Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, various US states imposed stay-at-home orders, forcing businesses to haphazardly establish work from home guidelines to stay operational. While Florida has already lifted such orders as of this writing, many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are now considering a more formal, long-term remote work policy, given the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic.
To ensure a successful work from home arrangement, follow these tips:
1. Create a customized remote work policy
If you don’t provide a concrete plan for how your employees can work from home, then they might use stopgap solutions. For instance, if they lose their internet connection at home, they might decide to work at their local cafe and use its unsecured public Wi-Fi. This and other unvetted measures may adversely impact your company’s productivity and security.
While you may adopt sample work from home policies available online, make sure to customize your remote work policy to match your company’s needs. Establish clear guidelines and procedures for the following matters:
- Issuance of work devices and other tools
- Internal and external communications and meetings
- Project management and workflow
- Reports and documentation
- Security policies and best practices
Make sure to involve all departments when you’re developing this policy since each one will likely have unique needs and different internal procedures.
2. Manage all devices that will be used for work
Issuing devices to employees lets enterprises empower their staff while maintaining the ability to enforce cybersecurity policies. However, not all SMBs can afford to do so. That’s why bring your own device (BYOD) policies tend to be popular among them.
BYOD brings about plenty of business benefits, but it also comes with a lot of risks. For example, your employees may be using devices that are not up to date or protected by reliable security software. You also can’t be sure if employees are using these devices responsibly. The lack of visibility and control over your staff’s personal devices may threaten your company’s security posture.
An effective way to address this problem is to use centralized endpoint management software like Microsoft Intune. This solution allows you to easily give your employees access to corporate data, resources, and applications without compromising your business’s security.
More specifically, Intune lets you streamline and automate deployment, provisioning, policy management, app delivery, and updates for iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS devices.
This means you can easily enforce the use of multifactor authentication (MFA), a virtual private network (VPN), encryption, and other security measures across all devices used for work, be they personal or company-issued. At the same time, you can improve user experience by enabling single sign-on for mobile, cloud-based, and on-premises apps.
3. Put in place access controls
When working from home, your employees should have access to corporate data and resources that they need for work. But you need to limit access only to what they need to accomplish their tasks. For example, accounting staff shouldn’t be able to see documents meant for the HR department.
To prevent unauthorized access, protect each user account and device with strong passwords and MFA. It’s also best to enforce adaptive access policies, which are controls that take into account real-time risk factors.
For example, if employees use an unsecured public Wi-Fi connection — which can easily be intercepted by man-in-the-middle attacks — then an adaptive protocol can limit access to corporate resources. And if they are using a device that’s jailbroken or has an app with a known vulnerability, then certain restrictions can be automatically rolled out as well.
The great thing about Intune is that you can prevent unauthorized access by implementing conditional access to corporate resources based on user role, device location, and other real-time risk factors. It works seamlessly with Azure Active Directory, which is Microsoft’s cloud-based identity and access management service.
4. Migrate corporate data and resources to the cloud
When stay-at-home orders were implemented, your business might have temporarily stored some corporate data in the cloud and used cloud-based services so that your employees could work from home. However, if your company is to withstand the COVID-19 pandemic or any other crisis or disaster, you must permanently move parts or all of your operations to the cloud.
By doing so, your staff can work wherever they want, even while they’re on the go, just as long as they use an internet-connected device. The cloud can also enhance collaboration among employees since it allows them to work on the same file simultaneously.
But before you permanently migrate to the cloud, make sure you have the following:
- Adequate internet bandwidth to handle increased remote connections and traffic
- Properly secured devices
- Reliable data backup and disaster recovery plan
5. Invest in communication and collaboration tools
Look for cloud-based solutions that allow your employees to communicate and collaborate with one another remotely. A Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system, for example, lets users make and take calls using the internet. It also has a lot of features such as:
- Call forwarding – If a call is not answered on the primary device (e.g., an office phone) after some time, it will be redirected to other designated devices (e.g., a mobile device).
- Auto attendant – Instead of a human operator, a virtual receptionist answers, escalates, and routes all incoming calls.
- Video conferencing – Aside from voice calls, a VoIP system allows users to use video for group meetings.
6. Enhance your IT infrastructure to support remote work
Take the time to talk to each employee and evaluate the tools, home network capabilities, and other resources they need to work effectively from home. These include a PC or laptop, peripherals such as a headset, a webcam, and extra monitors, and most importantly, a reliable internet connection.
You should also set up a company-vetted VPN so that your staff can securely connect to the corporate system from their home networks.
Lastly, consider partnering with a reputable managed IT services provider like Integrated Computer Services so you can get all the expert help you need to implement and support a solid remote working strategy. When you work with us, you can rest easy knowing that your systems are proactively managed and monitored by a team of IT specialists who always go the extra mile. Sign up now for a FREE technology and IT security vulnerability assessment.