The business world’s move toward more broadly enabling the workforce to telecommute has been a relatively long and gradual march, one that has picked up considerable pace due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And in many ways, the transition to telecommuting makes a lot of sense in offices that can support it: Studies have shown that telecommuting workers can be more productive. By reducing the need for daily driving, telecommuting is a positive for the environment and for cities’ traffic conditions; and in the long run, the trend can save companies money on expenses such as real estate and office supplies. Further, for employees, the telecommute can contribute to a healthier work-life balance.
So, on the technology side of the equation, what steps can a company take to put its workers in a position where working from home (or from the road) is an option? Obviously, the telecommute is more feasible for desk workers, who can often get large portions of their jobs done when a computer, a reliable internet connection and the right mix of complementary tech tools are available. Here are six tech-related considerations a company should be mindful of when empowering its workers to complete their work-related tasks from outside the office walls:
- Equipment — Obviously, workers with laptops rather than desktop computers have a mobility advantage when it comes to telecommuting, but if the plans for telecommuting are longer-term, it is feasible that a desktop could be moved from the business’s office to a worker’s home. The same can be said for printers, scanners and monitors, as long as the worker will be telecommuting for an extended period of time.
For businesses that simply don’t have the hardware needed for the workforce to telecommute, rental can be an option worth considering, especially if the need is short-term or if the company is just filling in the gaps while moving toward a longer-term hardware solution. Further, in the equipment category, ensuring that all telecommuting workers can be reached via mobile phone is also a smart step as it helps enable a much quicker response time when workers are away from their computers.
- Cybersecurity — When workers perform their computer-based jobs in the office, there is typically an array of strong protections in place to ensure that company information is protected from hackers, viruses, malware and other digital-world threats. But these protections can diminish greatly when an employee uses his or her home network for work — and they can diminish even further if the employee is using his or her own personal computer for job-related tasks. It is vital that, before a worker starts telecommuting, an IT expert is consulted to ensure that the company is protected from any cybersecurity threats that might be introduced by working outside the office. And taking this step is even more critical when a worker’s responsibilities include dealing with customers’ private information in any way.
- Connectivity — Of course, having a strong and reliable internet connection is also an important element of workforce productivity, whether employees are working from the main office or from their homes. And the need for a high-speed internet connection becomes even more critical when a company’s workers need to share sizable digital files to get their jobs done — as a fast connection can make a huge difference in the time workers must spend waiting for files to upload and download. Before beginning at-home work, it is highly advisable that workers test the speed of their home internet connection and consider a speed upgrade if their current connection is not suitable for all of the applications they will need it for.
- Communication/collaboration — One of the biggest shortfalls of the telecommute is that it can reduce remote workers’ ability to easily communicate and collaborate with their colleagues — as, after all, they will no longer be able to walk down the hall to discuss a project game plan with a coworker or gather in the conference room to hammer out a plan of action for a project’s success. But this can be overcome with online messaging and videoconferencing tools that allow teams to have virtual group discussions and presentations involving a handful of coworkers or even the entire company. Among the leading business-focused communication/collaboration platforms on the market are Cisco Webex, Google Meet, GoToMeeting and Zoom.
- Cloud storage/SaaS services — Often playing the role of an office server — but one that’s accessible from anywhere with an internet connection — cloud-storage services allow workers, no matter how far-flung, to easily share work-related files, and often work on them collaboratively or even simultaneously. Leaders in this category include Dropbox Business, Google Drive, Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure.
Similarly, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions allow workers to access software applications needed to perform their work via a web connection and a monthly or yearly subscription model. This allows companies to avoid paying the large up-front costs involved with purchasing a number of software licenses up front, in addition to reducing the time spent installing the software on individual computers and enabling regular updates without additional costs. Of course, the tools needed for the job will vary by industry, but leaders in this segment include Google’s G Suite, Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft 365, Oracle Cloud Applications and Salesforce.
- Project management — With workers spread out across town (or even throughout the world), project coordination and management is a challenge that can no longer be covered with a huddle in the boss’s office or via writing a to-do list on a whiteboard. But project-management programs can cover this need, often via web browser-based checklists and task-related details that can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. Leading examples of this type of software include Basecamp, com, Wrike and Smartsheet.
Ready to get local IT help with expanding your business’s work-from-home capabilities? Visit ftcitsolutions.net to see how FTC IT Solutions can lend a hand with this and all of your other IT needs — so you can focus on your business.