Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) who are considering moving to fully remote or hybrid remote work scenarios must ensure that their technology infrastructure can support this move. In the tight labor market, a frustrating remote work experience caused by technology issues may cause you to lose a valuable employee. Below are several technology issues to consider and address before implementing remote work.
Hardware is an obvious consideration when considering remote work. Companies must ensure that their employees have laptops. And if they already have laptops, it is essential to make sure that they are new enough and fast enough to provide the computing power necessary to easily access their data and programs no matter where they are working.
Reliable internet connectivity
Remote workers cannot be productive without reliable internet service, so your remote work strategy must include internet connectivity. There are several points to consider. The first is determine the bandwidth requirements for the services that your employees will connect to and use remotely. The next question is whether your company will require remote workers to implement minimum internet speeds because of the bandwidth requirements of remote access. Companies must also decide whether they will subsidize remote employees’ internet costs and if so, how.
When COVID first hit and businesses went fully remote, many employees were surprised to learn that their ISPs had speed limits or caps in terms of bandwidth issues. When your employees work from home, their bandwidth usage will increase, and they may get slower service from their provider, which affects productivity, or they might receive overage fees. Planning for these issues in advance through requirements can help avoid these surprises and keep employees productive.
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Connectivity to data and applications
In order for their remote workers to be productive, SMBs must ensure that their line of business applications are accessible from anywhere and perform at the same speed remotely. For companies whose applications are already in the cloud, the home office is just like another remote site and providing access to applications and data is fairly simple. However, for businesses who still provide access to their applications through desktop computers at the office, providing remote workers with access to these tools is more complicated. Desktop licenses will need to be swapped for cloud-enabled licenses. For your applications with no cloud version, you will need to decide whether to migrate to a cloud-enabled tool or create a work-around.
Other considerations include whether applications are accessible via VPN and the speed and bandwidth they require to ensure they can be used productively. And then more broadly, you must make decisions about the VPN itself—speed, ease of connection, and whether to choose an always-on VPN.
Some remote workers or industries have heavy printing needs. Companies moving to remote work should decide whether to purchase printers for these workers, require them to print in the office, or to reimburse them for purchases including printers, paper, and printer ink. If you decide on reimbursement, you will need to ensure you are reimbursing only your employees’ printing needs, not those of their spouses, roommates, or kids.
In many small and medium-sized businesses, support personnel can walk to an employee’s desk and address whatever issue they are having. But if you implement a remote work environment, support becomes more complicated. One option is to implement a system in which support personnel can connect to employee desktops remotely to fix problems. Regardless of how you address support, it is critical to plan and budget for a support burden that will inevitably increase. Your support organization will now be responsible for not one or two office networks, but as many networks as there are remote workers, increasing its work considerably. How will remote workers will contact support for slow bandwidth when the real problem is that their child is playing on the Xbox or watching Netflix all day?
You can reduce some of the support burden mentioned above by providing adequate training to your employees. It is important to remember that there are varying degrees of comfort and experience with remote access among your employees, so training needs will vary. Whether you stay with your current remote work setup or design a new one, you will need to train your employees. In addition, when company or department-wide trainings take place, organizations must consider how to include remote workers. It is imperative to plan and budget for the significant training that remote work will require.
Most organizations who went remote during COVID have figured out a way to provide remote conferencing to their employees. Conferencing is an example of how creating a remote work strategy gives your business a chance to improve on the band-aid approach you put in place when COVID struck. Therefore, the first consideration for those organizations creating a permanent remote work strategy is whether your current conferencing tool is the right one. Ensuring the tool is secure is the most crucial step. And from a productivity lens, it is also helpful to utilize a conferencing technology that is integrated with other productivity tools, just as Microsoft Teams is integrated with Microsoft 365.