10 Ways to Help Employees Handle Telecommuting Technology Wisely

telecommuting technology

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I’m a big fan of telecommuting – and no wonder. In a recent survey by Staples, 71 percent of telecommuters say the ability to telecommute is a big factor in their decision to accept a job, and 67 percent say they’d give up other perks in order to telecommute.

There’s a lot written about the productivity and retention benefits of telecommuting, but what about the technical side?

Staples discovered that technology is one area where employers who allow telecommuting often fall short. In fact, technical difficulties are the biggest complaint respondents have about working from home.

Below are 10 tips for making sure your telecommuting technology tools are on track.

Make Sure They Have the Right Equipment

You can let employees “BYOD” (bring your own device) or provide devices for them to use.

The most valuable telecommuting tool for Millennials is a smartphone according to the survey, while Generation X and Boomers say their laptops are most useful.

Don’t Forget Furnishings

Repetitive stress injuries such as back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome are often more likely to occur at home or out of the office, since employees may be sitting at tables in coffeehouses, using laptops on their couches and not sitting in a the most ergonomic position for computer use.

You don’t need to provide employees with desks and chairs. But you should educate them about the importance of creating an ergonomic workstation in their homes, taking regular breaks to stretch and rest their eyes and taking steps to prevent injury.

Stress the Importance of Data Backup

Whether employees use their own devices and/or computers or company-provided ones, it’s important to make sure they understand the importance of protecting company networks and data.

The Staples study reports companies aren’t doing a very good job of this. Just one-fourth of telecommuting employees in the survey say they have been trained on data backup/security best practices.

Provide a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

When employees work in public places like the local Starbucks or the airport, security can be a challenge. Using public WiFi networks puts your data at risk.

Consider providing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) instead. This encrypts files on the computer and data sent online so only those with authorization can access them.

Consider Providing the Tech

If your employees deal with a lot of sensitive data, such as customers’ financial information or medical records, it may be worth providing laptops and smartphones.

When tech tools are company-provided, you can control what software is installed on the devices, regularly update the software and install patches. You have less control when employees use their own computers and devices, which may be shared with family members and riddled with viruses.

Investigate Cloud Storage Thoroughly

If you use cloud storage to provide telecommuting employees with access to data, make sure you know what level of security the cloud storage provider offers. Also make sure you know what responsibility they take if your data is breached.

Generate Passwords for Them

Creating strong passwords and changing them regularly can help protect the data employees access online.

Use password generators like Norton Identity Safe or SecureSafe Pro to create and remember complex passwords and educate employees on the worst passwords to use.

Provide Collaboration Tech

Provide telecommuters with software to handle instant messaging, teleconferencing, video conferencing, VoIP services and anything else they need to communicate with the team back at the office.

Provide Tools for Prying Eyes

Often, the simplest measures are the most effective. Data can be stolen not by hackers, but by someone looking over your employee’s shoulder on a plane trip or in a coffee shop.

Use tools such as screen filters and lock screens with passwords to protect data from prying eyes or to shut down devices when not in use.

Educate About Physical Device Protection

Remind employees about the importance of physically protecting their computers and devices, especially when they’re out and about.

Some of the biggest corporate security breaches have occurred when employees left a laptop in plain sight in a car that was broken into. Supply employees who work outside the office frequently with laptop locks.

When it comes to technology, educating your team is the most important step you can take to make telecommuting not only productive – but also safe for your business.

Plane Photo via Shutterstock

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.