Working from home has become the new normal for many Australian employees. While in some areas of the country, remote working is compulsory during lockdowns and government restrictions, many companies are now offering employees the choice of ongoing remote work arrangements.
It is expected remote working is here for the long-term, which means it is more important than ever before to ensure adequate IT support is available. Below we outline some challenges and tips for providing technology support for a remote workforce.
While the remote workforce has been growing over the last decade, for most businesses, remote work was not considered to be a viable option. As a result, the rapid changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic caught many businesses unprepared for the impact of stay-at-home orders on keeping their operations functioning and employees productive.
Traditional IT support and security systems are designed for offices where all employees are connected to a single secure network environment and in proximity to each other. This pivot to a remote work environment has left companies wondering if they had the right technology and staff to support this change. There were also concerns about cybersecurity, and how to ensure employees were able to engage and communicate, while being mindful of the business budget.
The biggest IT challenge of remote work is the network infrastructure of employees at home. Very few employees have an internet setup to handle their company’s workload. The typical home internet set up is adequate for streaming movies, playing online games, or internet browsing. But consumer-grade network equipment is not designed to handle the load when everyone at home uses it at the same time, leading to lagging video conferencing, or continual dropping out of the company network.
IT support tip: Employees should plug their desktop or mobile device into a dedicated ethernet wire if possible. Alternatively, set up their remote workstation as close to their Wi-Fi access point as possible. Otherwise, they may need to update their home router to handle the increased demands of work from home on top of regular internet use.
Creating a work environment that is as close to the physical workspace as possible can be a challenge when it comes to a remote workforce, especially if some employees work remotely part time, or are in different time zones. Maintaining productivity, employee engagement, and communication are key to ensuring your business does not experience any negative impact of a remote workforce.
IT support tip: Providing the tools and training to use them will empower your employees to work as efficiently as if they were in the office. Collaboration and communication solutions such as Microsoft 365 offer your company unparalleled capabilities to share and collaborate on documents in real-time, as well as chat and video functions that keep you all in the loop.
Next on the list of IT support challenges for remote working is how to keep businesses safe from cybersecurity threats. Employees using their own IT infrastructure are very unlikely to be using the latest cybersecurity tools and may not adhere to standard security protocols. They may click on malware links or have poor password habits, which can lead to a risk of security problems for your company’s network. It takes most companies almost one year to detect and contain breaches, and this can lead to profound consequences both financially and to a loss of business reputation.
IT support tip: Ensure employees are trained on remote security measures, and use multifactor authentication, strong passwords, and equip them with appropriate cybersecurity software. Understanding the dangers of malware and phishing attacks can help employees to be better equipped to avoid these situations and bolster the efforts of IT teams to bolster network security.
Data protection and privacy regulations in Australia must be complied with, and failure to do so can result in fines of up to $2 million AUD. One of the big challenges for supporting remote employees is staying compliant with data security legislation. Businesses can find it difficult to control how employees connect to networks and where they store data, increasing the risk they could be downloading and sharing protected data and information.
Provide company-owned devices to employees to retain control over security protocols and enable better support for issues. If employee devices are used, ensure they are secure and up to date, and provide a strong virtual desktop or cloud communication options to stay connected.
IT support tip: Implement and enforce security and compliance policies, to ensure compliance with legal requirements in your industry. Deploy firewalls and virtual private networks (VPN) to maintain security and protect data.
Once a company switches to remote working, it is more likely there will be an increase in IT issues. This can put increased pressure on existing IT staff, who may not have a wide enough range of experience to support remote workers. Or you may not have a dedicated IT team within the business and cannot justify the cost of hiring more staff for this purpose. Lack of IT support can mean less productivity, less employee engagement, and higher costs as you try to fix infrastructure that is redundant for remote work purposes.
IT support tip: Instead of taking on additional staff, you should consider outsourcing your IT support. Managed services providers (MSP) offer diverse types of plans which can cover the support your remote workers need on an ongoing basis, as well as ensure areas such as cybersecurity and cloud computing are covered. A MSP can also provide expert advice about how best to make your company’s transition to remote working. By choosing to outsource to a managed service provider, you have access to more modern IT solutions, which optimises your business efficiency and productivity, and provides your employees with the best available support.
If your business is making the shift to remote work models, talk to the Essential Tech team about the perfect IT solution for your modern office.
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