Thanks to the pandemic, business leaders are letting more people than ever work from home if they can, and most companies are heading toward a hybrid work model. Even so, security and engagement are legitimate hurdles that can stand in the way of success. It’s critical to take simple but intentional steps to keep your remote workers safe and engaged.
1. Get everyone onto a VPN (gradually)
VPNs are virtual private networks. They basically create an encrypted connection or “virtual tunnel” to another network over the Internet. This keeps people who aren’t authorized from seeing your data or what you’re doing.
Eventually, everyone on your remote team should access your company’s network through a VPN. But to get the habit to stick and integrate it practically, gradually tighten the requirements about using the VPN over time.
2. Up your training
Many people who are working from home or who will in the future haven’t done it before to such a large extent. So they need specific training modules that can keep them from running into trouble in that environment. This can be more technical, such as how to log on through the VPN, or how to tap all the functionalities of your digital collaboration software. But you’ll need other information (e.g., how to spot a phishing email and why general workers are now targets instead of executives), too. At the same time, people who work remotely for you might have other unique training needs, such as how to set up an ergonomic desk at home. So, make specific modules on work-from-home security/safety available within your larger training platform that clearly communicate exactly what you need people to do.
The fact that people on your team are remote doesn’t mean they can ditch traditional training, such as your policies and procedures for engaging with customers. You can be flexible about how your remote workers complete these training points, but don’t let them fall through the cracks when it comes to getting it done like everybody else.
3. Create programs specifically for fun
Fun activities don’t just give your team a mental break. They also play a huge role in letting people see others as real human beings they can connect with. That’s more important than ever when you’ve got people who are remote, because distance can make it harder for them to feel like they’re part of the group.
At KnowBe4, we have people on a “shenanigans” team. Their entire job is to come up with entertaining, cool projects that let people have fun and look out for each other. For example, for Halloween, they set up an Alice in Wonderland drive-thru where workers could swing by and grab a care package. Even if you don’t have people dedicated to these kinds of activities, your HR team should spend time putting programs for fun in place. They just need to recognize the remote nature of teams and ensure that they can participate just as easily as the people who are working in person.
4. Emphasize personal wellbeing
When people come into the office, it’s easy for you as a manager to notice how they’re doing. You can see if they’re tired or stressed as you chat at the water cooler, for example. It can be easy for them to tap health resources like your office gym, too. When your workers are remote, though, you have to encourage them more to work on their immune systems and build their own personal health “firewall.”
So, create some programs that can motivate your remote workers to build healthy habits, such as getting enough sleep or eating right. You’ll hit this right if you involve them right from the start and ask them what they want and need the most.
Whatever you come up with together, set up your programs in a way that lets you ensure that people really are participating. They need to be easy to use and fun to do, and they shouldn’t feel like extra work or obligations. Rewards can get people on board and keep them using the programs. For example, we did a monthly “get your steps in” challenge with a variety of rewards available for the teams who collectively hit their quotas.
Remote is here forever, so keep people happy and safe in it
Remote work isn’t going anywhere any time soon. In fact, it’s probably only going to become a bigger part of business. Coming up with strategies to keep people safe and connected even if they work from home — and doing this sooner rather than later — is really to your benefit. Tackling your VPN, training, and both fun and wellbeing programs is a solid start. Collaborate to develop and integrate these essentials and you’ll be in great shape for the future of work.