Remote Work Best Practices

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Remote Work Best Practices

by James G. Barr

Docid: 00018018

Publication Date: 2203

Publication Type: TUTORIAL


For anyone who works primarily
with a computer, the era of remote work, aka telecommuting or telework, has arrived. Enabled by decades of technological innovations
from portable dial-up computer terminals to fax machines, personal
computers, the internet, smartphones, and the cloud, today’s global
information infrastructure allows millions of employees to work full-time (remote work) or part-time (hybrid work) from their home or other
non-enterprise location. Remote work is transitioning from an acceptance
phase – that is, remote workers will likely remain remote or switch to a
hybrid model, even as the COVID-19
pandemic recedes – to a long-term management phase in which employers
will seek to optimize remote work operations by identifying and
implementing best practices.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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For today’s “knowledge worker,” basically, anyone who works primarily
with a computer, the era of remote work, aka telecommuting or telework, has arrived. Enabled by decades of technological innovations –
from portable dial-up computer terminals to fax machines, personal
computers, the internet, smartphones, and the cloud – today’s global
information infrastructure allows millions of employees to work full-time
(remote work) or part-time (hybrid work) from their home or other
non-enterprise location.

Faulkner Reports
The Intersection of
COVID-19 and Information Technology Tutorial
Implementing a
Telecommuting Program Implementation

Although remote work was gaining in popularity over the
last two decades, the COVID-19 pandemic acted as a major accelerant.
Almost overnight, enterprise offices were emptied with office workers
retreating to their homes, leveraging their personal computers and internet
connections to conduct critical enterprise business. While hastily
arranged, this new business model allowed enterprises to conduct near
business-as-usual. From a public health perspective, it was also
instrumental in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Finally, this
expanded version of remote work was – and is – widely popular:

  • Employees like it, with many viewing remote work as a benefit, like a
  • Employers like it too. After an expensive ramp-up effort in 2020, some
    costs, especially facilities costs (for office buildings, parking,
    utilities. etc,) are set to decline. Also, employers enjoy a much
    larger, even global, personnel pool as enterprises can hire people from
    around the block or around the world. 

Today, remote work is transitioning from an acceptance phase – reversing
course to pre-pandemic work patterns is highly unlikely – to a long-term
management phase, in which employers will seek to optimize remote work
operations by identifying and implementing best practices. While still
emerging and evolving, these practices normally revolve around three
central themes:

  • Cybersecurity – Compared to corporate headquarters, the remote
    work environment is the proverbial “Wild West" with
    hackers taking aim at vulnerable home networks.
  • Personal Communications – Robbed of face-to-face interactions,
    critical communications (employer-to-employee and employee-to-employee)
    are more difficult to initiate and sustain.
  • Personal Engagement – Keeping a remote work force happy and
    engaged is hard, particularly when distance renders the
    employer-employee connection tenuous at best.

Cybersecurity Best Practices

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Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

While some enterprises rely on virtual private networks (VPNs) to ensure
secure connectivity, they are, as analyst Peter Newton observes, only one
element of access security. “If not already in place, it is recommended
that [enterprises] consider integrating [multi-factor authentication
(MFA)] into their remote security plans to prevent cyber criminals from
spoofing remote workers to gain unauthorized access to network resources.”1

For maximum security, at least one factor in any multi-factor scheme
should be biometric, typically a finger or facial scan.

Augment Network Access and Endpoint Security

In addition to implementing multi-factor authentication, Newton also
suggests augmenting enterprise network access and endpoint security. “As
more employees work remotely, [enterprises] have seen the need to control
the influx of non-trusted devices on their networks. By adopting [network
access control (NAC)] solutions, IT teams gain increased visibility and
control over the users and devices on their network. [Enterprises] also
have concerns over the security of remote worker endpoint devices and the
risks they introduce once they have been granted network access. This is
why [they] also plan to acquire or enhance endpoint security with endpoint
detection and response (EDR) solutions. EDR solutions deliver advanced,
real-time threat protection for endpoints both pre- and post-infection.”2

Practice Automatic Patch Management

As a general rule, software, whether operating system or application,
should be kept current by applying patches, especially security fixes, as
they become available. In the case of Windows, for example, Microsoft
provides two utilities, Windows Security and Windows Update, which will do
the job seamlessly and automatically unless the user intervenes. For best
results, avoid interfering.

Upgrade Home Office Systems

Remote workers should cooperate with enterprise IT officials to upgrade
their home office systems to a level of functionality and security
normally associated with central office environments. The costs, which
would be absorbed by the enterprise, would be offset, at least in part, by
increased productivity, enhanced security, and, not to be underestimated,
improved remote worker morale.

