Maintaining security with your remote workers

With more companies leveraging talent across the world and not limiting themselves to local employees, it’s important that both company and remote worker have the right tools in place to keep your sensitive data secure.

Think about it, if you’re using a VPN or connecting to the work network from home, you’re most likely transferring files over your home WiFi, which you’ve probably got a password on so this is fairly secure.

But what if you take your work to a public place, like a coffee shop? You connect to the free, public WiFi and then what? Do you take the necessary precautions to protect your files and your computer from being compromised?

First of all, don’t panic. There are lots of ways to ensure remote access security while you recruit remote workers…

Getting started

Work out what kind of access your remote worker needs in order to do their job. Once you have this, you can work back and plan the best way to share that information securely. Should an incident happen, thanks to logins and breadcrumb trails, you will be able to see the touch points and work out who was responsible, which is important for accountability and ongoing security.

Monitoring 

Cloud-based tools help managers stay in the loop, while keeping this whole process fairly unobtrusive. Try Time Doctor to keep track of remote workers’ hours or Hive Desk, which shows you how much time they spend on different projects. It’s important that remote workers don’t feel like you’re spying on them, but it should be clear between both parties that you expect a certain level of workplace accountability. Nowbridge lets you see who is there and if they’re free so you can get in touch with your remote colleagues easily. The live images, updating every few seconds, also give you an unobtrusive way of making sure that your remote workers are working. A different kind of monitoring, yes, but every little helps. There are lots of other benefits to using Nowbridge, which you can read about here.

Create and distribute a security policy

Every company should ideally have a company-specific security policy, which is shared with all staff. Whether it’s a written-down policy or regular meetings or training on the subject, everyone should know where they stand and what their responsibilities regarding the security of company data are. Bear in mind that this is a working document, with ever-evolving technologies and security threats, it should be updated regularly and staff should be invited to ask questions or make suggestions.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

At some companies, it is becoming the workplace norm to let employees use their own devices but this is something to be aware of, as they create weaknesses. It’s often the best option to mandate that all work be done on employer-supplied equipment, although this is only achievable with in-house colleagues who occasionally work from home, it’s something to bear in mind. Perhaps you could check whether your remote worker has the necessary spyware and protection on their home computers and provide if it they don’t.

Encourage strong passwords

Require internal and external colleagues to update their login credentials every couple of months, or however frequently you feel is appropriate for your business.

If you’re embarking on employing remote workers for the first time, it can seem daunting but the benefits far outweigh the risks, as long as you set a few things in motion from the outset.

 

 

How to manage a remote team

With the increase in remote working and the availability of remote job,  it can seem daunting to take the leap towards managing your own remote team. We’ve got you covered with some suggestions on how to make the transition and process a bit easier.

  1. Schedule a daily huddle – whether you use Google Hangouts, Skype, JoinMe or something similar, gathering the team together and running through what was achieved yesterday and the goals for today is really effective at keeping the team together.
  2. Use a platform that you can track projects/productivity that updates in real time – these are a fantastic idea for both remote and in-house teams as you are able to track the goals and progress.
  3. Check in regularly – communication is key and just as you might go and speak to one of your in-house colleagues for an update on a project, do this with your remote colleagues too.
  4. Set clear expectations for both the individuals and the team – individuals need enough work to stay busy and the team needs achievable goals to aim for. This helps everyone to feel involved and be accountable for their contributions.
  5. Make sure your remote worker still feel part of the team – make an effort to build rapport with every member of your team, include some small talk at the beginning or end of a conversation and get to know them, like you would with in-house staff.
  6. Utilize video as much as possible for catch ups –  more than half of human communication is non-verbal so having conversations with your team on video call will tell you a lot more about what’s going on than just speaking on the phone.
  7. Remember about their career progression – ensure that your remote workers make progress on their goals and understand their options for progression in the company and in their careers.
  8. Never cancel your one-on-ones – pick a regular time that works for both of you, obviously sometimes things come up that can’t be avoided but make sure you reschedule it for the next convenient time, don’t cancel it.

The main thing priority when managing a remote team is to ensure that that’s what you’re doing – managing a team.

Our software helps remote workers to stay a part of the team. By sending live still images every few seconds, Nowbridge shows you when your team are there. You can send instant chat messages, leave voice messages, initiate Skype calls and make it clear when you’re at work and when you’ve finished for the day. Try it today, it’s free and easy to use!

