Apr 13 2020

Need-to-Know: Tips for Businesses on Powering Successful Remote Work

Here are the most important considerations for organizations looking to empower their employees to work from home.

Businesses across the country are going through transformations. Forced to send their employees home, many organizations are being confronted with fully remote workforces for the first time, navigating through the best tools and practices to empower their staff to continue being productive and protect business continuity. 

Remote work has been a growing trend for years. A survey from Gallup found that 43 percent of Americans worked from home occasionally, and according to Quartz, U.S. census data showed more than 5.2 percent of people worked remotely full time. Those numbers would be even higher if employees had their way, a survey from LinkedIn found. A whopping 82 percent of workers said they would like to work from home at least one day per week, while 57 percent would like to work from home at least three days per week.

While the shift to remote work has already been happening slowly, it’s recent acceleration has many businesses scrambling to make sure they have the right IT solutions to make sure their work can go on from anywhere. The most important pillars to successful remote work, according to the experts, are company culture and collaboration, strong networking and vigilant security. 

Building a Strong Remote Work Culture 

One of the most important aspects of maintaining productivity is maintaining communication. Adjusting to virtual collaboration can be tough for employees who are used to being able to get feedback quickly, particularly in team environments. Making sure those teams stay connected is a top priority, says Mike Murphy, solution architect team lead for collaboration at CDW.

“Get people on video,” Murphy says. “Perception is reality. If we’re giving them the bare minimum, they’re going to perceive that as a bad experience, and they’re not going to want to turn on their video. So do what you can to uplift them and encourage them to use that, because that’s a great way to stay connected.”

While IT departments can put the right conferencing and document-sharing tools in place, it’s important for management to take a lead role in embedding the technology into the culture, says Craig Radloff, enterprise collaboration consultant at CDW.

“Set those standards and communicate so people know what tools they should be using, how to use them correctly, and where they can get help,” Radloff said. “Set those expectations for the cultural side that makes sure we’re having virtual meetings and using the tools.”

WATCH: Experts break down what businesses need to have to power successful remote work.

How Networks Need to Adapt for Remote Work

Networking plays an important role in ensuring those collaboration tools can be used properly. Networks need the bandwidth to support the entire organization, wherever they are. There are things employees can do at home to make sure they’re getting the most out of the company’s network, says Sven Rasmussen, enterprise networking team lead at CDW. 

“Remember that bandwidth is a scarce resource,” he said. “It’s a limited quality that you have in your home, so if you’re sharing it with other people, maybe set up a schedule.”

Strong connections aren’t just about usage, but also where workers are in relation to their routers. 

 “If you have a wireless access point that you’re connecting to, make sure that you’re sitting as close as possible to it,” said Rasmussen. “The farther away you are, you’re going to have lower throughput, and it’s also going to impact everyone else connected to the AP.”

“If you want maximum throughput, connect directly into your home router using a CAT 5 or a CAT 6 cable. That way, you won’t have to share the wireless with everyone else.”

DISCOVER: Find the tools your organizations needs to support remote workers, all in one place.

Protecting Businesses from Remote Work Vulnerabilities

Security presents a unique challenge for IT departments during remote work. With so many devices connecting to the network for work from home, it’s important to be flexible as well as resilient, says Jeff Falcon, cybersecurity practice lead at CDW.

“Start off with protecting what matters most,” he said. “Make sure that we’re matching our security strategy around leadership strategy. And that leadership strategy might change day to day, so it’s important to be flexible and responsive.” 

Falcon says it’s important for IT departments to constantly ask questions and adapt defenses accordingly.

“For some businesses, based on their model, geographic location or vertical market, it’s really important to understand not just what they’re up against, but who they’re up against,” said Falcon. “Ultimately, it’s really important to identify those risks, and focus right there.”

As organizations are beefing up defenses, it’s important not to lose sight of productivity. CDW Principal Field Solution Architect Mike Elrod says that tools must be seamless for users in order to be integrated.

“Balancing simplified access and productivity with the right security, the right access mechanisms, is imperative so that we’re minimizing that desire for shadow IT,” he said. “We’re enabling the users to be productive on day one to minimize downtime. So reinforce the end user’s experience and keep them in mind as you design these different types of strategies.”

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