As we protect ourselves and each other from the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve changed nearly everything. From how we socialize to how we shop, study, and work, once-routine activities now require thought and planning to minimize risks to everyone involved.
Throughout the United States, schools have shifted to remote learning. Many summer camps shuttered for the season. Grocery trips have become fraught with choices and potential risks. Many people choose to purchase everything online, while others don masks as they head out for quick forays into grocery stores and pharmacies. Doctor visits, vacations, dining, and family celebrations? All different.
And, of course, we work differently. More Americans now work remotely than ever, creating a need to protect the security of our workers – and, not to mention, our data. It doesn’t just affect how we work, but also the tools that we need to work efficiently, collaboratively, and securely.
A Shift to Remote Work
For businesses across many sizes and industries, coping with the pandemic has meant a shift to employees doing remote work. In March, as many state and local governments began to restrict activities, many businesses did, too. While essential workers continued to report to work to keep our hospitals, grocery stores, and deliveries operational, millions of workers left high rise buildings and office parks to set up their offices at home instead.
For employees whose jobs lend themselves to working from home, the numbers working remotely have risen dramatically over the course of 2020. The shift may have lasting effects. Even as many local and state governments have lifted full and partial lockdowns, many companies have continued to monitor pandemic conditions and have chosen to keep employees working remotely for the foreseeable future. Now that work-from-home has progressed from a short-term idea to a longer-term solution, new needs have emerged for the tools that enable companies to do this well – to keep remote workers engaged, data secure, and technology current.
Making Security a Priority When Working from Home
Adapting to a remote working environment has required significant effort and investment on the part of many business owners and managers. The move from desktop-based software to managed cloud services plays a vital role in creating a professional environment in employees’ homes. At Summit Hosting, we offer cloud-based access to Sage hosting, QuickBooks hosting for multiple remote work software versions, and a variety of other work-from-home tools that make continuity of work easy and efficient from any location.
The tools that employees need to successfully work from home will vary upon their roles within the company. However, most team members will require access to critical software and files. Secure cloud hosting offers a consistent, easily navigable environment for accessing the tools required for working efficiently.
Whether an employee can hit the ground running in a transition to working from home or if they require additional coaching, the ability to log in to familiar software from anywhere — with minimal setup — lays the groundwork for getting employees comfortable doing their jobs from home environments.
Are Your Employees Set Up for Success?
What are concrete steps you can take to ensure that your team members can work from home successfully? The first category of considerations regards best practices. Coach employees on how to work effectively and professionally. For example, if employees will participate in video-conferencing sessions with colleagues or clients, they should dress professionally, as they would while in the office. In addition, working regularly scheduled hours — just as in the office — can help team members get into the right frame of mind for work. Sticking to a schedule may help prevent burnout, too, and it creates boundaries between professional and personal time.
The next category of considerations is technological. You need to ensure that your business gets the technology right that you give employees a home office environment that’s conducive to getting work done. The basic technological ingredients include:
- -Secure video calling capability and conference lines
- -Secure hosting of company data, such as data stored through QuickBooks hosting and Sage hosting
- -Secure internet connections
- -Usernames and passwords that adhere to best practices
The last category is the convergence of best practices and technology. How can your business ensure that you’re using your tools as effectively as possible? A few suggestions:
Use video conferencing effectively. Many interactions during the workday don’t require video conferencing, and over-relying on this technology can feel invasive – not to mention a waste of time. When your team members do communicate by video, encourage short meetings with clear agendas.
Encourage team members to focus on security. By having your remote workers use a VPN to connect to the office, you take a significant step toward data security. You can also keep your proprietary data secure by advising team members to avoid unsecured, public Wi-Fi, such as in coffee shops. In addition, consider discouraging employees from saving work files to personal devices, such as mobile phones, which may not be secure. Any devices used for work also should have the latest anti-virus and firewall software installed.
Use cloud-hosted software. Having employees individually install software on a variety of computers can cause headaches and create opportunities for mistakes. Instead, use cloud-hosted remote accounting software to get team members up and running quickly and easily with the critical applications they need. Summit Hosting can assist you with transitioning to a cloud-hosted environment for mission-critical applications, including QuickBooks hosting and Sage hosting.
Assessing Remote Work as a Permanent Solution
Now that you’ve set up your employees for success at home, you may want to evaluate whether remote work makes sense as a permanent way of doing business for your company. What are some aspects of a permanent shift to remote work to consider?
First, consider your overall business objectives. Can your workers continue to advance your company mission and meet its goals as they perform their individual jobs away from a centralized office? Remote work may be successful in the short term, but making it work over the long haul will require organizational commitment in a variety of areas:
Policies and procedures. Employees need a blueprint that includes processes, policies, and business practices that takes into account the unique challenges and opportunities of working remotely. You’ll need to address a variety of human resources-related issues such as onboarding processes, travel, training, compensation, and overall operations.
Measures for success. What are the key metrics or systems for measuring employee success when working from home? Whether you measure success through sales, engagement, client satisfaction, or other metrics, remote workers need to understand what’s expected and how they can succeed.
Ability of workers to self-discipline. Working from home on a continuing basis requires commitment and self-discipline, and not all individuals work well without significant supervision. You’ll need to assess whether your team members can ignore inevitable distractions at home to work productively and successfully.
The right technology. Today’s knowledge workers cannot function without adequate technological systems that include data security, along with easy access to vital tools and support for productivity and collaboration. Cloud-hosted remote work applications can provide needed productivity tools with comprehensive support.
Pros and Cons of Remote Work
As your team members spend more time working remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic, you’ll uncover a range of pros and cons specific to your company. What are some of the general advantages and disadvantages that can come with working from home?
Disadvantages of working from home may include:
- Social isolation. Especially for employees who live alone, working remotely may deepen a sense of isolation.
- Burnout. Some workers thrive while working from home, but others tend to get burned out more quickly than if they go to an office each day.
- Reduced productivity. Not everyone works well in an isolated environment, and you may notice that productivity slips among some team members.
- Lack of boundaries. Some team members may spend too much time on the job when they work from home, unable to separate work and personal responsibilities.
- Distractions. Working with small children, pets or noisy roommates in the household can cause distractions and reduce job productivity.
- Poor data security. A home office environment provides more opportunities for network security breaches. Specialized work-from-home software, including managed cloud services, can help maintain strict security protocols from a home environment.
Advantages of working from home may include:
- Enhanced productivity. Many workers find that they get more done when working from home without the many interruptions prevalent in a physical office.
- Better meetings. The frequency of meetings tends to drop when team members work from home, and the meetings that do happen can be more focused and take less time to accomplish the same goals.
- Protection from health risks. Many employees feel that working from home significantly reduces the chances that they or their loved ones will contract an illness.
- Less time commuting. Working from home reduces time spent commuting for many workers, which provides more time to spend with family, pursue hobbies, or focus on physical and mental health.
The current pandemic has changed the way we live, and it has ushered in a new era of working remotely. While working from home does have some disadvantages, many employees now express a preference for remote work — and employers continue to assess whether the short-term change should become a long-term solution.
Cloud Hosting Solutions For Remote Work
Do you have a newly remote workforce? Summit Hosting can help you ensure that your employees succeed when working remotely. We provide reliable, efficient and secure cloud hosting. We can also help reduce the burden on your IT team by hosting mission-critical applications on dedicated, secure servers that your workers can access from anywhere. To find out more about our QuickBooks and Sage hosting on dedicated servers, please contact us today.