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Setting up your remote workforce for success

COVID’s massive work-from-home trend could very well become a more permanent fixture as both employers and employees realise many benefits of a well-managed remote workforce. Think enhanced productivity, saved travel costs and time (a big issue in SA’s heavily congested business districts), reduced need for (expensive) real estate and the like.

If your business is considering a hybrid work model of remote and onsite working, here’s what you need to consider in setting up your employees to work more effectively and safely. The common denominator in all these factors is a quality, stable internet connection.

Gary Webster, Head of Wholesale at MetroFibre Networx provides the following insights for businesses looking to set up their hybrid workforce for success:

#1:  Connectivity – there’s no work without a decent internet connection. For employees who already have fibre connectivity at home, the stability and volume of data, both up and down is distinctly superior versus mobile data, and essential for cloud computing and data heavy applications such as video conferencing, the mainstay of remote workforces. But not all suburbs have fibre yet, so it’s important to establish with your employees what is available and what the ongoing costs will be to provide a stable and quality connection.  Many companies are willing to pay for the total cost of the data or fibre Internet contract, although if this is shared between work and personal use the costs could be split.

#2:  Data Security – While having a remote work force can be great asset for your business, it can also be one of your biggest risks.

  • Employees/Human Factor – Phishing e-mails, ransomware and malware have exploded during the work-from-home trend as cyber criminals know that the weakest link is often the human factor.  Are they using work devices to run personal apps or sharing devices with family members? They may not even realise that these risks can expose them to greater cyber risks, so ongoing education and awareness is crucial. Implement appropriate IT policies for remote working just as you would have in the office.
  • Endpoint Security (On-device protection) – Work-issued devices such as laptops, tablets and cell phones must have up-to-date security and monitoring at the endpoint, in other words, on device.  And if an employee is using their personal printer or mobile phone, they need the same standard of protection as they do on work devices. Do the necessary device audits with employees and ensure that every piece of equipment in their work arsenal – personal and work-issued – has appropriate end-point protection and encryption.
  • Cloud Computing – In a nutshell, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of on a physical hard drive. Besides the high-level protection provided by cloud providers, it also means that should a device go awol either through theft or loss, documents don’t sit on the device.  It provides for distributed yet connected and collaborative workforces, access to files from anywhere, anytime, better security through access controls and encryption, easier back-up and recovery, a lower total cost of ownership in terms of hardware and software deployment, upgrades and IT maintenance, savings on storage space and expensive real estate – but it is data-hungry, so be prepared.
  • Virtual Private Network – make sure that any connections to the company network are made through a full tunnel Virtual Private Network (VPN) that makes use of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) to encrypt all communications between your employees remote device and the company network, without the risk of prying eyes.
  • Metrofibre’s ‘Metrosecure’ solution – get the protection deployed by large enterprises for your small business with a ‘Metrosecure’ next generation firewall designed for small businesses, delivering enterprise-grade security in a series of simple and affordable, all-in-one security solutions to protect your employees, networks and data from cyber theft.

#3:  Video Conferencing and Collaboration – Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Outlook and the like allow for easy communication and sharing backed by Microsoft Office 365 comprehensive security features.  Video conferencing is important to keep teams connected and informed while working remotely.

#4: Telephony – Typically employees will be using a work-issued or personal cellphone to make and receive calls, with companies providing a budget for telephony if using a personal device.  Telephony costs can quickly add up, so a VoIP solution is a good option, especially where there is fibre internet availability. Metrofibre’s ‘MetroFone’ application is a mobile VoIP solution that connects via Wi-Fi or cellular data instead of using your airtime and is designed to reduce your monthly voice expenditure, allowing users to make and receive calls into traditional PSTN and GSM services.

#5: A healthy workspace – last but not least, encourage employees to set up a healthy workspace at home away from distractions and with a decent ergonomic set-up. An ergonomic office chair is a must as well as educating them about the importance of good posture. It’s important that they establish a healthy work-home balance with a space that allows them to work productively, as well as switch off when their workday is done.

No business is the same and their operational and client requirements will differ.  It’s important to understand your business situation, the availability of existing as well as new technology, your capabilities, what your employees will need to work effectively from home and then devise a plan of action that not only stands you in good stead during the pandemic, but has the potential to carry you through a hybrid work model where remote and in-office work are likely to become the norm.

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