivers the UC benefits companies crave whilst simultaneously keeping company data secure. It is an IT departments' or Admins' worst nightmare, losing control over both how and where corporate information and systems are accessed and how to keep data secure. So here we are at those all important questions of how, why and is it all worth it?
Why and is it Worth it?
As we alluded to in our post last week, the rise of mobile working is gaining further momentum. Bolstered by new technologies, our obsession with mobile devices as well as shift in generational culture, it appears the days of office-based 9 - 5 working are going the way of the dodo for many industry sectors. So if you want your business to keep up with your competition, increase your reach geographically whilst encouraging staff productivity and morale, then enabling mobile working is a major step forward. All of which, when combined with the benefits outlined answer the why. As to whether it is worth it or not is up to you, but from this writers point of view, the answer is quite simply a massive resounding yes!
Telecommuting Best Practices
Moving on to the how. One of the biggest areas of concern for IT departments is how to ensure that employees handle telecommuting technology correctly. Therefore, it’s time to take a look at our Telecommuting Best Practice guidelines. These tips are by no means exhaustive, but provide a starting point for implementing a safe and secure strategy without imposing too many limitations on your employees and reducing the freedom that telecommuting provides.
Ensure Employees have the Right Equipment
With advancements in technology, providing the right equipment should be a relatively simple task, but its not. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) has many financial benefits, as companies reduce technology expenditure including all up front costs as well as ongoing monthly fees and any maintenance costs.
Implementing BYOD strategies also have the additional benefit of allowing your employees to choose which device types they are most comfortable using. A survey published in by Staples in May 2014 showed that most valued telecommuting device amongst Millennials (Generation Y) is their smartphone compared to Generation X telecommuters who prefer their laptops as the go to device.
Cross Platform Functionality
Your employees will not all have the same operating system on their devices. The most obvious is Mac vs Windows on laptops, but one many companies often overlook is the numerous versions of Android that are available and in common use. Therefore, it is important to choose a solution that operates cross-platform, when using applications to facilitate communication such as a mobile VoIP app.
Another point here is to ensure that your applications and systems vendor(s) provide support contracts in order to avoid costly support invoices and in house IT training.
Setup up a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Nowadays, most people have setup security protocols on their home networks, but telecommuting is not just about HomeOffice working. That means that a large proportion of the work could be done while utilising a public Wi-Fi in hotels, airports or coffee shops which by their very nature are not secured to the same degrees and therefore increases the risk of data breaches.
Therefore, setting up a VPN which will then log employees into your corporate systems via an encrypted channel, thus increasing data and communication security as only authorised users can access company data and applications.
Data Backups & Password Protection
Due to the size and portability of mobile devices these days, there is an increased risk that they will be forgotten or simply lost whilst on the road. Therefore, an element of staff training may well be required to emphasise not only the importance of regular data backups but also what constitutes a strong password and how often they should be changed. During these training sessions, companies should also inform employees why such measures are necessary as well as hammering home the importance of protecting corporate networks and information.
Example scenarios that could be demonstrated, could be consequences of unsecured/not backed up lost/stolen equipment, the differences in security protocols across device operating systems requiring password protection as well as training on password generators and tools like google authenticator as well as what constitutes a good password. It may seem like common sense, but its amazing how often this issue raises its ugly head and companies need to do more to train their employees.
Provide the Equipment
Depending on your industry and how sensitive your data actually is, it may be worth considering providing the technology. CYOD or Choose Your Own Device enables companies to provide a selection of pre approved mobile devices which can be used for telecommuting purposes. This is turn enables IT departments to regain control over devices in terms of security as well as cross platform functionality.
Whilst eliminating a couple of the core benefits of BYOD such as cost savings and reducing the number of devices employees carry with them, this could well be an option if your company operates in the financial, legal or medical sectors for example.
Provide Unified Communication (UC) Technologies
So while the above has concentrated on keeping data secure, its time to look at how to keep your employees mobile. UC technologies provide employees with a whole host of tools to stay in touch, such as instant messaging with colleagues, teleconferencing, VoIP services to reduce telecommunication costs, Voicemail to e-mail and call forwarding.
Then of course there are additional aspects such as mobile VoIP apps for smartphones which will keep your generation Y and Z employees in the loop and integrated desktop softphones for your traveling generation X employees. UC provides remote / tele workers with all the tools they need to communicate with not only their colleagues but also their customers no matter where they are.
Invest in Cloud Storage & Collaboration Software
Investing in cloud storage systems will enable your employees to access, edit, save and create information remotely. This has the benefit of allowing employees to working whenever and wherever they are. It can also be useful in helping secure data by providing a password protected platforms from which employees can operate.
Moreover, deploying a project planning tool such as Atlassian’s Jira and Confluence software, will promote greater collaboration and increase employee productivity through improved work flow organisation as well as providing both employees and managers a visual representation regarding progress on projects and tasks.
Physical Device Protection
How often have we heard of a security breach as a result of a stolen laptop? Educating employees about protecting their devices physically is just as important as cyber security, and could be added to the staff training sessions described above.
Leaving mobile devices in the front seat of the car our out in plain sight is asking for trouble. But how does one protect devices from those curious would be opportunists who cannot help but look over your shoulder or take a sneak peak as you get a coffee refill? Screen filters and password protected screen savers are a must when working in public places, as are automatic shutdowns after periods of inactivity.
Its clear to see that implementing a successful, productive and secure telecommuting policy involves more than just getting the right tech and securing it. You need to implement a policy which employees buy into and understand. Therefore, employee education and active participation regarding Telecommuting Best Practices is key.
If you would like more information regarding how our pascom VoIP Software PBX can help you implement a telecommuting strategy, then get in touch with us either via our website or give us a call on +49 991 29691 200.