As the pace of digital innovation quickens, remote working is on the rise, offering big advantages for companies that truly embrace the trend. Here, the IoD’s Information and Advisory Service (IAS) explains how to run your business remotely and get it right
Remote working has never been easier. Companies of all sizes are prospering by offering employees the freedom to work when they want, where they want. In the UK it has increased by more than a third (37 per cent) in the last three years, according to recruitment consultancy Robert Half. And with self-employment growing too, businesses can capitalise on the skills of an army of independent workers who don’t require a fixed office space. Here’s a quick lowdown on what you need to know…
What are the benefits?
Working remotely means freedom to work flexibly – from home, a coffee shop, a client’s office, on the move or even sitting in a park. Key benefits for workers include less wasted time, higher output, reduced stress and even greater happiness. By rethinking the nine-to-five workday, companies build a culture of respect and trust which empowers employees – it’s not just about turning up to work but delivering results, too. Businesses can save space, cut costs, lower sickness absence, boost staff retention and look attractive to potential recruits. And there’s a green bonus too, with the number of commuting journeys reduced.
What hardware do you need?
Specialist hardware isn’t necessary. The rapid spread of state-of the-art smartphones, tablets and powerful laptops allows employees to work effectively wherever they’re based. Before you invest in new equipment, though, weigh up issues such as hard-drive size, processor speeds, storage capacity, wireless connectivity and compatibility with existing networks. Headsets and webcams for employees on the move – or who need to communicate on conference calls – can also be helpful. Some companies have embraced BYOD (bring your own device), which allows employees to use their own devices on company business.
What software should you have?
Cloud technology has transformed remote working. Cloud apps provide cost-effective access to office tools, wherever employees work. And online file-sharing services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft Remote Desktop and TeamViewer allow workers to collaborate regardless of location. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology lets you share multimedia sessions over the web, while mobile messaging services such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, Viber and WhatsApp are also viable tools. Google Hangouts is useful for video chat – enabling you to share updates quickly with offsite staff. And for video-conferencing, Citrix’s GoToMeeting platform allows remote workers to hold meetings with colleagues and customers in different locations. Powwownow.co.uk is another low-cost web conference service.
How do you manage security?
Make sure computers used by remote workers have anti-virus/anti-malware software installed. Encryption can scramble sensitive data so it’s unreadable. Encourage the use of cloud software, shifting the responsibility for security to the provider. Connecting to the web via a secure, trusted virtual private network (VPN) is a great way to improve security when workers use public WiFi. Insist on strong passwords containing letters and numbers – that way, if a laptop or mobile is lost or stolen, sensitive data will be protected. Ask staff to back up data and ensure you have a policy for using this equipment.
How do you manage staff?
It can be tricky to manage employees when you don’t see them every day, so always ensure they are easily contactable. Hold regular team meetings and lay out what their obligations are. Fairness and trust are vital to successful remote working.
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How could the IAS help you?
The IAS provides IoD members with free business intelligence and advice to help them run their companies more efficiently and successfully.
The Business Information Service is able to investigate questions on behalf of members and supply them with valuable information ranging from market forecasts and industry trends to trading abroad and employee salaries.
The Directors’ Advisory Service provides confidential, independent advice from specialists on issues ranging from raising finance to board and shareholders’ disputes.
Members can receive prompt and confidential business, personal tax and legal advice through using the IoD’s telephone helplines.