The importance of a work-life balance

The importance of the work-life balance in today’s world is on the rise, and a lot of people are realising that they aren’t limited to the job or industry they first started working in.

With the advances in technology, workers are now available around the clock. A huge number of people work considerably longer hours than they are paid for, and this can impact health, happiness and even relationships. Something has to give. A lot of people choose to work remotely, which gives them more control over their time but there are other ways to help with his.

Work-life balance means something different to everyone but here are our tips for helping you find your balance.

Learn how to unplug and embrace it

Technology is a wonderful thing but it has created expectations of constant availability and as such, we find it hard to switch off. Try to avoid checking your phone for the first and last hour of the day, this should help you sleep better and give you more control. If we constantly respond and react to work emails, we never stop working.

Make time for yourself

One of the first things that slips when we get busy is our self-care. Schedule in your exercise or meditation just as you’d schedule a meeting. It’s no secret that exercise is effective for clearing your mind and relieving your stress, so make time for yourself and make the most of those endorphins!

Try to avoid time-wasting activities

What is important in your life? Once you’ve worked this out, you’ll find it easier to prioritize your tasks and weed out things that are wasting your time and not contributing to your overall happiness. Focus on the things that reward you the most, both in your home and work life.

Set some boundaries

Make it clear to your colleagues that you’ll reply to their emails and get back to them within a certain time frame, if you need to set an ‘out-of-office’ reply every evening then so be it. Nowbridge helps you set these boundaries by showing when you are and aren’t at your desk so you can make it clear to your colleagues when you’re available or not. Find out more about it here.

Learn to let things go

Had a bad day? Don’t let it turn into a bad week. In the grand scheme of things, most mistakes aren’t the end of the world so don’t put extra pressure on yourself. Leave work at work, or at least try to! If you work from home, or regularly take work home with you, try to confine it to an area of your house like a home office or study and avoid letting it take over your home time.

Do what works for you

Whether you live to work or work to live, it’s important to do what makes you happy. On average, we spend around 90,360 hours of our life working so it has to be worth it for you.

Handy tools for remote workers

There has been a huge rise in the past couple of years of new software and apps to increase productivity, streamline connectivity and all in all, make it easier for both in-house and remote workers to improve the efficiency of their working days.

For productivity and project management there are the usual suspects, Trello, Asana, Jira and Axosoft, which crop up a lot in reviews and articles about remote working. Also Slack, which is technically more of a messaging app for teams, but you can do a fair bit more than that, including file sharing and prioritizing conversations into topics and themes.

Another clever tool for remote teams split across different time zones is EveryTimeZone, which shows you how the time zones of your coworkers overlap with yours so you can coordinate efforts more easily.

Google Cloud Print eliminates the need to print huge documents at home and allows you to send the documents to a printer at the office or, any printer in the world really! Speaking of clouds, Dropbox and WeTransfer are great for sharing large documents with your colleagues – you don’t need an account for the latter and can transfer up to 2GB a time as often as you need.

Need to drown out some background noise but find the radio or television too distracting? Try Noisli, a white noise app. You can pick and choose the high quality ambient sounds and see what works for you!

A new contender that we’re quite excited about is Moleskine’s Smart Writing Set, which lets you hand write your notes and see them transferred to an app on your phone, so they are instantly digitized. Eliminating the need to write up your notes or scan in diagrams or drawings to send to colleagues, this will save you time and reduce the risk of losing the work. We can’t wait to give this one a try!

Nowbridge is our offering; a remote working software that allows you to stay part of the team by sharing live still images every few seconds with your colleagues so you can see who is available and who isn’t. You can send instant chat messages, leave voice messages and even call someone on Skype from within the desktop app. There are a number of different photo filters available and the images are only shared with people who you allow to see you. It gives you a clear boundary between when you’re at work and when you’ve finished for the day and helps you stay part of the team, wherever you are in the world.

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Are there any other great apps or software we should be aware of? Let us know!

 

10 tips for staying sane when you work from home

Although working from home is pretty great, it can be tough to stay motivated. Here are our top ten tips for keeping sane and staying motivated.

