Posted by: Heather Shy on March 6, 2020 at 8:00 am
Many businesses are allowing – or requiring – staff to work from home with the news of the novel coronavirus (a.k.a. COVID-19).
Before this recent news event, however, many businesses discovered the advantages of allowing staff to work remotely. These include higher productivity, lower overhead, environmental savings, and lower staff turnover. Many workers consider working remotely as a side benefit of their employment. Some may even accept a work-from-home arrangement over a pay raise!
There are other reasons to allow staff to work from home. Remote work can be a perk for high-performing, self-motivated staff. Recently, disease outbreaks cause suggested or mandated at-home quarantines. In addition, staff may have other health concerns that they might be able work through, but must stay at home for, such as a sick relative, low-grade fever, injury, or pregnancy-related bed rest.
While remote work may sound like a “big business only” idea, even small businesses can benefit. On average, small businesses report saving $85,000 to $93,000 per year in lower turnover, reduced operating costs (gas, utilities, office space) and increased productivity after implementing teleworking programs. (Source: International Teleworking Advocacy Group)
However, every small business owner must weigh the pros and cons of allowing staff to work from home. Below, we’ve listed nine questions every small business owner must answer before allowing staff to work remotely.
Nine Questions to Answer Before Allowing Staff to Work From Home
What are your overall goals and specific objectives for allowing your employees to work from home or on the road?
Why this matters: Without specific objectives, you set up your program to fail. Be sure to list the advantages for both the company and for your staff. This step may help determine which staff or which circumstances would qualify for remote work. Creating goals and objectives will also help you evaluate if the program is working as intended.
How many employees will be working remotely? Will they be accessing the network at the same time or at different times?
Why this matters: Your IT department will need to assess if your network is set up to handle the amount of inbound traffic. This may be less of a concern if you are on a cloud-based network, since all staff are logging into a remote server already.
What applications (including specialty or proprietary apps) and data will your employees need to access?
Why this matters: You must make sure that your company abides by any licensing agreements, including making sure that all users have proper licensing for your software programs. In addition, your IT team needs to review server access for proper security.
What type of devices will your staff use to access the network?
Why this matters: It’s important to evaluate what equipment remote staff will use for several reasons: If you require or allow staff to use their own devices, are they properly licensed? Can the business “lock down” company data on these devices in case of theft? Are you on the right side of contractor/employee definitions? (Read more about Remote Device Management.)
What type of Internet connection will be available on the sending AND receiving ends?
Why this matters: Without enough bandwidth at the server end, your remote staff may run into delays logging in, or difficulty accessing the files and data they need. If their home (or other remote workspace) internet is insufficient, file transfer and program response time may be restricted.
What levels of security do you want in place?
Why this matters: Data is the lifeblood of any business. Who has access to what data? This is a critical question in a standard network; even more so when you cannot see who is actually on the other end of the keyboard.
What level of monitoring do you want in place? For example, are there certain web sites and content you want “off limits?”
Why this matters: Certainly, you don’t want remote workers, or any workers, watching videos or surfing social media all day. If they are using company-issued devices, any unwanted – or unsavory – sites can be blocked, helping your staff focus on their work.
Will the remote worker need to print documents?
Why this matters: This is a fairly simple consideration, but you need to consider where any printed documents need to end up. If an employee needs to print items for your business, do they need to print at their workspace, with a company-provided printer? Or would it make more sense for them to print to your office? Also consider using more PDFs and e-signing, moving toward that paperless office we were all promised so long ago.
What are your 1 year and 3 year plans for growth?
Why this matters: This circles back to our initial question about goals. How long will your work-from-home policy last? Is it temporary until the circumstance prompting the situation is resolved? If it allowing remote work, works, how many remote staff members can your management effectively oversee?
The Biggest Question You Must Answer
As you may have gathered from the questions above, the state of your technology affects any consideration for allowing remote work. Is your IT company up to the task?
TAZ Networks manages remote networks for several of our clients. Some even have staff working out of the country! We can help you evaluate and configure your network for a work-from-home solution that helps your business and your staff, and keeps your data safe and secure.