Many businesses simply were not equipped for full-scale remote working and, with little time to prepare, it’s understandable why some had to piece together partial solutions just to get everyone set-up and working. However, with large numbers reporting that they’d like to retain some element of remote working and business reaping the benefits (without seeing huge downturns in productivity), it seems this trend could be here to stay for the long term.
To ensure remote working doesn’t put the business at risk, from a security and operational standpoint, IT Managers should begin to review policies and procedures in this area. While things may have worked ‘fine’ in the context of a pandemic, there are likely some gaps that need to be addressed in order to optimise remote working, improving the process for employees and the business alike.
How to support remote workers in 2020 and beyond
1. Complete network visibility
IT Managers must be able to confirm who is working remotely, which devices are being used and which critical applications are being accessed, so they can ensure the business remains secure. This is particularly important where employees are connecting to a VPN.
2. Understand the end user’s perspective
In order to improve the digital experience for employees, IT Managers need to ensure they have the tools and technology in place to identify, assess and resolves issues as they happen. Implementing a monitoring platform that can collect real-time, accurate data from end-users’ devices would allow IT teams to promptly identify issues and prevent issues before they arise. In the case where the issue points to a larger problem across the network, it also gives IT teams a chance to issue a resolution before it affects others.
3. Be proactive
Just responding to IT requests or issues in a timely manner is no longer enough. IT teams need to operate in a proactive manner in order to reduce productivity losses. Implementing a monitoring platform which collects accurate, real-time data from employees’ devices, web browsers and collaboration tools, will help IT Managers identify potential issues and address them before they cause pain.
4. Help end-users to help themselves
IT teams can often find themselves stretched thin, trying to resolve issues for on-premise and remote workers. By utilising the right engagement and automation tools, IT Managers can empower end-users to resolve common problems themselves by implementing a self-help system. This may include creating troubleshooting guides for low-level, recurrent issues, utilising Microsoft Teams bots like FAQ Plus and Quick Responses or encouraging remote workers to log IT issues with certain information so they can be resolved more efficiently.
5. Promote collaboration tools
Collaboration tools have seen huge uptakes as employees look for ways to maintain effective communication across the business. Microsoft Teams alone reported a 70% increase, with active daily user numbers jumping to more 75 million. The performance of these tools is tied largely to the performance of the local device and network, which the IT team has less visibility in a remote working environment. So, in order to be able to provide sufficient support and seamless collaboration experience for end-users, IT Managers should consider solutions which will give them the level of visibility they need.
6. Address shadow IT
When it comes to remote workers, security is often one of the biggest challenges for IT Managers. Away from the office, employees can wind up using their personal devices to conduct business or start accessing personal applications (such as instant messaging, streaming services and cloud storage) from their work device.
It’s critical that the IT team take steps to address this, but at the same time, they should also seek to understand why employees are using these tools instead of company authorised ones. Is it a case that they don’t know the tool is available? They don’t know how it works? Or it doesn’t have the features and functionality they require?
7. Ensure regular communication
One of the most oft-cited downsides of remote working is isolation. It’s important that lines of communication are kept open so remote workers still feel part of the business. To ensure remote workers are receiving the support they need, IT Managers should consider using engaging feedback tools such as email surveys and polls.
Microsoft Teams comes with several personal apps, bots and connectors which IT Managers could utilise to manage the feedback process. Microsoft Forms, which allows users to easily create survey, quizzes and polls, and Polly, which gathers real-time insights with simple polls, are just two examples of the tools available.
8. Implement training and educate employees
Many employees have needed to quickly adopt new collaboration tools in order to effectively work from home. While they may have gotten used to them, having to learn how to use tools ‘on the fly’ probably means they’re probably missing out on features which could significantly improve their day to day activity, productivity and efficiency.
Training will also help strengthen security parameters by ensuring employees are aware of the types of attack, how they should respond and how their actions could affect the business. There was a big uptick in the number of cyber-security attacks during the first wave of the pandemic, but generally, the landscape changes so regular security training for end-users should be carried out on a regular basis.
The switch to remote working happened at incredibly short notice for most companies. What typically would require months of planning, pilot tests and stress tests to successfully rollout simply had to happen there and then, and this has likely created a lot of new challenges for IT departments.
It seems that it might still be some time from businesses can have their entire workforce back in the office at once – if they even wish to revert to that – but there are steps IT managers can take now to improve the remote working experience.
With employees more reliant on technology than ever before, IT teams need to ensure they have effective communications channels in place to understand and address the needs to end-users. A proactive, security-first approach will not only improve the user experience but also help prevent remote working from posing a risk to the business.
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