A few simple tips can help keep your remote workers productive and relatively stress-free during the new WFH paradigm
Months into adjusting to COVID-19 impacts, organizations are now living in the day-to-day that was built on—let’s be honest—somewhat rushed plans to get everyone remote as quickly as possible. The image of repairing a bus while the bus is also driving its normal route comes to mind. Quick reactivity like this is vital in the moment, but it can be easy to miss a step along the way.
Of course, IT is central to business continuity. This has only been made more true when so much of remote work relies on technology. Now is the time to make sure that your organization is truly set up to excel in remote conditions.
But the mission for IT teams can’t just be to remain operational in the short term. We’ve got to look ahead and chart a course for long-term success: processes, tools, security measures and automation. We must ask, as IT admins, how can we help our teams thrive in this pivotal moment as well as the next?
We’ve broken down the steps IT admins can take to ultimately set their entire team up for success as we all adjust to remote work.
How an IT Admin Can Support Remote Work
Step 1: Safety First
With changes in every part of their life, your workforce is focused on one thing first: their personal safety and that of their loved ones.
If you haven’t already shifted as much of your team as possible to a work-from-home model, now is better than never. This demonstrates to your people that you care about them and trust them, which is foundational for getting amazing work done.
For organizations that are already remote, now is the time to dot the I in information and cross the T in technology. Do your due diligence as an IT team to ensure you have taken all of the necessary steps to make remote work a sustainable practice. Fortunately, you’re in just the right spot for that—just keep reading!
Step 1.5: Professional Safety, Too
Safety also encompasses job security. People fear for themselves and their families in this tumultuous time. Economic downturn brings anxiety, period. Even when your company has prioritized personal safety by going remote, there can still be uncertainty in whether someone’s paycheck is safe.
You might not realize it, but as IT professionals, you have influence over job anxiety within your organization. Every time a tool or system functions perfectly, you’ve made what could have been a stressful day that much better. Simply put, you let people focus on their jobs instead of technology.
Take pride in this! Give your team members comfort that you are going to make it as easy as possible for them to take care of their responsibilities. You’ll ensure that they have the tools and systems to succeed to help them retain their jobs. People who can focus on their jobs instead of stressing about tools are more able to make a big impact.
Step 2: Make Remote Work Happen for Your Team
Once safety is covered, it’s about the technology—hardware and software. There’s good news here: According to Buffer’s “2020 State of Remote Work,” 98% of employees would like to work remotely at least some of the time. That means that what we’re all going through to support the necessity of remote work now will hopefully set up organizations for higher employee satisfaction in the future.
Whether you’re still in the process of streamlining remote work or you had to rush the process, let’s start at the beginning. You’ll need to ensure that everybody has systems that they can take home with them. If everyone doesn’t have a laptop, create a sign-out process for their desktop machines and any other equipment that they may need. (Psst … You can do this retroactively if your organization already let folks take technology home without a formal process.)
In the beginning, it may have seemed like we could get through this time with the bare minimum, but making employees work harder because of a lack of resources simply won’t benefit the bottom line. It’s not too late to set up your team’s homes with high-quality monitors, printers, other peripherals and even chairs and desks, if necessary.
Pro tip: Educate your team on how to adjust their screen resolutions, if that’s a feature on their computer. It’s not something the average computer user knows to do, but it can eliminate the need for a larger monitor and save a few headaches (literally!).
Step 3: Provide Access to IT Resources
The next tick on the checklist is to ensure that everybody knows how to access their IT resources. For better or worse, no one is walking over to your desk to ask how to login to their email anymore. (Actually, that’s almost certainly for the better.) Now is the time for education and self-serve training to benefit the entire team while we’re working away from the office.
If your organization is accustomed to a mobile environment, your users should know how to VPN into the network or securely access applications in the data center or elsewhere. If not, now is the time to teach them.
As with all times of change, there will be (and probably have already been) many questions. Tighten your process for accepting requests and answering questions. Survey the rest of the IT team for gaps and pain points that have come up in the initial months to ensure you can efficiently continue to support the adjustment period.
And, most importantly, take the time to document all of the pathways for people to be productive and do their work. Regardless of your company’s familiarity, this will enable better training going forward and give you resources to use when colleagues have questions.
Step 4: Manage the IT Fleet
Now that your team is generally enabled to do their work, you need to ensure that you have visibility into the entire environment. Ask yourself these important questions:
- Do you know all of the IT resources in use across your organization?
- Do you have full control over access to all IT resources?
- What about full control over their systems to ensure that you can fix issues, maintain security and configure and control their computer environment properly?
Insight into these mission-critical questions doesn’t always come easy, but it enables your IT team to manage, control and secure all systems. It’s also foundational to being compliant with regulations and company security policies (which don’t stop, even when the whole world does).
If any of the above questions gave you pause, we probably don’t have to tell you that something needs to change. Rogue IT resources threaten the organization legally and can be a financial drain—but the solution can be as simple as one tool to manage the whole suite. More on that later.
Step 5: Secure Your Now-Dispersed Environment
A key part of gaining control is securing the environment without making security the bane of your team’s existence.
Security isn’t a new imperative, so let’s revisit the six core activities we recommend here:
- Enforce unique access and segment resources.
- Lock down computers and servers.
- Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA).
- Implement full disk encryption (FDE).
- Enforce password complexity and MFA.
- Conduct regular security awareness training.
Don’t forget to train your team and provide strong guidance on how you would like them to operate to ensure security. Make compliance a team effort by explaining the why behind all of your security guidance to make it more tangible for people.
Can Your Technology Support Remote Work?
Your management tools will largely define your ability to operate securely. The right tool will make something essential like MFA seamless, ensuring end user security without adding friction to anyone’s day. If you’re not happy with your current system, now’s a great time to do the research to find one that makes everyone happy, from IT to the end users.
Of course, the exact features you’ll prioritize in your search will depend on your specific organization. To get you started here’s a list of the basics of what you should expect your IT management tool to do for you in this remote work period:
- Compliance-focused security. Look for password complexity management, multi-factor authentication (MFA), policy management, and SSH key authentication, plus whatever’s important for your individual organization’s priorities.
- Easy integration with all of your current tools. Does your team use both G Suite and Microsoft 365? A good management tool shouldn’t make you pick.
- A streamlined database that centralizes the IT environment. When all users and IT resources are integrated into a directory service, IT admins gain a controlled, automated environment.
- Provides easy-to-use single sign-on (SSO) to web applications. Secure, convenient application access is essential and made simple with SSO.
- Built to optimize your team’s productivity. Technology is only as important as the people who wield it. Choose technology that is intuitive and built with humans in mind.
While we may not have much certainty right now, one thing is for sure: Success largely will be built from home in the coming months and perhaps years. Being productive while also creating a healthy WFH culture is paramount, and IT teams have a huge role in accomplishing this task.
The steps we’ve reviewed above are an effective way to help your team feel safe physically and be able to succeed at their jobs. Here they are again, a bit more boiled down:
- Prioritize employee safety.
- Support teams with the tools they need.
- Provide seamless, managed access to IT resources.
- Maintain and, if possible, increase security.
Besides the supporting technology, the most important thing for these steps to be successful is the IT professionals guiding them! Remember how positive your impact can be during this stressful time and set your sights on not just reacting to this moment but proactively preparing your team for any remote working circumstance.
Recommended for you: Want more on how to be your team’s IT key to successful remote work? For the A-Z handbook that covers everything from password policies to directory integration, download the IT Admin’s full guide to working at home here.