Is your small to medium-sized business in Ontario, Canada, looking to make the transition to remote work? Perhaps you already have but you’re looking for new ways to boost operational efficiencies?
Finding new ways to drive productivity and the effectiveness of remote teams is high on the agenda right now, with many organizations making the transition to work-from-home models.
The future of work is now here.
A study from Regus Canada found that nearly half (47 percent) of Canadian employees work from outside one of their employer’s main offices for at least half the week.
Combine that with the fact that Statistics Canada found that 4.7 million Canadians who don’t normally work from home started in response to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, and there’s no doubt a huge transformation in how today’s workforce is carrying out their roles.
In addition to those who usually work from a regular basis, about 40 percent of all Canadian workers (6.8 million) are now working remotely.
This means companies in Ontario must introduce new measures, technologies and security practices that ensure their business continues to operate seamlessly when their workforce is remote.
Here we will cover everything you need to know about the remote workforce, including how working-from-home can benefit your business, what technologies you will need to improve productivity and how you can protect your organization from cybersecurity threats.
The benefits of working from home are clear for employees, they’ll have a better work-life balance, less commuting stress, independence to work from their preferred location, increased money savings and much more.
Employers, however, often have a more difficult time understanding the benefits to their business. Thankfully, remote work has produced a huge amount of attention in recent years, resulting in an influx of research and studies.
We've compiled a list of key statistics that show how your small to medium-sized business in Ontario will benefit from the use of a remote workforce.
Here are some key statistics about how your business can benefit from remote work:
“Optimal engagement… occurs when employees spend 60 percent to 80 percent of their time working off-site - or three to four days in a five-day workweek,” (Gallup).
There’s no doubt that the business landscape has changed dramatically in 2020, with more small to medium-sized organizations across Ontario, Canada and the entire world encouraging employees to work from home.
Whether this is a completely new paradigm shift for your company or you were already doing some work remotely, there will still be numerous challenges that you need to address with a full-time remote workforce.
Working from home comes with more distractions and fewer interactions. If these challenges aren’t addressed, you will soon find that the productivity and effectiveness of your remote team is impacted.
So, how exactly can your business ensure its employees remain productive and effective when working from home, and continue collaborating with their team? We’ve listed some tips here:
Establish daily communication: When your team is no longer based in a physical office, communication becomes even more important. We don’t mean just professional either, personal conversations are a crucial aspect of strengthening collaboration within your business. To stay in touch and to ensure each team member feels like a valuable member of your team, create daily check-ins via video chat and use instant messagings apps to stay in touch. By creating a sense of belonging within your team, each employee will continue to produce high-quality work even when they are working from home.
Encourage employees to take regular breaks: Remote workers can easily be sucked into the false pretence that they need to stare at their computer nine hours a day or their managers and team members will think they are not doing their job. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and actually can have a disastrous impact on employee productivity and job retention. By encouraging your remote employees to take regular breaks, you will ensure their minds stay fresh and creative throughout the day.
Help your team members set up a professional office space in their home: To improve productivity, it’s important that remote employees have a dedicated workstation in their homes. In fact, some companies are offering stipends to their employees to help them set up substantial home offices. Having a professional workspace in their home will improve employee happiness, help separate their professional and personal lives and limit distractions. This all ensures your remote team is more productive during their work day.
Equip your team with the technology they need: To get their work done when at home, it’s crucial that your employees have the technologies, tools and software they need to be productive. Just because your employees are now working from home, doesn’t mean they can efficiently do their work on their personal devices. Your company spends thousands to provide office workers with the technologies they need, why should this change when they suddenly start working from home?
On that note, what technologies does your remote team need to be efficient and productive?
In fact, technology is crucial not only for employee productivity, but also retention. In a study from Softchoice, the option of working from home once in a while is such great motivation for 74 percent of workers that they would “gladly” leave their current job to obtain it.
These statistics show, however, that 85 percent of workers want their employer to provide them with the technology they need to work remotely.
