We’ve all seen how remote work has gone from a luxury to a necessity. What started out for many as a backup plan quickly went from a distant possibility to an urgent need. Tech support professionals in many organizations were not prepared for the sudden burst of remote workers.
That’s mainly because many remote workers weren’t exactly prepared – most enjoyed the convenience of having easy access to IT support. With the sudden surge in working remotely, it’s time for all hands on deck. Here are a few ways IT pros can enable remote workers to be better… well, remote workers.
5 Ways IT Pros Can Support Remote Workers
For many, the opportunity to work from home seems like a dream come true. Visions of pajama pants, unkempt hair and couch-based team meetings abound, but remote working isn’t all butterflies and rainbows. The reality is that many workers have to contend with home-based distractions that can sometimes curb productivity. If you want to encourage productivity, suggest these tips to your end users.
1. Help End Users Define Their Workspace
Our homes are our safe space. It’s where we go to decompress and do the work of living. But that has changed for many of us, and rather suddenly. When your living space becomes your workspace, it can be difficult to separate the two.
Even if a separate room isn’t available, encourage remote workers to find a dedicated workspace. It’s best to lay out clear rules and focus on defining a space for everyone who would normally share it.
From an IT perspective, this may mean reminding people of common best practices like locking their devices when they step away so children and pets don’t accidentally message the CEO (or do something worse). It could also include establishing new guidelines around technology usage – where do you draw the line between professional and personal use when people are at home 24/7?
2. Set (and Follow) Schedules for Being On and Off the Clock
With so many possible distractions at home, a schedule can help users stay focused on the task at hand. This also helps to ensure end users are attending to mental and physical health needs, which can stave off burnout.
CompTIA chief technology evangelist James Stanger is a 20-year remote-work veteran and knows the challenges of working from home.
“Most people are not ready for the steady stream, the constant pull,” he said. “You need to work in breaks and physical exercise.”
IT pros and their end users can both benefit from setting clear expectations around when they are and aren’t available – for both work and for personal needs. Making everyone aware of when you’re available to answer questions or offer help will minimize the number of unnecessary distractions and help set boundaries between work and your personal time.
But even with a schedule, our attention sometimes gets pulled away from the task at hand. Prompt end users to set a “no disruptions” time where they turn off phones and notifications, close email and keep distractions at bay. Using a dedicated time to focus on necessary tasks will increase productivity.
3. Teach End Users How Technology Can Enhance Productivity
Preparation is often the key to success. Enable the end user’s ability to successfully work remotely by limiting distractions. Think about what they need to do their jobs effectively and supply it whenever possible.
There are many productivity tools available that can help end users do their jobs more effectively.
- Project management tools to define tasks
- Communication tools to enable collaboration
- Productivity settings and tools to help limit distractions from messaging and email
“There are times when you create isolation and times when you un-create it,” Stanger said. “Don’t be afraid to use features to isolate yourself from social tools.”
Whether your organization already has tools that can do this or you identify new ones that can benefit your end users, share with them your suggestions for how to use them effectively.
4. Update All Systems and Applications
System updates ensure optimal functionality and deploy necessary patches. Failing to install updates leaves end users vulnerable to cybersecurity threats and limited functionality.
“Do updates as much as possible,” Stanger said. “Updates are very important, when they’re available.”
He also suggested developing a resource where end users can download secure versions of any needed software.
“Always update from a secure source,” he said. “Have a central repository where your users can download software.”
Ensuring safe and secure software downloads not only improves security, but it also eliminates discrepancies between software versions that could hinder functionality. Having control over which software end users are downloading can help reduce threats posed by social engineering.
5. Guide End Users on How to Optimize Bandwidth
With a large remote workforce, having enough bandwidth can be a challenge.
“You’re going to have various spikes, and it will cause bandwidth issues,” Stanger said. “When you’re working remotely, you have to get deeper into the tech you’re using. You have to understand it better.”
Help end users become more comfortable with their at-home systems by offering basic troubleshooting tips, such as how to increase their bandwidth and network functionality. This may involve simply rebooting network equipment, including modems and connected Wi-Fi equipment.
Encourage users to also contact their internet service provider for help. They may offer updated equipment that can easily increase bandwidth or suggest quick, easy and inexpensive solutions to optimize connections.
Stanger also recommended that end users should shut down apps that aren’t being used.
“Chances are you’re probably going to be working between several different platforms,” he said. “Now you have all of those running on your computer. Most of the online conferencing programs don’t take up much memory by themselves. But if you have multiple ones going, that can be a process hog and can cause problems. Learn how to access those apps and shut them down.”
With a large-scale remote workforce, supporting end users may mean thinking outside the box. Give them the tools they need to be productive, and you’ll find that the demands on IT may seem a little less frequent.