Once all your technology is in place and your team is ready to head out into the field (or work remotely from home or wherever!) your company needs a documented “working remotely” plan so that procedures are streamlined and compliance can be tracked.
How do you begin to document your procedures for remote workers?
1. Documentation is key! It may feel somewhat obvious and rudimentary but the quickest way to cause a problem is to be unclear. Confusion is the last thing you want when your employee is on the road and can’t access important files. Therefore, open up a Word document (or your favorite word processing program) and carefully list all the steps employees must follow to access your system remotely. This includes email, files, etc.
Note: Don’t just create the directions from memory; walk through them so you don’t miss a step. Take note to explain any aspects of the process that might trip someone up. Remember, most employees don’t know the ins and outs of technology; your goal as an IT professional is to get them up and running without hassle. You should also document how your phone system administrator should be forwarding all the phone lines.
2. Create and distribute the instructions for each employee to follow when connecting to resources remotely. Take the time to run through the process with each employee to head off confusion and any problems.
3. Anticipate problems. Don’t assume everything will work perfectly all the time. Make sure to document steps remote employees should take if they do encounter difficulties.
For instance, if an employee is required to enter a username at a VPN logon prompt and it doesn’t work, suggest to the employee in the documentation that they try to enter their username with the domain prefix (for example, “domain\tsmith” as opposed to just “tsmith”).
Similarly, if an employee places an eFax to a phone number with a “1” or “9” at the beginning (which may be commonplace in the office when dialing an outside line), suggest the employee try the eFax with just the area code and phone number with no leading digits.
Pro Tip: Even with a great plan in place backed by solid documentation, it’s unlikely you will be able to anticipate every challenge that may arise for remote workers. However, you can do your best to cover the most obvious issues. You can attempt to make the documentation foolproof by removing any ambiguity. Spell out each step with detail and screenshots. Have a few trusted employees try the steps you developed on their own. If they have questions or problems, tweak your documentation to account for them. And, if an unexpected issue arises, make sure to document that “fix” in your instructions so you don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel.
4. Finally, test. This is the fun step! Choose a day (you should probably choose a “slow” day) and designate that day as the “working remotely test day.” Have everyone work from home that day and see how it goes. (If you aren’t able to allow everyone to work at home on the same day, split it up. Even people who don’t generally work remotely should test the system. There may be a day when they need to get access and should have a general knowledge that there are procedures in place.)
A. Can all employees reach email and file shares?
B. Can all employees VPN into the office network (if applicable)?
C. Are all employees receiving phone calls to their home or cell phones?
D. Can they dial out through the company phone system to mask their personal numbers?
E. Are the eFaxes being delivered?
To make sure that you don’t miss anything, create a checklist for everyone to complete. A simple bulleted list with checkboxes will suffice. Have them complete the checklist and return it after the test day. Here are a few key items to help you get started:
- Can your laptop reach www.google.com when on your home network?
- Can your laptop connect to the VPN (if applicable)?
- Can your laptop reach files on the server? Can you open those files?
- Can you open your email on your laptop?
- If you place a test phone call from your personal home phone to your office phone number, does it ring on the desired destination (for example, your cell phone)?
- If you call into the company phone system and dial out, does it allow you to place a call?
- If you place an eFax, does it appear to go through? Do you receive a confirmation from the eFax provider?
Bonus Tip: Be sure to have all applicable vendors on standby for this test in the event there are challenges. You don’t want this “slow” day to turn into a wasted day because nothing works like it should.