Of course, your remote team will need office computers or laptops and maybe even other pieces of hardware such as printers, but they’ll also need tools such as project management applications, communication technologies, cybersecurity measures and much more.
Technology is a key element in ensuring your remote employees can efficiently complete their job, collaborate with their peers and stay productive. Here are some technologies that you must consider for your work-from-home team:
Desktops and laptops
Whether they work in a physical office or from home, it’s pretty obvious that desktops and laptops are the most important technology for any employee. However, as a business that’s new to remote work, you may be tempted to advise your employees to use their personal devices to do their work.
Here at OT Group, we strongly recommend that you do not do that. Employees that use their personal devices to access your company’s network at home will be leaving your business susceptible to all types of issues, from viruses, cybercrime, data fraud and many other problems. All work done by your remote employees should be performed on a company-owned computer, in which you have installed the appropriate security measures to protect your business.
If you need to buy your remote employees new desktops, you can find some pretty cost-effective monitors, notebooks and workstations on the OT Group Webstore.
Your remote team is stationed in different locations, but that doesn’t mean that communication needs to break down. In fact, communication is even more crucial for companies that don’t have daily face-to-face interactions. Thankfully, advancements in technology have made it easy to maintain high-quality communication over long distances.
Take video conferencing software, for example. Applications such as Zoom are empowering companies to have face-to-face meetings even when they aren’t based in the same physical location. The best news is that this helps your business to save time and travel expenses, without losing the valuable results you achieve from these interactions.
That’s why it’s also important to use internal instant messaging tools, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams, to ensure your remote team continues to communicate and collaborate with each other. Instant messaging tools are important not only for ensuring your team is up-to-date on current projects, but to continue strengthening personal relationships between employees.
Project management tools
To ensure your projects continue to tick along and your remote employees have complete visibility into the work they need to do, it’s important for work-from-home teams to implement project management applications into their operations. Technologies such as Basecamp, Teamwork or Trello will give your remote team complete visibility into projects, improving the quality of work they produce and ensuring deadlines are met.
These applications also give you time-tracking functionalities, a crucial aspect of project management that help to improve accountability among your remote workforce. This technology isn’t about keeping tabs on your remote workers, it’s about creating a company culture where employees are accountable for the work they do.
Printers and scanners
Many remote employees will not need printers or scanners, but your business may have one or two employees working in document-heavy roles that will. Printers and scanners will be important for any remote employees who are required to sign and scan documents, print documents for review, or make copies to send on to clients or colleagues.
When choosing a printer make sure you consider the brand and model, whether you want to rent or purchase it, what your employee will be using the printer for and how much colour ink you will be using. All these questions will help you decide the most effective printer at not only saving your business money, but ensuring the seamless operations of your employee.
We could have included this point in our previous section, but cloud computing is just so important for the management of your remote team that it deserves an entire section of its own.
There’s a reason Gartner found that 28 percent of spending in key IT segments will shift to the cloud by 2022, it’s because cloud computing brings huge benefits for your business. In fact, a report from Dell found that companies that invest in big data, cloud technology, mobility and security can realize up to 53 percent faster revenue growth than their competitors.
So, what actually is cloud-based software and why is it so important for your company’s remote team?
What is cloud-based software?
Unlike hardware, which requires physical equipment and software to use, cloud computing is an on-demand way to access software and computer services that are delivered over an internet connection.
Cloud-based software is stored on remote servers, meaning data and programs are not accessed through your desktop or notebook. Instead, they are accessed through the “cloud” (the internet). This saves storage space on your remote employee’s devices, ensures hardware works efficiently and allows your entire remote workforce to save documents in one centralized location.
How does cloud computing benefit your remote team?
If you want to improve collaboration, communication and efficiencies within your remote team, physical hardware is not the way to go. Your business must work through the internet and use cloud-based tools. This will ensure your employees are on the same wave-length, and can access the same files as their peers.
