REMOTE OFFICE | 5 MIN READ
Managing a remote office, especially when your company has never been remote before, can prove to be a challenge if one is not properly prepared. Keep reading to learn how to take your network remote as well as five key tips on how to successfully manage a remote office.
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How to Take Your Network Remote
If you don't properly configure your network for a remote environment, then you risk security and functionality issues. Keep reading to learn a few crucial steps you should follow before taking your network remote.
VPN's, also known as Virtual Private Networks, can be used in conjunction with public or home WiFi to ensure that data is encrypted when being sent along a public Internet signal to and from your office's network.
VPN's authenticate your information with your network's firewall before allowing it through, which ensures that information is encrypted and your network is still secure when all employees are sending information, logging into programs, and communicating with each other.
Even if employees aren't handling sensitive data, it is a good rule of thumb to ask everyone to always sign into a VPN before going to work online remotely.
Make sure that every employee, or at the very least, those who need access to documents on your network, has a VPN installed and set up on their computers before taking your office remote.
Your network should already have a corporate VPN, so you can set your office up on that and make sure that everyone is trained on how to use it.
Configuring VPN's for all employees is arguably the most crucial step in setting up your office to go remote. Without a VPN, hackers could access sensitive information that employees are sending to each other over public WiFi.
RELATED: What is a VPN?
Set Up a Business Continuity Disaster Recovery (BCDR) Plan
Network outages and ransomware attacks can happen even when your office is remote. When this happens, business operations may be drastically impacted, which can hinder productivity and cost your business money for every minute that your network is down.
Ensure that your business can avoid lengthy downtime by implementing a BCDR (Business Continuity Disaster Recovery) plan. Business Continuity plans re-direct resources, establish chains of command, and coordinate shifts in employees so that business operations have minimal interruptions during natural disasters and network outages.
Disaster Recovery plans mainly focus on how to utilize effective IT to quickly recover one's network with minimal data loss. A few main tenants of Disaster Recovery plans include server and network restoration and backup recovery.
Consistent and automatic data backups should be the main focus of any Disaster Recovery plan. In the event of a network outage or ransomware attack, you may have to restore all devices to the most recent backup. If you don't back up data frequently, you risk losing access to important documents.
After you create a BCDR plan, make sure to regularly test it for weak spots and make any necessary updates. This ensures that all personnel are up to speed on what to do in the event that the plan must be enacted and that the plan is as foolproof as possible.
RELATED: What is a BCDR Plan?
Test Your Remote Environment
Before taking your entire company remote, consider conducting a test run to address any issues that pop up. Ask a few employees to work remotely from home for a few hours and monitor them.
Make sure that they can log into their computers and programs, and that their connections are secure. Check to make sure that there are no security gaps that pop up.
Make sure that your network will not be overloaded by a massive influx of remote workers accessing the network, and if it will be overloaded, make necessary adjustments.
Additionally, test your Business Continuity Disaster Recovery plan at this time to ensure that all steps would unfold smoothly in the event of a network outage or ransomware attack.
RELATED: 3 Steps to Set Up a Remote Office
Remote Office Management Tips
After your remote network is set up, all that's left to do is plan how you will manage your workforce. While the idea of managing it can seem a bit overwhelming, you can keep your cool by following these 4 tips.
1. Answer Key Questions
How many people are you taking remote?
Before taking your office remote, you need to consider the scale of the transition. Are you taking the entire office remote, and are they all going remote at once? Depending on your industry and the job titles of your employees, some people may not be able to work remotely.
For instance, appliance technicians may not be able to work remotely as their job requires them to be onsite to fix machines. Or, maybe you would prefer to have executives stay in the office for face-to-face meetings.
Based on how many employees will be going remote, you may need to enact a plan for effective management. For instance, if the entire sales department is quite large, maybe the department head wants to have quick daily team meetings on a virtual conferencing platform to check in with everyone.
How will you maintain company culture?
When employees work in a remote office, they may begin to feel disconnected from one another when they stop seeing everyone face-to-face. This may negatively impact company culture.
To provide opportunities for employees to build camaraderie with one another, consider having periodic team building events. Sometimes these events, would could be anything from a happy hour to a trivia night, can take place virtually on a remote conferencing platform.
Other times, you may want periodic in-person team building events so employees can interact face-to-face. These events could be anything from a holiday party to department-wide dinners.
Or, if your company is looking to get involved with local non-profit organizations, you could implement a periodic volunteering initiative to let employees meet up, make a difference in their community, and bond over non-work-related subjects.
Positive company culture has a lasting impact on a business. Start off your remote office on the right foot by implementing some of the ideas above.
2. Set Accountability Standards
If your office has little to no remote workers, employees may become confused as to what standards to abide by when working from home. Set standards for how employees should conduct themselves before transitioning your office.
The first point to figure out is what shape the remote work will take. Will employees still be working normal business hours, for instance from 9-5, or are you okay with employees working whatever hours they prefer as long as they are present for meetings and complete projects on time?
While many remote workers prefer the flexibility of picking their own hours, you may prefer for work hours to be as close to normal as possible.
Additionally, should employees show proof that they're online and working? If so, how often? Figure out if you will require employees to clock in/out, or be logged into certain messaging platforms as proof that they are online during work hours.
You may want to have times when employees should periodically check in with managers or other co-workers to stay current with projects and show that they're online and working. This could take the form of a daily check-in call with an entire department where everyone goes over what projects they're working on.
In terms of responsiveness, figure out if you want to set standards for response times to emails and calls. For example, maybe you want instant messages to be returned within 15 minutes during work hours, and important emails to be responded to within an hour.
Finally, establish clear guidelines for work hours. For instance, when conducting video conferences, maybe you prefer that employees be dressed in at least business casual clothing or that they go to a room with minimal background noise.
Additionally, maybe you want employees to screen-share during meetings to show what they're working on.
In terms of where employees can work, make sure to state whether or not employees can travel to other cities while they're working. Employees may try to travel to visit families or or go on vacation during this time, which means that they may end up working while in different time zones. This can potentially complicate projects, so figure out if this is a guideline that you want to set.
3. Manage Expectations
While setting accountability standards will put employees' minds at ease in terms of how to smoothly make the transition to remote work, a few lingering questions may remain that need to be addressed.
Before making the transition, consider having a company-wide meeting or sending a company-wide email laying out expectations for the transition. Make sure to include points about how long the transition will be for and lay our what you expect from employees.
4. Establish Open Communication Guidelines
Since employees will not be working face-to-face, communication standards will be shifted. Employees who are used to popping into offices or cubicles may struggle a little with figuring out how to communicate solely remotely.
To put employees at ease, make sure that all managers and executives have open and honest lines of communication established. Employees shouldn't hesitate to reach out to their managers if they have questions or concerns about working remotely.
This doesn't mean that employees should feel like they can call their manager at 11pm with questions, but it does mean that employees shouldn't be afraid to reach out to their managers if they're struggling with the transition to remote work.
Setting up open and honest communication ensures a happy and productive remote workforce.
While managing a remote office can sound intimidating at first, by following a few simple steps, you can keep your office productive and company culture intact.
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Posted by Kevin Kendall
Kevin Kendall is the VP of Services for Standard Office Systems and has built a career of assisting businesses with their office technology needs. He has decades of experience with products and services like copiers, business phone systems, and managed IT services. Mr. Kendall is driven to see others succeed and help them develop to achieve results beyond ordinary expectations.