How to Set Up a Remote Workforce: 10 Steps
No one was prepared for how the pandemic would upend work lives and force employees and employers to quickly adapt to a remote workforce model. But what was then and emergency measure has now become a part of the new normal and companies must find ways to effectively and efficiently set up remote workforces.
With the right technology, protocols, and security measures, employers can seamlessly transition away from traditional offices and establish a thriving remote workforce that will improve work-life balance for employees, lower operational costs for employer and position companies for long-term future success and business continuity.
There are many factors employers need to consider to set up a fully remote business. Here are the 10 most important.
1. Evaluate Type of Workforce vs Business Needs
Employers must evaluate the business’s needs and its workforce’s roles to assess which jobs functions can be performed remotely and which cannot. For example, some IT professionals may need to run regular checks on servers and on-site equipment and their physical presence will be needed in an office. Other employees, meanwhile, may be able to do all their work off site, without disrupting a business’s operations. Employers evaluate both business needs and job types in order to create flexible work schedules that support critical business requirements and employee needs.
Some companies’ work may be sensitive and involve confidential data. Working in one physical site can make security protocols easier to enforce. A company has less control of how data is used in a work-from-home scenario. Employers who embrace a full or partially remote workforce must take measures to safeguard data so that it is not distributed or shared without a company’s knowledge.
2. Provide Devices and Software
In order to work effectively off site, employees will need the right equipment and software. Employers should distribute company-owned laptops and phones that meet the company’s specifications or support employees in acquiring them through allowances or subsidies. Providing employees with company owned laptops will also let you link your company’s network to ensure that security measures are in place and data transfer can be controlled and monitored.
Whether your employees’ devices are company-owned or their personal devices, it’s important to ensure that all hardware and software are continuously checked, updated, and scanned to minimized downtime and ensure productivity.
To protect data and ensure employees use devices for their intended use, employers can install and work on a Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform, which manages and secures devices remotely.
If an employee loses a device, companies must also consider the security implications of leaked data. It’s recommended that a remote workforce plan include the use of risk management software to help safeguard sensitive data against foreseeable and unforeseeable circumstances.
3. Establish Security Measures
Using a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) can help allay an employer’s security worries. An RDP-enabled environment gives employees access to a protected network via a physical remote desktop or server located in the office. Using a password-secure interface, employees will only be able to access files on the company’s network.
For an extra layer of security, companies such as banks and insurance firms rely on a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt and protect sensitive data. To use VPN technology, a company first has to evaluate if they have the bandwidth to support existing and additional traffic. This is particularly important when setting up a large remote workforce.
IT departments should also be cautious when adding new people to a network to avoid cyberattacks. Specific onboarding protocols should be established and followed to minimize authorized system access.
4. Provide Access to Applications
Any device, whether personal or company owned, that is used for business should be up-to-date with the latest applications that teams rely on for everyday communication. Having these applications on hand ensures optimum productivity and uninterrupted workflows.
Providing access to the following application types that can help your team streamline workflows, initiate communications, and complete tasks with ease.
- Chat: Applications such as Slack, Skype, and Facebook Workplace make it easy to send instant messages to coworkers and management to keep everyone in the loop and on the same page.
- Video conference: Phone meetings are moving to video-enhanced environments that enable employees to interact virtually in real-time. Applications such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts make it easy to share and record meetings, share links, and present work remotely.
- Task management: Platforms such as Asana, Trello, Jira, and Monday let employees track their daily tasks and workflows for easy project management.
- Human resources: CultureAmp, BambooHR, and CharlieHR are few recommended HR software programs to help maintain, track, and update important employee information. For medium- to large-sized companies that need more control over remote employees or an expanding workforce, these platforms can help simplify HR-related tasks.
- Cloud storage: This technology lets employers share sensitive data through a secure platform such as Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, or Google Drive. Relying on cloud storage is essential to protect and exchange critical information such as client details and financial documents.
- Email: Platforms such as Microsoft Outlook, Google Workspace, and Zoho Mail make it easy to securely send and receive emails through company-controlled accounts.
