The new normal
It seems unimaginable that last year, just 5% of the UK’s active workforce considered home to be their main place of work. But with COVID-19 prompting an estimated 20 million people to swiftly relocate out of offices and into their homes, the question of whether we even need a centralised office building has crossed the minds of many business owners.
Whilst some parts of the world are beginning to slowly return to ‘normal’, the pandemic has shown plenty of businesses that they can continue to operate outside of an office. So, for those looking to ditch the office and move to a more permanent remote working solution, here are a few key factors to consider.
When you buy an office and all of the equipment to fill it, your capital expenditure is high – but it is likely to be a one-off payment. When moving to a remote solution, you will move to an operational expenditure model, where you pay-as-you-go for the resources you use. This could take the form of Desktop-as-a-Service or VDI, or a full cloud solution such as Enterprise cloud.
Whilst you may save money on office rent and bills, it is important to remember that there may be some initial costs involved, such as ensuring that all employees are equipped with laptops and a comfortable workstation. Some companies even give employees a homeworking budget to buy a proper chair, desk and desktop computer for their home office.
It is also worth thinking about connectivity; do your home workers have a stable or strong internet connection to log in remotely, or would you have to think about upgrading them?
Whether you are looking to move to a fully remote workforce, or you simply want to offer more flexible working arrangements, accessing sensitive data from outside of the office requires a robust cybersecurity strategy. So, when it comes to remote working, everyone should utilise a Virtual Private Network (VPN) – the backbone of many remote workforces, which allows encrypted access to the internet and secure file sharing with employees.
It is likely that some security policies were written years ago, perhaps even before your business went digital. Ensure you review your policies and make revisions where necessary, with a new-found emphasis on sharing sensitive company information over non-secure channels, such as Slack or WhatsApp.
With physical assets such as laptops or desktops not being in the office, it is unlikely that your employees will have an enterprise-grade firewall protecting their home network. You, therefore, must insist on basic home network security; devices should be protected with an antivirus solution with regular updates, and employees should use strong router passwords.
A mass move to remote working can put huge pressure on on-premise IT infrastructure, which can lead to a poor end-user experience. If the infrastructure struggles to cope, you could end up with slow systems and insecure connections, leading to increased frustration and decreased productivity.
Choosing a cloud-based infrastructure helps to ease the pressure by offering the capacity to cope with fluctuating demand. With internet-connected employees able to access their workspace from anywhere, on any device, at any time, the cloud facilitates flexible working. Every business has different needs, so opting for the right cloud solution is vital for long-term success as a remote workforce – be it public, private, or hybrid cloud.
Whether you are in the office or working from home, you should have a disaster recovery and backups plan in place. If something happens to your primary site – whether that is the office or the data centre – you will want to have a backup of your data and infrastructure to keep you up and running in the event of a disaster. If your infrastructure is offline, then so is your workforce.
Effective remote working is not solely a technology problem, it is about people as well as infrastructure. Human interaction is an integral part of collaboration and communication, which, in turn, can make working remotely challenging.
When you’re working in the office, it is easy to form relationships and have impromptu interactions with colleagues. But if you fail to make the effort to interact with colleagues virtually, those relationships can quickly deteriorate and make your job harder. Using tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack helps to keep colleagues connected and engaged.
One final consideration for moving to a fully-remote workforce is deciding who will take on the complex task of managing your infrastructure, security and general communication.
You have two options; outsource a hosting provider to take on the management for you, or employ an infrastructure manager in-house. Whilst both have their pros and cons, with a well-thought-out, strategic plan, going fully remote could well be the future.
Do you need advice on moving to a fully remote workforce? Give us a call on 0800 612 2524 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to speak to one of our experts.