As telecommuting becomes the new norm, remote workers and their managers need to acclimate to new settings, collaboration tools, and security risks.
Working remotely has long been a trend in IT, but now, due to the spread of Covid-19, it’s becoming a reality for many of the workforce. While some employees may rejoice at the opportunity to work remotely, others may view telework with trepidation. Often asked questions include,
What collaboration tools, equipment, and software are necessary for a home workplace?
How should telecommuters organize their daily tasks?
Will some remote team members be disadvantaged because they’re not in areas with robust broadband?
What’s the best way to host video conference meetings?
How do you curb distractions like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter?
What’s the best way to manage a remote workforce?
Successful remote team members need the right tools and connectivity to be productive. This means providing virtual teams with secure access to IT resources within the business, as well as to the internet itself. This is typically achieved through an internet provider and virtual private network (VPN), which creates an encrypted network connection that makes it safe for the remote employee to access IT resources within the organization and elsewhere on the internet.
Further, managers can’t assume that remote team members have adequate online access at home. When managing remote employees, it’s important to survey team members about their internet accessibility and be prepared to invest in mobile hot spots and associated data plans. This also may mean providing stipends to establish home internet access plans or upgrades to existing access, which can be especially important for remote workers who live in rural areas.
Become a video conferencing pro
Whether it is Teams, Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet, virtual meetings have superseded the face to face meeting. Thanks to technology, keeping the lines of communication open shouldn’t be a problem for a remote team. However, with a few million new users using video-conferencing software, failures and slowdowns should be expected.
To prevent this, make sure to test video-conferencing software before a virtual meeting begins. Check your camera, your computer, your microphone, and your internet connection. Also remember to turn off CPU-heavy background applications, like automatic alerts.
You’re not in the clear once a remote conference begins either. Setting up “house rules” is important as participants in any virtual collaboration will often talk over each other, which is even more critical not to do, given issues of buffering, delays, and speaker clarity.
Remain vigilant about security risks
Moving from a trusted office environment to working remotely can create security risks. Cybercriminals tend to exploit topics that are in the news, making the coronavirus an area ripe for exploitation. Attackers are deploying phishing emails, ransomware, and malicious software with a coronavirus hook to take advantage of people concerned about the virus. Remote workers need to remain vigilant. An employee should also try to not mix work and leisure activities on the same device and be particularly careful with any emails referencing Covid-19.
Build team morale
While managing remote workers, it’s important to keep morale high. The health of your remote workforce has never been more at risk. Now is the time to revisit your healthcare programs and identify what additional measures can be taken to protect the health of your employees. This is also a good time to update a telecommuting policy or remote work policy, if you haven’t already.
Set a weekly virtual team meeting with co-workers to check-in to see how team members are doing. To further employee engagement, consider scheduling a virtual coffee get-together where team members grab their favourite drink and a snack and come prepared to share something funny or exciting.
Just a few tips and things to think about that we hope will help you to manage your remote working teams.
About the author: Julian Brettle has over 20 years of experience as a technical salesperson for IT MSPs and likes nothing more than a cup of coffee and a chat about how to cure your IT headaches. Follow him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/julianbrettle/
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