IT | Security

The Absolute Software Guide to Remote Work

By: Absolute Team | 6/4/2020 | 11 min read

How to work collaboratively and securely no matter where you are

Working remotely, especially working from home, is the new normal. Companies large and small are adapting their companies and culture to allow people to work where they want. From start-ups to giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Shopify, more and more people are going to be commuting to a home office in their slippers instead of jumping in a car or catching a train. Remote work is here to stay and we all have some adapting to do.

While there are a lot of benefits to working from home, there are some things that are more complicated when you don’t have everyone under one roof and connected to a single network. This Absolute Guide to Remote Work covers the IT, managerial, and employee challenges with distributed workforces. Keeping employees engaged, productive, and—most of all—secure is challenging, but there are proven best practices that help ease the transition.

Managing People, Productivity, and Engagement

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Yes, remote work is great for attracting and keeping a wide range of talent. If everyone is remote, you can hire people from anywhere in the world. Yes, people can be flexible and balance work and life. Yes, remote work can even be good for the environment. However, working with remote, distributed teams isn’t all sunshine, rainbows, and roses. As Geekwire points out, switching from everyone in an office to everyone anywhere can be challenging. Most people weren’t hired to work remotely. They are used to working in an office with other people around. This “new normal” is anything but for most people.

One of the toughest parts for newly remote teams is keeping everyone in sync and productive. This task falls to managers who also have work that needs to get done, while being sensitive to everything else going on in their team’s lives. In our previous post 5 Tips for Managing a Remote IT Team, we hit a few ways for managers (and really everyone) to stay in sync:

  1. Have a 15-minute morning sync with your team.
  2. Over communicate (at least at the start) to keep people connected and feel like a team.
  3. Use the 3-minute rule. If it takes more than three minutes to write it in a chat, call.
  4. Keep the team organized with collaboration tools like Trello, Asana, or even a spreadsheet.
  5. Give yourself time to manage your own work.

The final bonus tip we’ll cover later—make sure everyone is working securely. Having employees at home (for now) or co-working spaces or coffee shops means people aren’t connecting to your nice, secure network. They are connecting to networks and Wi-Fi run by people whose job isn’t to set up and maintain secure networks. Your IT team and the geekier folks among you might have well maintained home networks, but chances are most employees don’t.

Use tools like Absolute Resilience to help keep employee devices secure even when they are connected to who-knows-what network.

Tips for Home Offices

Many of us at Absolute have worked remotely in the past. After adjusting to making your own coffee during the day, there are a few other tips that help make working from home a whole lot easier.

  1. A dedicated room with a door. Working at the kitchen table or in the living room might work for a week or so, but long-term you need a space where you can work and not be disturbed. Having an office creates a separation between work and home so working from home doesn’t become home is work/work is home.
  2. Better than average internet access and Wi-Fi network. It’s amazing how the good-enough-for-Netflix level of internet speed crumples under the weight of video conferences, shared desktops, cloud-based file sharing, email, and your team chat. Upgrading your Wi-Fi with newer equipment will help your network juggle all the simultaneous demands of work and home needs. Mesh networks are a great way to boost and improve your Wi-Fi network.
  3. A good desk and chair. Never underestimate the value of a comfortable chair and a desk with enough space.
  4. A second monitor. Two monitors make work easier. Sure, you can work on a laptop screen all the time, but it’s not the best way to go. Your eyes and back will thank you.
  5. Keyboard and mouse. I’m a bit of a keyboard snob and like trackpads over mice, but everyone can appreciate more space for typing and a separate mouse.
  6. Not just for listening to music, but for video/audio calls too. Headphones, especially with a microphone, keeps you from echoing on calls. With even a basic pair of headphones you’ll be easier to hear, and it will be easier for you to hear others. Yeah and the music part is good too.
  7. Set a schedule and keep it. One of the hazards of working from home is you’re always working at home. Have a time you clock in and a time to clock out. Also don’t forget to take breaks. You take breaks working in an office, make sure you take them in your home office too.

There are lots of other tips you can pick up for working from home efficiently, but if you start with these 7, you’ll have a good foundation for success.

Is Working From Home Actually Code for Shadow IT?

Okay, IT this part is for you

When people start working from home, they can get creative with their setup. And the temptation for trying every new productivity app, cloud service, and new tool is huge. This isn’t a bad thing, working from home is different than working from an office. You didn’t need video conferencing solutions with screen sharing when you could get everyone into a room and project your screen. Working from home and having meetings means you need videoconferencing now.

