The Olympics period is drawing nearer – and with it the threat of travel chaos.
Throughout the capital and beyond, businesses are being warned to expect employees to be unable to get to work. For many firms, particularly in the East End, the disruption will be severe.
If your business is likely to be affected by the Olympics, you need to start thinking about the realities of remote working. We have compiled a quick-start guide to help you prepare for the Olympian challenge of running a business through the Games.
In the first instance, it is worth remembering that remote working is not suitable or practical for every business. Furthermore, within businesses remote working may be suitable for some employees and not for others. If you are running a shop, for example, your cashiers clearly can’t be working from home.
You should take steps to identify which of your workers is ‘at risk’ of travel disruption and, of those, which can reasonably work from home. In cases in which remote working is not practical, you should consider other ways in which you can mitigate the potential impacts of the Olympics. Read more about Olympic preparations for your business.
If remote working is possible, you may well need to provide your employees with some equipment. For example, you may need a number of laptops. Although you might well expect your employees to have computers of their own, it is almost always best to provide them with dedicated work machines – not least for security reasons, as explained below. Remember that remote workers may also need miscellaneous pieces of equipment like printers, scanners, and shredders.
There are also practical considerations when it comes to billing. If your employees need to make phone calls, you should consider providing them with a dedicated phone in order to ensure that there is no confusion between personal and business use. This principle might also extend to facilities like internet connections.
Security is a vital concern when it comes to remote working. You will need to take extra steps to ensure that your business and your employees remain safe while they are out of the office.
Data security is one of the most important factors to consider. At the very least it is vital that sufficiently robust antivirus and firewall software is installed on the computers your employees will be using. It is always recommended that you provide employees with devices specifically for work, in order to ensure that this software is properly installed, and that there are no existing infections.
Depending on the nature of your business you may also need to provide a means by which your employees can connect to your business network from home. You might, for example, have to install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to ensure that remote workers can connect securely. VPNs allow users to connect to your network over a conventional internet connection, and are therefore a more cost-effective solution than the old leased line system.
You should also remember physical security. If your employees are storing documents or equipment in their homes, make sure that you highlight the importance of ensuring that the building remains secure.
You also need to take steps to ensure that remote workers are properly managed. You need to strike a balance between too much contact and not enough; you need to trust that they will complete their work, while ensuring that they don’t feel entirely cut off from the rest of the organisation.
Again, technology can help you to achieve this. Rather than sending endless emails, consider alternatives like instant messengers or Skype. These allow you to keep in contact in a simple, effective manner – and, just as importantly, they are free. Read more about managing remote workers.