As working remotely becomes a standard offering instead of an emergency allowance, some firms struggle to properly manage the compliance of their remote workforce. When employees are able to work from other provinces or states, or even other countries, there’s sometimes a disconnection between compliance measures, location tracking, and policies – not to mention facilitating effective collaboration and communication tools. 

With a properly implemented remote workforce, firms can see greater collaboration between employees, stronger employee engagement, access to global labor pools, and the same security levels seen at in-office environments. Here are some of the key benefits of a connected and organized remote workforce. 

Improved informational sharing

Some staff members working at home might hoard needed information. The modern business runs on data, and information hoarding can limit innovation and hamper the customer experience. This problem existed decades before COVID-19, but for some companies, remote working exacerbates data hoarding. 

At-home workers sometimes do not use the corporate cloud networks to store data, or they mix their personal and work data into the company’s network. This also puts pressure on IT to maintain data compliance standards, and to stay within employee privacy guidelines if data is blended. However, there’s an opportunity with a properly implemented remote workforce to increase collaboration through better information sharing. IT can give remote staff better processes to share data through new technology or procedures. This could include directions on deleting old emails, files, and other non-essential content, as per company and any regulatory guidelines. It offers an opportunity to reduce the amount of such data, so that more insights can be drawn from the data that matters. It’s also a way to stop “cloud sprawl”, which happens when firms navigate a number of cloud providers and structures, such as hybrid, private, and public clouds. 

Reduce silos with collaboration

Leaders in IT and corporate should work together to reduce remote work silos. According to one study of Microsoft workers published in the journal ‘Nature Human Behavior’, people working from home during the pandemic became more siloed. They were less dynamic and were not as likely to make new connections within their company, compared to when they worked in the office before COVID-19. 

Correcting this problem could require adding communication tools, like Slack, to a firm that previously used just email or personal device texting. The Microsoft employee study notes remote work requires changing communication methods: “For example, previous research has shown that establishing a rapport, which is an important precursor to knowledge transfer, is impeded by email use, and that in-person and phone/video communication are more strongly associated with positive team performance than email and instant message (IM) communication.” 

C-suite executives and IT leadership that improve communication will see broad benefits. These include better collaboration, improved innovation, transparency, and trust between departments and the end consumers. 

Lowered security risks

A globally operating remote workforce presents a host of security challenges. Firms can manage these risks and capitalize on the expertise and productivity of global teams by managing security with the right policies and technologies. Here are some proven ways to reduce exposure:

  • As collaboration and data sharing improve, there’s increased strain on VPN networks. IT needs to bolster VPNs to handle the bandwidth strain while also ensuring data is fully encrypted and protected from outside agents. 
  • Require strong passwords with multi-factor authentication and encourage changing passwords frequently. Firms are also headed towards biometrics such as fingerprint and even voiceprint as a way to confirm identities that’s much more difficult to hack. 
  • Firms should consider providing employees with corporate laptops and phones to prevent blending of personal and professional data and tasks.
  • IT teams that put in place strict remote work security policies on the front end can then free time for revenue-generating projects and innovation, instead of managing a disconnected group of global workers. They can improve collaboration tools, utilize AI, perform data analyses, and other functions that spur innovation and growth.

The productivity gains from remote work only happen when companies develop strong remote workforce structures. This requires a breadth of policies and changes including: improving information sharing, adding collaboration tools, and shoring up security to ensure workers can access data without potential devastation of a breach. In the broader sense, remote workforces need some structure and predictability. For example, when managing global teams, you might need to set variable meeting times to account for time zone differences. Workers need to know what others are doing within the organization, and understand how their role fits into the bigger picture.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
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Scott Turner
Scott Turner is an experienced global mobility professional with more than 12 years of experience. Prior to joining Equus he worked in global mobility compensation and payroll. In his current role as a director at Equus Software, he owns all product marketing and internal/external learning activities. He received a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) focused in Finance from University of South Africa.