And that’s just the start.

People will find solutions to technology challenges to get work done. Chances are this drive is why you hired these people in the first place—they want to do their jobs and do them well—but this is also when shadow IT rears its head. Small teams of people will give a new tool a try. And then another team tries a different tool. And another. And another. Then you realize your company data is spread around the internet on more cloud services than you can count.

Yikes.

Before bringing the IT hammer down on people who are adjusting to working from home, remember your employees had good intentions. They didn’t decide to think outside the box to drive IT insane, they had a job to do. Embrace this passion and work with people to understand their needs and evaluate bringing some of the new tools into your IT toolkit. Help people understand the risks to company data (and regulatory compliance) when data is spread around and outside the company’s control. If some teams have started using Slack or Teams or other collaboration tools, help get people onto a single tool if you can.

And listen. Everyone is adjusting to strange working conditions that may, or may not, be permanent. If people understand the reasons why you need to have a handle on things, most people will be happy to help you.

Absolute has a suite of solutions that help you manage devices, even when they aren’t in the office. Absolute Resilience gives you  tools to push updates to devices, monitor for unapproved apps, and protect (and restore) settings like your VPN from a single console and some of them are available at no cost to Absolute customers right now to help them manage the sudden shift to remote work.

Advice for employees

When people started working from home, IT had a huge job keeping everyone and everything working. And a lot of the time, IT gets a bad rap as the people who say “no” and don’t let you get your work done because the “approved” solution isn’t compatible with remote work (like shared file servers). Our advice: Cut IT some slack. IT are truly unsung heroes as everyone switches from working in the office to working in their pajamas.

Imagine this: You need to explain how to bake a cake to your friend who doesn’t bake, doesn’t know all the names of ingredients, calls tools like measuring spoons “scoopers” and the oven “the hot thing in the kitchen”. Now you need to explain all this over the phone and your friend is baking the cake for a party starting in 15 minutes (by the way for those of you who aren’t baking yet, you need way more than 15 minutes to mix up batter, bake, cool, and ice a cake).

That’s what IT is dealing with when people need to set up VPNs, get video conferencing working, or troubleshooting problems. When you find a cool, interesting, or potentially helpful solution to make things easier working from home, work with IT not against them. Talk about what you need, why this solution is interesting, and how much it might cost.

One of IT’s most important jobs is to protect the security of the company’s data and networks. Unknown apps and cloud solutions could cause unintentional breaches, be incompatible with some hardware, or even be an outright scam, so a little caution is warranted right now.

Keeping Security Top of Mind but Out of Sight

If IT needs to keep everyone and everything secure, how do you do that without it getting in the way of work? Remember those anti-virus scans that would pop up randomly, that you couldn’t stop, and it took over your machine? Yeah, we all hated them, and IT did too, because it was obtrusive security. When security is obtrusive people want to find ways to get around it and get it out of their way. Which is why the automated security solutions from Absolute work in the background. Absolute Resilience has automated, customized workflows that keep devices up to date, secure, and protected—and even protected from people disabling them—without employees needing to do anything other than be connected to the internet. Absolute pioneered self-healing VPNs and now is no better time to tap into these technologies (which might already be embedded in your laptops) and keep everyone connected and secure.

Don’t just take our word for it—Customer Case Studies

Across all industries, remote and distributed workforces aren’t really new. As smartphone and laptops became more powerful and more employees were working on the go, new data security challenges emerged. Absolute customers Duarte Uniblogs.absolute.comfied School District, Asplundh and Los Angeles Bureau of Tourism rely on Absolute solutions like Absolute Web Usage, Application Persistence and Resilience to protect their companies, their data, and their users.

This video talks about how Asplundh has put Absolute into action:

https://youtu.be/guw1WwXS9pM

 

You might also like to read the Asplundh case study and others in our customer resources section to learn more.

How Absolute Can Help

Absolute is here to help you transition to a distributed workforce efficiently and securely. Absolute has made some of its most powerful features free to existing customers so companies suddenly having employees working from home have one less thing to worry about. If you’d like a sense of how powerful these solutions are, check out this Remote Work - Distance Learning Dashboard for look into the critical issues affecting businesses right now—and how Absolute solves them.

Contact us to get a demo of Absolute security solutions like Resilience and start securing your company, your data, and your employees regardless of location or device.