Here’s how your remote business will benefit from cloud-based tools:
#1 - Improved file sharing
Concerned about remote workers not collaborating together on projects? Worry no more. Cloud solutions are a fantastic way to improve remote employee collaboration. Documents saved on the cloud can be accessed, edited and shared by employees in real-time. It’s not quite the same as working together in an office, but it’s pretty close!
#2 - Complete scalability for workforce changes
Investing in physical software can be expensive. What makes that even worse is that you can’t always predict future changes for your business. Perhaps one day you’ll no longer need a system you invested so heavily in, or your company will change size and you will either have software and hardware sitting around unused or you’ll need to rapidly purchase more. Cloud computing is completely scalable, using subscription based models that mean your company only ever pays for what you need. You can dramatically increase or decrease your cloud services as needed.
#3 - Building a more mobile team
Your team now works from home, and your company is probably thinking of complicated ways to store data, transfer software licences and rent storage space - this becomes easy with the cloud. The cloud gives your business the ability to work from anywhere, from any device, at any time of the day. Your remote workers will be able to access exactly what they need to be productive and efficient, no matter where in the world they are working from.
#4 - Enhanced security
Cloud software is designed with cybersecurity in mind. The large companies behind these programs invest large sums of money to ensure their software is protected from new security risks. By operating on a shared responsibility model, cloud services guarantee the overall safety of the cloud while allowing the user to enact their own safety measures to protect data.
Ensuring your team can work from home productively is crucial for the continued success of your business, particularly if you’re looking to transition to remote work as a long-term strategy.
One of the most important considerations, along with the above steps to improve productivity, is securing your organization from the damaging effects of cybercrime.
This is particularly important for your business, particularly when figures released from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center found more than $3.5 billion (US) was reported lost as the result of cyber crimes in 2019 alone.
That figures become even more worrisome when looking at a study from Verizon, which found 43 percent of data breach victims were small businesses.
There are a range of cybersecurity threats to your small to medium-sized organization, and understanding them is the first step towards protecting your business. Once you can identify those threats, you can start taking measures that reduce your risk.
Common cybersecurity risks include:
Here’s a quick security checklist to ensure your remote organization is protected from cybersecurity risks:
Use support versions of your device’s operating system
Computer companies do not support their operating systems (OS) forever. After a few major versions, it’s likely that your operating systems will become outdated and no longer supported. These means there are no more security patches being added to it, allowing criminals to find new vulnerabilities that aren’t being fixed. Always make sure your remote employees are using support operating systems when accessing company data.
Use multi-factor authentication
You can add an additional layer of security to your accounts by using multi-factor authentication (MFA). This means your employees will only be granted access to an account once they have presented two or more pieces of information - this could involve scanning a QR code or typing a code in that was sent to their cell phone.
Keep your software up to date
Just as important as not using unsupported operating systems, it’s also crucial that your remote employee keep their operating systems up-to-date. Software updates deliver security patches to your employee’s devices, protecting your company’s data. It’s a good idea to make sure that all your remote employees have automatic updates turned on so they are frequently applied. Any delay in updating your OS could leave a window for hackers to make their way into your system.
Use a VPN
It’s unlikely your employees WiFi is as secure as your company’s, and even less so if they are working from a public space such as a coffee shop. To secure your remote employee’s internet connections use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt the information they access from outside eyes.
Ensure your employees are using a password manager
If hackers guess your employees passwords then they will gain access to your company’s accounts in seconds. Use a password manager, such as LastPass, to encrypt, generate, and store unique passwords for each website or account your employees use.
Install antivirus software
Any devices that access your company network and data should have antivirus software installed on them. Antivirus software will help your employees identify and protect their devices from the threat of cybercrime.
OT Group has a special offer in which we are offering the use of our Managed Antivirus package at no charge while we are currently mandated to work from home during Ontario’s government lockdown. Want to learn more? Click here.
We're ready to help companies transitioning to a remote workforce, or creating a new hybrid model based on working from home and in the office. Contact OT Group to learn more about our services.