Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer recently ignited a huge furor by disavowing support for telecommuting at the beleaguered Web firm. Many have criticized this decision, including fellow blogger Rob Enderle who argued that it was a huge mistake for Mayer to micromanage at such a level. Ultimately, only time will tell whether this move will serve to correct the unique human resource and cultural issues to Yahoo.
Regardless of the eventual outcome, the general outrage does make it clear that telecommuting remains very popular. With this in mind, we outline some ways that SMBs can optimize their business in order to better support telecommuting.
Set up VPN access
One of the most important steps to properly support remote workers would be to set up VPN, or Virtual Private Network access. This could be by means of VPN server software, or a dedicated VPN appliance. When configured properly, an encrypted VPN tunnel protects data in transit between the remote machine and the corporate network. This is useful not just when working from home, but also helps to protect users who may be accessing the Internet from an unprotected wireless hotspot.
Equip work force with laptops
Nothing beats the portability and convenience of working from a laptop, though tablets look to be gaining a gradual foothold. For now, a good first step for SMBs looking to facilitate telecommuting would be to equip employees with laptops to literally bring the workstation home. Remember to enable full disk encryption for all laptops to protect against data leakage from the inevitable devices lost due to either carelessness or theft.
Obviously, there are situations where laptops will not work, such as for engineers and designers who require additional processing oomph to work with complex CAD drawings or large art files. In general, executive, managerial and sales positions will likely benefit the most from being issued with a laptop.
Make the workplace laptop-friendly
There is not much point in equipping employees with laptops in a workplace that does not maximize its inherent portability. Moreover, the idea is for all work to be done from the company-issued laptops to minimize the difference between being at the office and telecommuting for the day.
With this in mind, SMBs would do well to have a speedy Wi-Fi network in place, as well as provide the appropriate peripherals to increase workers’ productivity. For example, a large-screen monitor and separate keyboard and mouse would help reduce eyestrain and make a laptop easier to use. Finally, it may also be a good idea to purchase an additional power adapter so that staffers have one less item to dig from their laptop bags in the morning.