Your employees will still require some equipment in order to carry out their role. Most importantly they’ll need a desk, chair, laptop and an internet connection (not really equipment but still very important).
It’s likely that most candidates will have a desk, chair and internet connection so it’s unlikely you’ll need to provide any of these. These are the minimum requirements for new staff. Some companies provide their remote workers with ergonomic desk chairs to ensure they don’t wreck their back by working slouched in a beanbag. Sometimes these small benefits can help your employees feel more connected (i.e. they’re all sitting on the same chair) and more like a team.
One thing that your employees may not have access to is a high speed laptop or desktop. A computer with decent processing power is essential for remote work as there’s a strong requirement for multi-tasking, as well as using some demanding applications such as video conferencing software. If your employees don’t have a powerful enough computer, it will not only hinder them, it could hinder the whole team if you’re working collaboratively and unable to proceed with tasks when the affected user’s PC keeps crashing.
In order to ensure that your employees all have a computer that’s powerful enough to handle the tasks required of them, you have two options. The first option is that the employee uses their own computer and you put a minimum requirement for the PC spec within the job advertisement. The second option is to provide each employee with a new computer. Obviously, this is more expensive but it does have advantages. Not only does it solve the spec issue, it also helps you in setting up proper data security (as well as being a nice perk for your employees). Speaking of data security…..
Whether you decide to provide your employees with a computer or not, security is a key priority. When you’re distributed across the country/world, you’re trusting that your employees will keep your data safe. Even with every good intention, it’s very easy for one employee to leave a laptop or smartphone unattended in a coffee shop, putting your information at risk.
In order to guard against this, there are steps you should take to keep your company data safe. Most of these steps are easy to implement but will protect your information in most situations.
The first step is to password-protect all laptops and passcode-protect all smartphones. Ensure all employees lock their screen when not at the computer and set up an auto-lock after 5-10 minutes of inactivity. Require your employees to set up unique passwords for all online services they use including email. These passwords shouldn’t be the same as the passwords they use for their own personal use. Ideally, they should be generated by password management software which would also allow you to keep track of all passwords and re-call them when needed.
In addition to using complex, unique passwords, you can also oblige your employees to set up two-factor authentication which requires the user to enter an additional passcode once the password has been entered. This passcode is generated using an app on a smartphone which means the user requires both their laptop and smartphone to access the online service. Google accounts have this service in place and they also provide the smartphone app called Google Authenticator in order to complete the two-step verification. This service can also be used with other services such as Mailchimp.
The next step is to set up hard drive encryption which basically means that if the laptop is stolen, the thief would need an encryption key to access any of the data. In other words….they ain’t getting in! On a Mac, this feature is called “Filevault” and there are similar versions on other operating systems.
Next, you want to set up the ability to do a remote wipe (just to be extra sure). Macs and iPhones have this feature built in with the app “find my iPhone” which allows you to locate the device and wipe it remotely. If you’re using Apple devices, turn this on. If you aren’t using Apple devices, search for a remote wipe application than can be installed.
It’s very likely that if you’re running a remote company, you’ll be using a variety of cloud services for multiple business processes. This is due to the way they simplify collaboration and provide the ability to share information with ease. These services remove the requirement for setting up an internal network for your employees as you can collaborate on the cloud in real-time. This solves many of the security problems with setting up a network. However, as your data is being stored in the cloud, it is still vulnerable. Although this isn’t completely secure, the best way to protect your data is to promote good password practice with your employees and use two-factor authentication where possible.
By hiring employees (remote or non-remote), you’re trusting they won’t steal your data and run away to start their own business. Of course, there’s always a chance that this could happen, but hopefully it won’t. Many remote companies now champion a “transparent” approach to running their business where all employees have the same access to every file and piece of data that the CEO has access to, with some companies even providing full financial records. The idea behind this is that good collaboration requires openness and a “big-picture” view of the business for all employees. If this is too open for you, there are methods of putting restrictions on certain files so that only business owners can view these files. The simplest way to do this is to set up folders within a cloud service such as Dropbox, Google Drive or Office 365 and share each folder with the members of staff who require access.
The final step to ensure data security is to avoid using public wi-fi. This is a step that very few companies embrace as it puts real restrictions on where your employees can work. If you are offering a “work anywhere” option for your employees, many of your staff will probably opt to work in coffee shops or other public places. To remove this option from your employees would probably be a devastating blow so consider this carefully if you think it’s worth implementing.