Remote Working: What you need to know when starting out

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We hosted a free webinar on Thursday, April 23 at 12 p.m. EDT to help small businesses learn more about transitioning to remote work. Request access to the recorded webinar here.

pointA is no stranger to remote work – we typically worked remotely several times per month, but now that we’re all working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re thankful we took the necessary steps to be able to work remotely. Over the past few months, we have been working on shifting our operations to be entirely online. Our free webinar will go into more detail about our story, but here are some things we’ve discovered and things you should keep in mind when getting your organization ready for remote work. 

When we started planning our own transition, we thought that we only had two options: (1) become a virtual office (much like what the world is doing these days); or (2) move into a co-working space with a more flexible rental contract.  

In the end, we created a hybrid plan that will include working from home, renting a dedicated desk at a co-working space, and using Flex Day, an app that connected our team with a network of hospitality and co-working spaces around the city for one-day rentals. (Note: Flex Day temporarily suspended access to its network as a result of COVID-19 as of March 13, 2020.)  

We decided on this approach because of the nature of our team’s various positions, work preferences, and home office setups. Some staff prefer working remotely from home most days, while others liked the variety of spaces that Flex Day offers and gives them the opportunity to work together. Regardless of individual work styles, we decided that we would still meet weekly for in-person team meetings at a co-working space, though these days we just have remote meetings.  

We found that there is no standard definition of remote work because it is inherently designed to be flexible. Just as there are a litany of traditional office spaces, there are also many remote work options.  

Regardless of where you are working, maintaining security and privacy is mostly common sense, such as creating a complex password, changing passwords regularly, and using two-factor authentication.  

In addition to introducing anti-virus programs and firewalls on computers, additional security and privacy measures we have implemented include: 

  • Keeping work and personal separate – Do not access work emails or information on a personal device or vice versa, and in some cases, do not sync work calendars to personal devices if invites include confidential attachments or agendas.
  • Conducting confidential transactions over a private network only – Do not access financial records or online banking on a public wifi network and keep these activities to private networks (at home or through mobile data) only.  
  • Consider filtering your data through DNS shields – The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) offers free access to the Canadian Shield, which blocks malware and phishing attempts and threats and keeps your data safe. 
  • Be clear about who has access to what – Limit access to sensitive information and files to those who need it most.
  • Set up remote wiping of data and hard drives – Most computer operating systems and devices allow data to be remotely wiped if devices are misplaced or stolen. 
  • Check the privacy policies of not only the services you use, but those of your vendors.
  • Add passwords to online meetings or do so over secure/encrypted networks – Online meeting platforms can be hacked or unwelcomed visitors may join your calls. Add a password to the meeting that is sent separately to attendees, disable automatic video conferencing, and always have someone monitor the participant list.
  • When in doubt, just pick up the phone – If you get a strange email or need to share sensitive information, do not respond via email. Pick up the phone to confirm receipt and contents.  

The list above is not exhaustive, and we encourage you to consider how your business operates, what is considered confidential information and find ways to protect your data.  

Being in the same office all the time makes it easy to communicate freely and quickly. Remote work can make this tricky because you may not know if someone is available and because written text can be misinterpreted much easier than spoken word. It is important to be intentional about communicating more by scheduling regular calls, especially when everyone first starts working remotely.

Open communication is integral to maintaining team culture and one’s mental health. It is still important to connect even when working remotely by conducting phone or video meetings instead doing work over email or chat, to make sure staff get the time to socialize while working together. 

Perhaps one of the most surprising things about working remotely was realizing that there are a lot of spaces that can make a good workspace. Aside from cafes and co-working spaces, we have worked in public libraries, out of friends’ workplaces or homes, on public transit, in subway stations, and large hotels and convention spaces. As long as you have a laptop, and an internet connection, you can do non-confidential work almost anywhere! (Note: We would recommend continuing to observe the security and privacy measures mentioned above. When in doubt, work offline and sync work later when you are on a secure network.) 

Hiccups happen. Sometimes our team has to be their own IT expert (with the help of Google of course!), at other times we’ve had to try a new solution when one didn’t work.  

Just as much as you have insurance policies, backups, and contingency plans for your office, remote work is the same. We have backups for the backups (no USB sticks or external hard drives that can be misplaced) and contingency plans in the event that something goes wrong. And we build in redundancies in our processes in case someone cannot work or get to something.  

Setting up remote work can be daunting, but the benefits of doing so are clear. In times like these, the ability to adapt to remote work helps organizations remain resilient. If you want to learn more about how to transition to remote work, sign up to receive a free recording of our webinar

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

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