  1. Get dressed, have a shower and prepare for work like you would usually.
  2. Make a list of daily tasks and make sure you do them, block out time in your calendar if you need to discourage colleagues from putting in too many meetings or calls.
  3. Try and stay out of the kitchen – we know it can be tempting to snack constantly when you work from home but try to have the discipline to resist, just as you’re being disciplined in everything else.
  4. Plan some social interaction – this is an important one, it can be lonely working from home. Whether it’s evening exercises, standing lunch or coffee dates with friends, do something.
  5. Change your environment – if you find yourself going a bit stir crazy, it can be a good idea to take your laptop, phone and work to a local coffee shop or a co-working space.
  6. Take regular breaks – either by doing the above, getting up and making a cup of tea or coffee, doing some laundry, taking the dog for a walk etc. If you find it hard to do these, you could set a timer for yourself.
  7. Work your way – if you like to listen to the radio or have the television on in the background or whatever it is, if that helps you work, do it. Whatever helps you work more productively, do it!
  8. Make sure you have the tools you need – a decent WiFi connection capable of video conferencing and file sending/downloading, a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones and potentially a decent microphone with a mute button or a headset – even better.
  9. Stay in touch with your co-workers and boss throughout the day – there are so many tools available to help you stay connected *cough* like Nowbridge *coughand other productivity tools like Trello or Asana. Stay part of the team!
  10. When your working day is finished, stop working – this is one of those easier said than done things…but it’s important. Whether you work 9-5 or you’ve found that you’re more productive working in the afternoon, you need to keep the boundaries between your work life and your home life.

We hope you found these useful! Have we missed anything? Let us know!

Communication is key with remote working

We all know the benefits of remote working for an individual: increased productivity, reduced stress, money saved etc. but understandably it can be a bit harder to comprehend for a business.

How will I know how whether someone is working? 

Besides ensuring that you hire the right kind of person, there are various ways to keep a track of your remote teams. Although you’ll see countless articles about the fact that if you don’t trust your employees, you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place, in reality this is more difficult to swallow.

We created Nowbridge for a number of reasons but one of them naturally eases this problem. Nowbridge sends images between you and your team every 15 seconds. You can control who can and can’t see you, send instant chat messages or start Skype calls and even leave a voice message for someone if they’re away from their desk, which they can listen to when they’re back.

In addition to the obvious things that this software helps with, it also gives remote workers a clear way of indicating that they are no longer working for the day. They can turn Nowbridge on for their working day and switch it off when they’re finished, making it clear to yourself and your team that you have stopped working.

The main thing we’ve learned from the many articles we’ve read about remote working is that the most important thing is communication. In order for remote working to be effective for both the employee and the business, communication is key. There are lots of different apps and types of software that you can use to track workloads and productivity, which make the work side of things easier but without good communication, things can easily slip.

With Nowbridge, you don’t need to be sitting near people to share the day with them – being seen by those who you are close to builds trust. You can communicate in real time and, more importantly, stay part of the team.

Have you tried it yet?

One way to improve communication and productivity at your company.

Although a lot of companies strive to improve communication and productivity, a lot of the time, this can fall by the wayside when urgent projects and deadlines take priority. Add in staffing/recruitment issues and budget cuts and it’s understandable that focusing on the needs of your current staff can slip. But communication and productivity aren’t just important for the managers, directors, executives, CEOs, they are crucial for the rest of the staff too.

What you might not realise is that communication doesn’t necessarily improve by being in the same office as someone. In fact, often the communication quality improves dramatically when one or both parties work remotely. For one thing, you make time to speak to each other. Often in offices, there’s the temptation to give someone a quick call or pop over to their desks. Convenient yes, but it’s likely that the other person is working on something else and isn’t entirely focused on your particular query. Therefore, you might be able to speak to them quickly but how likely is it that you’ve got 100% of their attention and understanding?

The increase in productivity that comes from working remotely or having remote workers is the subject of many an article, blog post and tweet. But the facts are hard to deny. With the loss of office noise, interruptions, necessary or seemingly-unnecessary meetings, remote workers can focus more on their work and also work during their most productive hours – that is, if the company allow flexible working. We mentioned in an earlier blog that by hiring remote workers, you increase your talent pool. If, for example you are on a different timezone to your employees, this can also mean that while you sleep, they might also be working on the project and can advance it significantly before you even start your next working day.

There are obviously other ways to improve communication and productivity in companies than by having a remote working policy but with all the benefits to both employee and employer that come from remote working, it shouldn’t be ignored.

Don’t forget to try Nowbridge, it’s free, easy and can make remote workers feel like they’re still a part of the team. Try it today!