If your business doesn’t allow employees to work remotely, it could be at a big disadvantage, especially compared to the competition. In today’s fast paced world of mobile devices and instant connections, the business that doesn’t take advantage of their technology is the one left behind. Will that be your business?
It could be, particularly if your current network configuration doesn’t allow for employees to access the office remotely. While there are many benefits to allowing your employees to work remotely, perhaps the greatest benefit of all is being able to access important information and records on demand, no matter where you are. By having access like this, you can instantly provide quotes, documentation, or any other item needed, without having to travel back to the office, saving both your employees and customers time.
There are quite a few ways you can enable your employees to work remotely, allowing your business to be as mobile and as flexible as your industry demands.
Allow Email Access on Cell Phones
Most smart phones today have the ability (and proper software) to access office email. If you are hesitant about allowing remote access to the office completely, consider starting with remote email access. At the very least, this will allow employees to stay updated on their email throughout the day. If your office communicates important information via email, this will also allow remote employees to get the memo long before they step foot in the office.
Provide Equipment – Laptop, Mini’s, or Tablets
One of the easiest ways to ensure your field employees have access to the office is by providing them with the equipment they need to be mobile. This includes providing a laptop or other portable computer so that employees have the right equipment. If equipment weight is a concern, consider going with a lighter, smaller device, such as a mini-laptop (aka netbook), or a tablet. If cost is a concern, consider issuing one computer to remote employees – a laptop – that they use both inside and outside of the office.
However it is important to note that providing equipment is just the first part of the equation, your network setup also has to allow for employees to access the office remotely.
Setup Remote Web Workplace
Depending on your edition of Microsoft Server, your business may already have the tools it needs to allow employees to connect remotely, using Remote Web Workplace. This Microsoft feature allows employees to access the office from any computer with internet access, by using a specialized website address.
From there they can access email, or log into a computer on the network. Remote Web Workplace is particularly useful for allowing employees to work from home during a personal emergency, as they can use their own desktop computer which is already setup for their job duties.
Setup a TermServer
Another way to allow remote access is to setup a TermServer, which is a server that employees can log into using a remote desktop connection. One of the advantages of using a termserver along with Remote Web Workplace, is that you can have multiple employees logged onto same computer at once. Employees can access the termserver using a Remote Desktop Connection, or using the Remote Web Workplace, and selecting the server instead of their desktop computer.
These are just a few of the ways you can enable your employees to work remotely, allowing your business to stay ahead of the competition.
If you have questions about how remote access could work for your business, please contact us today so that we may discuss your options.
Utilizing remote employees are a great way for businesses to reduce operating costs. However, it is often more difficult to track and manage remote workers, especially since you don’t see them every day. So, how do you ensure your remote employees are as productive as your in-house employees?
Know their Work Ethics
Many businesses require an employee work in-house for a defined period of time before working remotely. There are many benefits to instituting this type of policy. First, it allows the employee to have a good working understanding of the company’s culture, inner workings and procedures, which can be invaluable once they transition to a remote employee. Second, and most important, it allows you to assess their work ethic and production levels. Knowing how they work and their production quality in-house will help gauge results later when they are working remotely.
Set Clear Guidelines and Requirements
As with any employee, the success of remote employees depends on how clearly expectations are defined. Make sure your remote employees have a clear understanding of their work assignments and the team division of duties. Outlining responsibilities helps keep work from being duplicated by multiple employees.
Additionally, it is equally important for the remote employee to understand when they should respond to action items and how. Outline the time frame for critical items vs. non-critical items, including giving the remote employee the tools for determining what is and is not critical.
Create a System for Communication
While managing remote employees isn’t much different than managing regular employees, there will be a need for increased communication. Requiring more communication will not only help you with accountability, but will help keep your employees feeling like a team and will help with office cohesiveness.
Luckily, there are many ways to foster increased communication. One good solution is with an IM program, like Google Chat or Yahoo Chat, which allows your office to easily and quickly interact with one another. Video conferencing can also be a good solution. Finally, don’t forget about the phone. Sometimes the easiest way to communicate with a remote employee is to call them and have a conversation. Just remember to call during the arranged work schedule to ensure you aren’t disrupting the employee.
Most importantly, remember to create a backup communication system, like a secondary email address through a free service, so that you can still communicate with your remote employees in the event that your network (or theirs) is down.
Track and Report
The best way to ensure that your remote employees are as productive as your regular employees is through regular tracking and reporting. Require that your remote employees check in with their supervisor and their team so that everyone knows where items stand.
One way to ensure accountability and reporting is to require the remote employee come into the office once a week for weekly team meetings. As long as this is feasible (i.e. the remote employee isn’t out of state), requiring remote employees to come into the office occasionally can help maintain team cohesion. It also gives your employees a chance to work together in new ways, since they do not always interact face-to-face.
Another way to help with accountability and teambuilding is to require that your remote employees email a daily team report to their team, outlining what projects they worked on for the day, and where things stand. Daily reports can also help ensure reduce resentment between regular and remote employees because it shows how everyone is pulling their weight with projects.
With a little planning, allowing employees to work remotely can be a win-win for both the company and the employee. Defining job requirements, and outlining expectations, as well as giving employees tools to aid with the increased communication needs will go a long way to ensuring the remote work arrangement is successful.