Physically Secure Home Office Systems

Protect home office systems from loss, theft, or contamination. First
steps include the following:

  • Establish a secure space – perhaps a spare bedroom with a lockable
    door where all “office equipment” will reside.
  • Prohibit family members and friends from using this equipment for
    personal purposes.
  • Attach PCs and other information devices to desktops or other
    permanent surfaces using cable locks. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Flexguard Standard Cable Lock

Figure 1. Flexguard Standard Cable Lock


Train Additional Cybersecurity Professionals

Supporting a distributed workforce requires extensive central office
resources, including cyber resources. Since cybersecurity professionals
are in short supply, the enterprise chief security officer (CSO) should
launch a program aimed at training security staffers and others in how to
support remote workers. Topics might include:

  • Detecting and diagnosing computer problems
  • Safely and efficiently upgrading hardware and software
  • Reminding workers about “acceptable use” restrictions
  • Emphasizing fundamental security rules, like not opening attachments
    from unfamiliar sources
  • Hearing and responding to worker suggestions and complaints, both security
    and non-security

Plan for Permanent Remote Work

Remote work and hybrid work have evolved into permanent fixtures, not
temporary accommodations due to COVID-19. The enterprise CSO should plan
accordingly, devoting appropriate resources to the following security

  • Network security
  • Endpoint security
  • Mobile security
  • Cloud security
  • Branch office security
  • Home office security
  • Regional security compliance [including, for example, adherence to the
    EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California
    Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)]

Communications Best Practices

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Devise a Communications Strategy

Good communications helps form the foundation of any successful
enterprise. But with fewer central staff to attend in-person meetings,
fewer opportunities for managers to walk among their workers, and fewer
chances for managers and workers to engage in casual conversation around
the proverbial water cooler, many of the traditional means of maintaining
interpersonal relationships are either disappearing or becoming less
relevant. Connecting and communicating with colleagues around the world
(and in different time zones) requires a concerted strategy – a strategy
that ensures:

  • Regular contact with each and every enterprise member regardless of
  • A rapid response mechanism that enables remote workers to report and,
    if necessary, escalate any significant concern to enterprise management
  • A well-established community of peers to which each remote worker can
    turn for professional counsel and personal fellowship

Select “Culture-Boosting” Remote Work Tools

Quantum Workplace, a firm that helps clients improve employee engagement
and performance, believes that enterprises should employ remote working
tools that “streamline communication, enable collaboration, and reduce
friction.” As examples, they cite four “culture-boosting” tools: Zoom, of course, but also:

  • Slack, which features “water-cooler chats and sub-channels for
    special interests”
  • Lucidspark, a virtual collaboration tool with an “infinite
  • Blink, a remote work management app that “optimizes mobile
    employee experiences”3

Arrange Team-Building Challenges

Figure 2. Enhance Team Effectiveness Through Team-Building Challenges

Figure 2. Enhance Team Effectiveness Through Team-Building Challenges

Source: Pixabay

As travel budgets and pandemic restrictions permit, enterprise officials
should arrange periodic in-person meetings where remote workers can gather
to work and play, even participate in group challenges to build teamwork,
trust, and mutual confidence.

Conduct Worker Satisfaction Surveys

According to Quantum Workplace, “[to] build a strong [enterprise]
culture, you first need to understand what your current culture is, and
how your employees experience it. The easiest way is to ask!” The most
efficient way to ask is to send out a regular survey.

The survey should be anonymous, to encourage candid responses, and all
three segments of the workforce should be represented: non-remote workers,
remote workers, and hybrid workers. On a scale from “I strongly agree” to
“I strongly disagree,’ workers should be encouraged to react to the
following statements:

  1. I believe in the work we do.
  2. I understand and support my role in the organization.
  3. I have the tools I need to perform my job.
  4. I have the support of my manager.
  5. I have the freedom to express myself without repercussions.
  6. I can influence the course of my work.
  7. I am treated with respect.
  8. I am adequately compensated for my level of contribution.
  9. I receive recognition and rewards for my achievements.
  10. I prefer to remain a non-remote/remote/hybrid worker.4

The summary results should be revealed to all employees, along with an
announcement of any enterprise actions prompted by the results. This will
invite more worker feedback, which should result in:

  • Better working conditions
  • Higher worker productivity
  • Greater worker satisfaction
  • Reduced worker attrition

Engagement Best Practices

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Establish a Classless Work Environment

It is easy to see how the old proverb, “out of sight, out of mind,” can
come to apply to remote workers. It is also easy to see how damaging that
perception can be, as workers who feel invisible, both literally and
figuratively, are often prone to:

  • Under-performance or non-performance
  • Hostility toward co-workers, business partners, even customers
  • Sabotage, both professional and personal

Enterprise officials should create and cultivate a working environment
that is location-agnostic, using teleconferencing, preferably video
conferencing, to simultaneously engage all members of a particular work
team or other enterprise collective.

