In today’s modern business, with its global schedule and corresponding extended work days, telecommuting can mean the difference between productivity and high productivity. Telecommuting reduces the time and money wasted on physical commuting. It also can help to reduce absenteeism, alleviate office-space problems and aid in work-life balance.
But there are issues that prevent many companies from taking advantage of this alternative work method. One of these is security — telecommuters might use laptops while they’re on the go, but what if someone’s laptop is stolen? Or even worse, what if someone working from home or out of the office exposes the company’s IT infrastructure to a virus?
IT pros can avoid these types of incidents by putting all content on a server as opposed to a home system or laptop computer. The information also will be available to other portable devices such as BlackBerries, which means anyone in the office can use it.
A virtual private network (VPN) can secure connectivity between telecommuter and company because it makes the system harder to hack.
A VPN is a viable option only in a well-organized, well-equipped IT infrastructure, however. If an organization’s infrastructure is not up to snuff, the system will get bogged down, and productivity will suffer as telecommuters twiddle their thumbs while they wait for programs to load.
Also, there should be a company policy that states the rules of telecommuting and firmly establishes what software will be used, as well as at what time.
Without such a policy, security is the least of the issues that might result — telecommuters could overwrite files if they access the same device as an in-office colleague at the same time, which won’t make them very happy.
The policy also might require that only company-issued laptops be used by telecommuters. This is advantageous for many reasons.
For instance, people are less likely to surf the Web on a company computer, and surfing the Web brings with it a higher risk for picking up a virus or spyware.
Further, telecommuters can be required to regularly bring in company regularly so they can be maintained and cleaned. This ensures licensed copies of anti-virus and anti-spyware are in place and fully functional.
Regular laptop maintenance at the home office reduces the need for a telecommuter to have technical expertise and puts them firmly into the end-user role, which means they can focus on work.
A telecommuting policy also could determine where a company-issued laptop can go. For instance, no plugging the laptop into certain networks in which sensitive company information might be compromised (such as a competitors’ office).
One of the most common detractors to telecommuting is the lack of face time or actual contact between telecommuter and home office. Web cams could be used to address the issue and facilitate off-site, real-time and asynchronous collaboration.
Alternatively, if there’s concern over who is and is not participating when they said they would, people could be required to log in to regular meetings, and the logs can be tracked to keep telecommuters honest.