5. Provide Stable Internet Access
Working remotely means employees must have access to high-speed internet from a private (not shared) network. Employers will need to communicate the importance of using a secure network to avoid potential security breaches. This is particularly important for business in financial and health industries that must comply with state and federal regulations.
Sometimes, employees will lose their internet connection as a result of emergencies or natural disasters. Have contingency plans in place so that employees know what steps to take in the event of an outage so work can continue uninterrupted.
6. Provide Reliable Tech Support
To avoid dips in productivity, a company’s tech support must be dependable and highly responsive.
Employees’ PCs or laptops can be remotely accessed through platforms such as Remote Desktop Web Connection and Chrome Remote Desktop to make it easy to troubleshoot and solve technical problems in real time. Businesses can manage and resolve tech support issues via ticket systems and project tracking software such as Jira and Zapier (where employees can upload logs, screenshots, and the like to support raised issues) to manage multiple issues and track open and closed tickets.
7. Dedicate Enough Time for Onboarding
Unlike traditional onboarding processes that aim to quickly move new candidates from the interview to the induction stage, employers will find that remote onboarding is a different ball game.
A company’s onboarding process will remote employees tackle their work on the best footing or it trip them up. For a remote workforce to function effectively amply time must be dedicated at the onset of the hiring process to get a sense of each new hiree’s skills, available resources, and day-to-day schedules to ensure they fully understand processes, policies, and expectations.
Here’s a rough idea of what the remote onboarding process should look like:
- Interview candidates interested in a remote position:
- Provide candidates a clear idea of the essentials for making remote work productive:
- Get a sense of electricity situation in the candidate’s city. Regular power cuts can hamper productivity.
- Familiarize new employees with company expectations relating to security, content ownership, and other important policies.
- Have manager monitor how recent hires are coping if it’s their first time working remotely.
- Set up remote access to company systems to ensure that personal and company-owned devices are updated with the required applications and software.
- Monitor new employee performance to ensure that they’re well-versed with processes and workflows during the probationary period.
- Encourage recent hires to share pain points or feedback on things that need to be improved or provided to make work-from-home more productive.
– For candidates who are inexperienced with working remotely, be prepared to explain how it works and assess their comfort level with a remote work environment.
– For more candidates who have prior experience working remotely, invite them to discuss the challenges they faced working from home and what sort of support they expect.
– Updated, virus-protected home PC or laptop
– A working microphone, webcam, and speakers
– High-speed internet connection
– Comfortable at home work area
– Dual monitors (if these are required, a company ideally handles this expense)
8. Educate Employees on Remote Practices and Expectations
Employees, particularly those new to remote work, need to understand how remote policies (security protocols, accountability, use of company property, and the like) work and commit to full compliance. It’s also crucial to define responsibilities clearly to ensure timely outcomes and consistent productivity. Employees should be trained on effective time management, when to actively raise concerns, and how to balance work and personal life.
9. Update Remote Work Policies
Employers who migrate to an entirely remote workforce environment should update company policies to reflect the new direction. What was once relevant in an in-office setup will need to be revamped and then shared with both new and existing employees.
10. Foster Interpersonal Connection
Embracing a remote workforce is a bold and important step companies must take to remain competitive in a new digital paradigm. However, it’s still imperative to maintain a personal and human connection with employees. Here are some ways to engage your remote workforce team and foster a strong bond:
- Host regular video calls
- Plan company-sponsored trips, luncheons, or dinners to encourage face-to-face interactions
- Organize fun virtual corporate or educational events to keep employees engaged and motivated
- Celebrate small and big wins to show your appreciation for employees and inspire others to meet their goals
- Establish a remote wellness committee to create and manage a health and wellness program to look after the needs of employees on and off the job
With the correct setup, companies can discover that working remotely is a cost-friendly, highly productive, and time-saving alternative to an in-office setup. While setting up a remote workforce may seem daunting, the above steps will help employers create a robust plan with the right resources and tools in place.