Importantly, since information is the currency of modern commerce, any plans,
proposals, or just raw ideas that are shared with workers who exist along a
manager’s line of sight should also be shared, as appropriate, with workers who
occupy seats in branch offices, home offices, or hotel rooms. Equal treatment,
including the perception of equal treatment, is essential.

Recognize and Reward Achievement

The best way to engage remote workers – and keep them engaged – is to
publicly recognize – and reward – their individual achievements. It’s the
surest sign that their manager and other enterprise officials are aware of
their efforts, and appreciate the value they bring to the enterprise, each
day, every day.

Depending on enterprise policy – and worker preference – rewards can

  • A one-time cash payment
  • A salary boost
  • Paid leave
  • Paid vacation
  • A commemorative plaque or certificate
  • A combination of the above

While being careful not to diminish the honor by rewarding trivial
accomplishments (no participation trophies, please), render the reward
process a regular enterprise activity.

Provide Professional Development Opportunities

Like their non-remote counterparts, remote workers should be able to
pursue a career path, complete with professional development
opportunities, including time off and reimbursement for:

  • Continuing education courses, conferences, or seminars
  • The pursuit of a professional certification
  • The pursuit of a college or university degree

Offer Mental Health Services

The psychological effects of full-time remote work – which can include
social isolation and accompanying depression – are still being studied

Importantly, individuals under stress – whether from remote work or other
cause – may be inclined to ignore enterprise security policies, or even
engage in illicit activity that threatens enterprise interests. They may
also produce less, thus dragging down their enterprise teams.

Enterprise officials should ensure that their workers – remote or
otherwise – have access to mental health services:

  • First, as a medical measure, to relieve worker suffering
  • Second, as a operational action, to improve worker productivity
  • Third, in the case of remote workers, to determine if a particular
    individual is temperamentally suited to remote work. Some are not.

Respect Workers’ Personal Time

Remote workers often have difficulty separating their work life from
their home life since both are conducted from the same space. Managers and
team members can aggravate the situation by treating remote workers as
always on, always available. While they may not physically leave an
enterprise workplace at the end of their work day, their availability for
after-hours or weekend work should be limited to avoid frustration and,
ultimately, burnout.

Consider setting a no-emails-after-6PM policy, or no-work-on-weekends
standard. Also, regularly check-in with workers – remote and non-remote –
to ensure they’re not being overworked. “[Allow greater schedule
flexibility so workers can manage their time in a way that works best for

Develop an “Onboarding” Process

With remote work a new norm, enterprise officials should establish
procedures for onboarding remote workers. Recruiting firm Robert Half
offers a prospective process. Highlights include:

Ship the hardware before Day One – Promptly supplying new remote
workers with the information infrastructure they need is a sign of
respect, and helps enable them to
hit the ground running


Show the big picture – Within the first week, schedule an online
orientation with HR to discuss enterprise culture, values, mission, and

Establish realistic responsibilities – Beyond the technical stuff,
remind remote workers that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a
core enterprise value.

Encourage a supportive team culture – Promptly connect new remote
workers with their team members. “Keeping a weekly or biweekly team
meeting on the calendar for project updates and to brainstorm
problem-solving ideas will help build relationships and staff cohesion.”

Train you new remote worker – Importantly, query new remote
workers after their training and welcome their feedback.

Create a coaching plan – “Given the isolation of offsite work,
it’s ever more important to keep the lines of communication open and
provide opportunities for questions and feedback. Schedule frequent and
regular video check-ins to go over goals, challenges, and concerns.”
Consider assigning personal mentors.6

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About the Author

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James G. Barr is a leading business continuity analyst
and business writer with more than 40 years’ IT experience. A member of
“Who’s Who in Finance and Industry,” Mr. Barr has designed, developed, and
deployed business continuity plans for a number of Fortune 500 firms. He
is the author of several books, including How to Succeed in Business
BY Really Trying
, a member of Faulkner’s Advisory Panel, and a
senior editor for Faulkner’s Security Management Practices.
Mr. Barr can be reached via e-mail at

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