Remote Workers: Qs, Best Practices, Resources

Written by Rajat Bhargava on March 12, 2020

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Remote working is the reality for many organizations around the world right now, but it had been on the rise prior to current events, too.

Beyond its ability to keep employees safe and healthy in the current moment, remote working has the potential to give people a more flexible work life and give businesses and IT departments the chance to save money and move forward faster.

Here’s every fact you need to know, every question you need to ask, and every resource you need to use when you — or your organization — makes the switch to remote work.

Remote Work Facts (with the Stats to Back it Up)

  • Remote work is on the rise. Telecommuting and remote workers have steadily increased around the globe, with Global Workplace Analysts reporting a 173% increase in non-self-employed telecommuters from 2005 to 2018. In fact, a recent IWG poll of 18,000 business professionals around the world found that 70% of them telecommuted at least once a week.
  • Remote work saves money.  Financial perks apply to both the business and the worker. Global Workplace Analysts estimates the typical business saves $11,000 a year per half-time telecommuter. The average telecommuter could save $2,000-7,000 annually on transportation and other expenses.
  • Remote working may increase productivity. Workers tend to be 11-20% more productive when they get to tackle creative projects remotely. When they’re doing repetitive work, they tend to be 6-10% less productive, according to Inc. Ultimately, the results depend on good management, accountable employees, and the right IT tools.
  • Remote work introduces security risks. 6% of employees admitted to transferring files between work and personal computers when working from home, according to Cisco. Nearly 70% of those surveyed said they did not think about being overheard when speaking about company information in public spaces.
  • Employees prefer it. People like choosing their work environment so much, 37% of technology professionals would even take a 10% pay cut if they could telecommute, according to Global Workplace Analytics. If you’re looking for a way to attract better employees, offering them remote work may just tempt them to accept your offer.
  • The average remote worker is… a 49-year-old college graduate who earns about $58,000 a year and belongs to a company with more than 100 employees. Gender is nearly even. “Most research says it is at least equal between men and women,” reports Alina Tugend in the New York Times.

Questions You Need to Be Asking Remote Workers

What makes an employee a good candidate for remote work?

“A great worker isn’t necessarily a great remote worker. There are plenty of exceptionally talented people who work far better in an office environment,” says Alex Turnbull, CEO of Groove.

Turnbull recommends asking these questions:

  • Have they successfully worked remotely before, or run their own business?
  • Do they base their decisions on what’s best for themselves, or for our customers?
  • Are they willing to take calculated risks without asking for permission?
  • Are they confident enough to know when it’s time to take a break and recharge, whether it’s an hour for a walk or a week for a vacation?
  • Are they highly available and communicative?

Recruiting company Recruiterbox said telecommuters should be communicative and collaborative, comfortable working independently and with little direction, focused, curious, and tech-savvy.

What makes a good manager of remote workers?

Managing a team across the hallway is a very different endeavor than managing a team across the world. The task is both personal and technical.

Meghan M. Biro gives us some insight in Forbes:  

“As an entrepreneur who works with virtual teams… I must be self-aware, in tune with my skills, capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. It also requires me to be empathetic, emotionally intelligent, sensitive to what others need, and willing to provide the tools necessary to success — not just a mission statement and goals, but the communications and technical infrastructure to empower virtual teams.”

Is remote work a good fit for my industry?

Not every industry is built for remote work. Here are the top fields for remote workers, in order, according to a 2010 U.S. Census Report on working from home:

  • Service (18.0%)
  • Management, business, financial (14.5%)
  • Office and administrative support (13.9%)
  • Production, transportation, and material moving (11.9%)
  • Sales and related (11.1%)
  • Education, legal, community, service, arts, media (10.8%)
  • Health care practitioners and technicians (5.5%)
  • Computer, engineering, science (5.2%)
  • Other (9.0%)

What are the security risks?

Remote work implies extending the boundaries of your business/organization to the cloud. You can lock your physical office behind brick walls, but when a remote worker’s work device is stolen from a coffee shop, your organization’s credentials and resources are on the line.

Cisco conducted a study that found that remote workers engaged in the following risky behaviors:

  • Transferring files from a work device to a home device
  • Using personal communications on a work device that does not meet security standards
  • Speaking of company information in a public setting where others can hear
  • Not using a laptop privacy guard in public

What is your IT strategy?

You must ensure all workers have access to the IT resources they need by provisioning the requisite access to both internal and external applications.

Make certain that the client communicates securely with the server. This can be done through secure HTTP, via other secure protocol such as IMAPS, or by encrypting and tunneling communications through a VPN.

You should be able to (1) grant and withdraw user rights to applications, and (2) provision/deprovision centrally. This is possible with a cloud-based directory service.

Remote Work Best Practices

Just Do It

“The people who are allowed to telecommute now tend to be the oldest, highest paid, and most trusted employees. I call it the 5 percent privilege. Businesses need to get past that.”

Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics

Remote working is on the rise all over the world. But it’s far from meeting its potential.

As many as 26 million Americans work remotely at least part of the time, and the number has been on the rise. Now — and when you look toward the future and consider integrating remote work into your company culture — consider the following strategies.

Interview Remote Workers Differently

Working from home requires a different skillset and a different type of person. Before you hire a remote worker (or allow a current employee to work from home), you should interview them specifically about their remote work habits.

Esther Schindler at IT World recommends you ask these seven questions:

  • Have you ever telecommuted before?
  • Tell me about your (home) work environment.
  • How comfortable are you with troubleshooting connectivity?
  • Tell me about your daily work rituals.
  • How do you prefer to communicate with colleagues?
  • Tell me about your remote project tracking experience.
  • What are your concerns about working for this team as a telecommuter?

