Connecting Your Newly Remote Workforce: 4 Things Companies Need to Do Now

A sudden shift to remote work has uncovered gaps in remote work strategies. Here are four technical and cultural priorities companies need to consider as they connect their newly remote employees.
Connecting Your Remote Employees

In just a few weeks, remote work has shifted from a perk to a new way of life for many employees. While the most serious questions related to COVID-19 are health-related, businesses are also struggling with how to maintain their operations in the face of unprecedented events. Many firms have closed their offices for now, asking their employees to work from home as much as possible.

Even though remote work arrangements have been growing in popularity over the past two decades, this sudden shift has uncovered significant gaps in remote work strategies. The primary hurdles are cultural—keeping a remote workforce engaged with the day-to-day business requires dedication at every level of the company. Other issues, though, are more technical in nature, and these are the most pressing ones as companies scramble to keep work moving forward. Here are four things to keep in mind during the shift to remote work.

The hardware investment should go beyond the primary devices.

Ten years ago, there was a significant focus on enterprise mobility that went along with cloud computing. Businesses were creating flexibility by moving their back end systems to the cloud and enabling their employees to access those systems from anywhere. The primary questions at that time were around provisioning and managing devices, and those questions were largely answered by companies sticking with corporate-owned devices. That caused enterprise mobility to fade as a topic, but it didn’t necessarily address the full suite of hardware needs for remote workers. Many companies have still not built policies around peripheral equipment such as monitors and webcams. It adds to the cost, but it also improves productivity while showing remote workers that they are part of the team.

Investing in new applications will likely reap dividends.

As enterprise mobility was fading into the background, cloud computing maintained its momentum, and companies were able to recognize different stages of cloud adoption. In later stages, the discussion around cloud computing shifted from migration of existing systems to new applications and architecture that maximized cloud benefits. The same concept applies to mobility. The first step is distributing smartphones and enabling access to email, but the true benefit comes from replacing applications with mobile-friendly versions and reconfiguring workflow. Even when most work is being done from a laptop in a home office, productivity will be highest with a modern application stack.

All aspects of security must be considered.

CompTIA has long advocated a three-pronged approach to modern security. First comes an expansion of security technology, and for mobility efforts much of this was addressed as companies decided how to handle the hardware. Remote wiping, data loss prevention and mobile anti-malware are common parts of the security toolbox these days. The second part of the approach is process, and much of this can be addressed when moving to new applications and workflow. With the right applications, security policies on the back end can help enforce policies around secure business transactions. The final piece is the most difficult but also the most important. End user awareness is key when employees are remote, working outside the safe confines of the office environment. Ongoing education can help reinforce best practices around password management, public wi-fi usage and physical device safety.

Keeping employees connected goes beyond connectivity.

There’s a common theme throughout the first three points around enterprise mobility, and it’s a theme that is being repeated as companies pursue new emerging technology. The technical issues, difficult as they may be, are the easy part. The more challenging part is changing behavior. Sticking to old processes has been the downfall of many IT solutions with impressive technical capabilities. Enabling remote work is no different. To have a fully engaged remote workforce, companies must leverage the technology at their disposal to recreate the same opportunities for connection, team building and recognition that exist at physical locations.

At CompTIA, we were already supporting staff working from home, including about a third of our employees who were full-time remote. Even so, we’re charting a course through this new normal just like everyone else. We’ve closed our physical offices until at least mid-April, and we’re monitoring the situation closely to determine how to proceed. We’ve encouraged all staff to purchase any additional necessary equipment to make work as seamless as possible. We’ve set up new Slack channels to help people stay updated and connected on an evolving situation. It’s just the beginning, but it’s helping everyone stay on the same page and get work done. Check out the latest episode of Volley for some additional perspective from me and fellow CompTIA research analyst Carolyn April.

The demand for remote work existed before COVID-19, and it will continue afterwards. The need to attract talent and the desire to address employee flexibility will drive companies to prioritize remote work strategies, using the latest technology tools and building the best policies. Strong remote work policies also lead to better business continuity, making companies more resilient for the next major challenge.

To share information, resources and best practices on how tech companies are managing the ongoing impact of COVID-19, join the CompTIA COVID-19 Resources Forum.

To share information, resources and best practices on how tech companies are managing the ongoing impact of COVID-19, join the CompTIA COVID-19 Resources Forum.

Seth Robinson is CompTIA's senior director of technology analysis.

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