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If You Have Remote Workers, Then

If you have remote workers, then how you manage your business and employees has, and will continue to change. We often talk about the technology that makes remote work efficient and that can help integrate teams. But supporting remote workers requires a broader perspective and understanding of the workplace.  As employers, we remain responsible for providing a safe, effective workplace regardless of where our employees work. Here a few considerations as you plan your hybrid and remote work strategy.

If you have remote workers, then you …

  • Are responsible for their work environments, including the same health and safety regulations that apply in the office.
    • Ensuring safe and appropriate workspace ergonomics, sound levels, lighting, etc. are responsibilities of the employer.
    • Provide your remote workforce with appropriate furniture, lighting, and ergonomic tools.
    • And yes, an employee working from home might be eligible for Workers’ Compensation if they trip over their dog while working.
  • Need to accurately track and manage working hours for non-exempt employees.
    • Avoid wage and employment related liabilities by ensuring hourly workers are compensated for all work time, including when they respond to the random off-hours email.
    • Setting clear policies and expectations can help avoid work hour, wage, and employment issues.
  • Are responsible for ensuring their work is secure.
    • Remote work environments must be managed and secured to the same levels as those working in the office.
    • Data privacy regulations, such as HIPAA, PCI, and SEC17, do not end at the office door.
    • Networks, systems, applications, and data require the same levels of protection regardless of location.
    • Similarly, physical protections must be in place for printed documents.
  • Can be accountable for intellectual property stored on personal devices.
    • Establish a clear policy and procedures for the use of personal devices for work.
    • Include the need for the company to install software or tools to manage the business’ information on the device, including but not limited to cyber protections, personal/work data separation, local encryption, backup/recovery, and the ability to remotely remove work related data in an emergency.
  • Want to avoid “in-person” bias.
    • Remote workers need mechanisms to participate in the informal conversations and interactions we take for granted when working in an office environment.
    • Supervisors and managers should help workers establish and build effective relationships, including those that offer mentorship and guidance, with direct co-workers and others in your firm.
    • Measures of performance should, explicitly, avoid the implicit bias that in-person visibility correlates to better involvement and teamwork.
  • Should understand the tax implications for your business, and employees related to working remote.
    • Having employees in other tax jurisdictions can make proper payroll tax withholding and filing more complex.
    • States may or may not have reciprocal agreements and some states are imposing new rules.
    • Remote workers may create nexus in some jurisdictions, triggering sales tax and other tax obligations.
    • Work with your attorney and financial advisors to understand your requirements and to ensure compliance.

Your Next Steps

Cloud technologies help facilitate remote work and hybrid work environments. You can deploy systems, apps, and tools to make remote and hybrid work efficient and secure. Remote and hybrid work models, however, span every aspect of your business.  Policies, procedures, operations, and culture all require attention, planning, and support.

Work with your legal and financial advisors, and your HR resources, to ensure  your remote/hybrid plans will benefit your business.

7 Tenets of Remote User Support

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As our workforce and working style continues to be more mobile, more small and mid-size businesses are facing the challenge of supporting remote offices and mobile users. These remote workers may be flying solo in home offices, co-working spaces, or shared office suites, or may be part of larger remote site.

While the adoption of cloud solutions can simplify remote user support, these 7 tenets can save you time, money, and aggravation.

  1. Security
    Beyond strong passwords, ensure that the work of your remote users is as secure as those working in the office. This means providing secure access via company-managed applications and services (not personal apps), encrypting any local data when appropriate, and making sure machines and devices are physically secure.
  2. Automation
    Whenever possible, tap automated solutions for distributing software, updates, and services. Centrally managed IT services save you time and money, prevent mistakes or missed updates, and remove an IT burden from individual users.
  3. Upgrades
    Create a policy with respect to upgrades and new IT apps and services, and back the policy with responsiveness to end user needs. Your remote workers will find and install personal apps that help them do their jobs, which may or may not be in sync with your company’s needs or requirements, and can lead to data loss and other liabilities. Ensure your employees understand that you look at upgrades and new tools regularly and are open to vetting their suggestions. If you don’t or won’t provide a solution, they may move forward without you, and at your peril.
  4. Preventative Maintenance
    For users running on Mac OS, Windows, and other legacy operating systems, scheduling preventative maintenance (PM) will avoid performance problems and prevent failures that can cost you much more time and money. Verifying that systems are up to date, defragmenting disks, and replacing aging equipment on a regular schedule will keep your team happy and productive. PM also gives you an opportunity to confirm users are complying with company standards and policies, and to dispose of aging equipment before it becomes clutter.
  5. Point of Contact
    Every remote worker should have a clear point of contact for technology issues and support. In addition to helping with questions and problems, the point of contact should serve as an advocate for remote users’ needs and a resource for orienting and training new staff on your policies and procedures. While larger remote sites may have an on-site point of contact, they can be remote and effective.
  6. Communications
    Think beyond providing remote users with high speed network access at their desks. Remote users need fast, reliable communications while mobile. And, communications go beyond connecting devices. Remote users need voice, fax, and conferencing capabilities that are as seamless (if not more so) than those working in the main office. Customers should not need to know that somebody is remote as services should work transparently. Ease of use is key to avoid frustration.
  7. Repair and Replace
    Stuff breaks. Have a plan in place for local repairs or fast replacement. Spending a day figuring out how to repair or replace a broken device does nothing more than create a day of lost productivity.

Regardless of your technology infrastructure, these 7 tenets provide a framework that will enable your remote and mobile workforce to succeed without burdening them with informal IT responsibilities.