Ensure Your Remote Teams have the Right Tools

Here are some of the essential requisites for a remote team:

  • A good work space
  • A reliable internet connection
  • Reliable and compatible devices
  • Access to company tools and apps
  • Webcam and video conferencing capacity
  • Access to company documents and resources

Some of these are basic responsibilities of the employee; others require the company to take responsibility for extending their infrastructure securely to the cloud.

IT Must Gain Central Control Over User Devices

This is a security essential, in case of user termination or device theft. But it’s easier said than done, right?

If you’re using Microsoft® Active Directory®, it may be tempting to use a VPN tunnel between the remote work device and the home office. But the best method for AD is to extend it by using an identity bridge technology. This allows you to manage remote devices without VPNs. These solutions effectively mimic the AD user store as a cloud-based service — and allow admins to federate AD identities to and manage resources traditionally outside the AD purview, including Mac® and Linux® systems.

This cannot be achieved through a conventional on-premises directory alone without significant networking hurdles. Cloud-based identities can be stored and controlled through a cloud-based directory service, such as a Directory-as-a-Service. As changes are made to the central directory in AD, they are bridged by the cloud-based service to the remote work device.

A Directory-as-a-Service can provide an IT admin the following control over remote devices:

  • Password management
  • Account lockout   
  • Local firewall configurations   
  • Browser privacy   
  • Security settings
  • Full disk encryption management
  • System monitoring and insights

Admins can also opt to have tasks run daily (or more) to ensure all devices stay in compliance.

Make a Remote Work Policy

Amy-Mae Elliott at Mashable said, “A remote work policy should be drafted in addition to a standard employee contract.”

Elliott advises that you consider privacy issues (“Are they fine with work mail coming directly to their home address or do you need to put a redirect in place?”), equipment and insurance (“Who pays if something breaks?”), and security (“Will you be assisting your employee in ensuring they have a secure home network?”).

Some companies offer to cover some remote work expenses. This could include the phone bill, internet, heating, electricity, and even water costs. Elliott said, “You need to clarify just what you are prepared to contribute toward, and just as importantly, what you expect the employee to do in order to claim such expenses, such as provide copies of bills.”

Global Analytics offers a free remote work policy sample. You can also check out this example from eCornell and this editable template from the HR company SHRM.

Track Hours, Value Results

It’s important for remote workers to carefully track their time — and there are plenty of good tools online that can make that easy (e.g. Toggl or Harvest).

But more important than a remote worker’s hours is their output. The ultimate metric of success is results.

Make Room for Slacking

Probably the biggest obstacle to remote work is the idea from management that their employees will be slacking off on the job at home. Doesn’t it just irk you to think of paying someone an hourly wage to lean back in their pajamas with a bowl of Cheerios and a full Netflix queue?

This is valid concern — and you should carefully track employee output — but not only do managers need to let go of their paranoia about slacking, they should actually embrace it. At least a little bit.

“Water coolers matter. A lot,” said Alex Turnbull, “If you want your remote team to have any semblance of camaraderie, you’d better provide a water cooler for them, too.”

Turnbull’s remote team at Groove implemented Slack, an instant messaging platform and collaboration hub. We use Slack at JumpCloud, and we love it. We even featured it in our guide to building a customer service-driven IT department, including a Slack-native helpdesk system.

One of the biggest drawbacks to remote work is the loss of the sense of community and socialization that the office provides. Studies indicate that happier and more connected workers are more productive. So encourage water cooler talk with your remote staff.

Make Remote Work a Bit Less Remote

Communication with remote workers will likely be a daily occurrence — and it should be. But there’s a big difference between email and face-to-face.

If possible, schedule weekly in-person meetings with your remote workers. If they’re further away, then make it a weekly call. Once every six months or so, an in-person check-up is advisable, even if that means a significant commute. If distance makes any in-person interaction impossible, than at least go face-to-face using video chat.

If you’ve got a whole remote team, then consider planning yearly team retreats where everyone comes together — in person, in the same city — to re-connect.

Remote Work Resources and Recommended Reading

How to Embrace Remote Work — PDF

This 29-page resource from Trello is a breezy read, with advice from companies that embrace remote work.

GitLab’s Guide to All-Remote — web page

GitLab bills itself as the world’s largest all-remote company, with more than 1,200 employees around the world. Company leadership has compiled a thorough guide that explains why they believe all-remote working is the way of the future and includes tips and other resources they’ve gathered.

18 Tools Our Remote Team Uses to Stay Connected, Productive and Sane — web page

From Zoom to Teamweek, Alex Turnbull at Groove provides great value with this list of tools, apps, and coping strategies his team employs remotely.

How to Grow, Manage, and Work with Remote Teams — ebook

This ultimate guide from Wade Foster and Zapier is specifically written for people looking to manage remote teams.

25+ Sites for Finding Remote Work — web page

Looking to find remote work? This page on Skillcrush is a good place to start.

Going Remote: Transitioning from In-Office to At-Home in 3 Days — webinar & guide

This is JumpCloud’s own story about transitioning from in-office to all-remote in a matter of three days, and the lessons our IT team learned along the way.

We’ve also compiled other resources to help IT departments prepare for remote workers:

Any Questions?

We’ve done everything in our power to jam-pack this page with every essential fact, question, best practice, and resource on remote working… but you might know something we left out. If so, drop us a line on our contact page.

More about JumpCloud

We’re a fast growing startup with a big vision in Colorado. Learn more about how our cloud directory service securely connects user identities to systems, apps, files, and networks.

Watch the video below to learn more about our vision for directory services:

Rajat Bhargava

Rajat Bhargava is an entrepreneur, investor, author, and CEO and co-founder of JumpCloud. An MIT graduate with over two decades of high-tech experience, Rajat is a ten-time entrepreneur with six exits including two IPOs and four trade sales.

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