As of March 27, an estimated 16 million U.S. knowledge workers were working remotely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This number has almost certainly risen even higher over the past month, making working from home the new normal. Even before the pandemic, however, remote work was becoming an increasingly popular option, with a 159% increase in remote work from 2005 to 2017. Spurred on as a side effect of the pandemic, remote work is likely here to stay.
For companies across an increasing array of industries, the exponential rise of remote work now means adapting to a rapidly evolving business landscape with an increasingly dispersed workforce. For managed services providers (MSPs), the developing challenge of remote work is providing the same level of IT support and expertise—with remote technicians supporting customers who are also operating remotely. To best equip employees to help fulfill their customers’ needs, you need to create and enforce strong remote work policies.
Setting up a policy that best supports your own business and customers calls for you to pay special attention to your team’s particular workflows, the tools your technicians use to meet customer needs, and the scope of support you provide your partners. Taking each of these factors into account and designing a policy accordingly can play a pivotal role in supporting effective remote work. Additionally, investing in the tools necessary to monitor and manage your customers’ IT infrastructure remotely is more important than ever.
What does it mean to work remotely?
Typically, remote work means leveraging digital tools to access business networks, work with proprietary information, and connect with team members in order to coordinate ongoing projects and operations from any location. Although we currently face unique challenges due to the nature of the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, there’s no doubt remote work will continue to be part of the modern workforce’s vernacular in the future.
Businesses will need to solve a variety of challenges as they transition to remote work, whether on a full-time or part-time basis. They may need to settle on new metrics of success, figure out ways to check in with teams regularly to ensure everyone is in the loop, and establish new methods of looking after the well-being of their workers from a distance. The businesses that respond best to these and other challenges will be best equipped to handle remote work today and in the future.
It may appear you’re in a strong position when it comes to remote work, because you may already be well-versed in remotely monitoring your customers’ IT infrastructures. However, as your customers also potentially shift to remote work, your infrastructure may be put under strain as you adjust. You’ll then face the challenge of working remotely while also supporting a distributed customer workforce.
What extra tools do technicians need during remote work?
With that in mind, your technicians will need additional support uniquely suited to their workflows. For example, having the capacity to track potential issues in customers’ IT infrastructures requires just as much technical bandwidth while working from home as working from the office. Technicians will need similar hardware to the kind they use in the office, as well as software designed to handle the peculiarities of remote work.
For example, technicians who have relied on multiple screens to track critical metrics over various dashboards and tools should have the same tools at home. Supporting these tools will also require powerful internet connections. Working to support any connection needs employees may have can go a long way in ensuring the same level of remote productivity you’re used to. Additionally, the rise of remote work calls for careful consideration and investment in cybersecurity tools designed to protect business activity from interference by bad actors. For example, a robust password management tool can help ensure active passwords are secure and can help implement granular access control based on various levels of permission.
Keeping your data and your customers’ data secure can be challenging when many traditional remote monitoring solutions expose vulnerabilities for bad actors to exploit—which is why MSPs will need support from powerful tools built to help.
Setting up a remote work policy
To set your technicians up for success, your first step is to set up a clear and comprehensive remote work policy. Doing so will provide them with a set of expectations and guidelines, giving them a firm foundation from which to execute their responsibilities and feel supported in turn. To set an effective remote work policy, you’ll need to balance your own worker needs with that of your customers. Here are some key steps to keep in mind when creating your policy:
1. CONSIDER EQUIPMENT NEEDS
Employers should make available all the equipment necessary for employees to successfully complete their roles. Expecting workers to maintain consistent productivity depends on them having the necessary hardware and software to meet customer needs. In turn, employers should consider setting minimum requirements for home internet connection strength.
2. SET CLEAR GUIDELINES AROUND AVAILABILITY AND SUCCESS
To make sure employees and managers are on the same page about expectations when working remotely, it’s critical you put in writing exactly when (and how) you expect employees to be available. Clarify during which hours you expect workers to be available, how responsive they should be during that time frame, and what metrics of success they should aim to hit from a managerial perspective. It’s recommended to establish metrics of success that focus on outcomes rather than hours.
3. OUTLINE EXTRA PRECAUTIONS AND REQUIREMENTS TO MAINTAIN SECURITY
Remote work has been known to potentially expose new vulnerabilities that may cause concern from a security perspective—especially when handling customer data. Remote work policies must explain the necessary steps you expect your technicians to take in order to keep your information and your customers’ information secure. This may include avoiding work over public Wi-Fi, reserving the most secure tools for the most sensitive communications, and similar measures designed to ensure that they can access customer IT infrastructure safely and securely without creating possible openings for cybercriminals.
Investing in the right tools for remote work
Making this kind of remote work policy a reality calls for investment in powerful, versatile tools that make it possible to work efficiently from one dashboard. With SolarWinds® N-central®, you can leverage powerful remote monitoring and management tools to track customer networks and resolve issues before they affect end users. From automated patching across thousands of devices to alerts designed to improve customer uptime—even while working remotely—consider how N-central can play an essential role in your remote work strategy.