Imagine being able to get double the work out of your employees while simultaneously slashing overhead costs, padding your bottom line, and securing incredible loyalty from your staff.

Sound too good to be true? I assure you it’s not…

Small and medium businesses are drastically increasing productivity, cutting costs, and driving more profit to the bottom line, but how? Is it a new management style or marketing trend?

No - it’s telecommuting, which is a $5 word for allowing your staff to work from home or while on the road.

Sure it doesn’t sound very sexy when you first hear it, but when you see the bottom-line impact it has on profits and productivity and talk to business owners who rave about how much money it’s saving them, you’ll start to see what all the excitement is about.

One of the biggest fears many business owners have about allowing people to work from home is the loss of control they have over that person. They believe that without someone standing over them, employees will goof off during work hours and become LESS productive.

But the hard results prove very different…

Telecommuting has grown at a steady 3% per year for more than 15 years.  Currently, more than 23 million people are working from home at least one day a week.  The increase in teleworking programs is no accident – it really IS working.

Admittedly, original telecommuting experiments were “do-gooder” projects focused on being earth-friendly and generating business savings by reducing the use of high priced big city office space.  However, when businesses started seeing how it drastically improved turnover and productivity, this “fad” became a hot trend.

The Single Most Important Thing You Must Have In Place Before Starting A Work From Home Program Or Setting Up Remote Access For Road Warriors

Before you go “whole hog” with a telecommuting or remote access, we recommend conducting a small test where you (and possibly a few key managers) are set up to work from home.

Once you are comfortable with the concept, you may start allowing a few key employees to work from home one day a week or a couple of days a month. Or, you can simply allow employees to use it while traveling or if they are forced to stay home to take care of a child, on a snow day, etc.

But the single most important thing for you to do first is to find a very experienced IT consultant who will recommend and implement the right technology to support YOUR specific situation and needs. This is unbelievable important to avoiding expensive mistakes and unnecessary frustration.

 

So, here are 8 CRITICAL characteristics you should absolutely DEMAND from an IT Professional that you’re considering to set-up your remote office technology; DO NOT trust your infrastructure to anyone who does not meet these criteria!

There is no "one size fits all" solution; the best solution is greatly dependent on your specific business needs, the applications you use, how many people will be accessing your systems remotely, the available equipment and dozens of other factors.  That's why you want to look for a consultant who meets the following criteria:

 

  1. Look for a consultant who has experience setting up remote access and STRONG (and recent) client references.

Do you really want to be the person who “pays” for your consultant’s training?  I’ve found that the price to correct problems created by novices is much greater than the cost to do it right the first time with an experienced technician.  Ask for recent references and call them!  Past performance is generally a good gauge of future performance.

  1. Make sure they do a THOROUGH evaluation upfront

If your consultant doesn’t insist on doing a thorough evaluation BEFORE handing you a proposal, do NOT hire them!  If they don’t do their homework they could easily sell you the wrong solution, causing you to have to spend MORE money, MORE time, and have MORE frustration getting to what you really need.  Most consultants will do a quick, cursory review and provide a free recommendation (proposal) because they want to close the deal fast. Here is a short list of the things they should investigate or ask you:

  • What are your overall goals and specific objectives for allowing your employees to work from home or on the road?
  • How many employees will be working remotely? Will they be accessing the network at the same time or at different times?
  • What applications (including specialty or proprietary apps) and data will your employees need to access?
  • What type of devices will your staff use to access the network? (Home computers, PDAs, Blackberries, laptops, etc.)
  • What type of Internet connection will be available on the sending AND receiving end?
  • What levels of security do you want in place?
  • What level of monitoring do you want in place? For example, are there certain web sites and content you want “off-limits?”
  • Will the remote worker need to print documents?
  • What are your 1 year and 3-year plans for growth?
  1. Make sure they are able to TRAIN you and your staff.

So many computer consultants are great at installing the “stuff” but fall short on training you and your staff on how to use the great “whiz-bang” technology they’ve just sold you. Make sure you hire someone who is able and willing to do the “hand-holding” required when installing any new process or technology…we’re only human after all.

  1. Make sure they can provide help desk support AFTER hours.

One of the main appeals to teleworking is the ability to work at night or on weekends; that means you need someone to be “on-call” during those off-peak hours if you or your employees have technical problems logging in or accessing the network. The bottom line, if your consultant doesn’t offer after-hours support, don’t hire them to do the job. There is no benefit to having remote access if you have to wait until Monday or 9 am the next day for support.

  1. Make sure they INSIST on maintaining the network

Virtual office networks require more 'care and feeding' to make sure they work properly and stay secure.  You cannot "set it and forget it” or you’re asking for problems. Only hire someone who is prepared to perform regular check-ups and updates of your network, usually under a maintenance or managed services plan.

  1. Look for someone who can also solve the phone piece of the puzzle, not just the network access piece.

If you want your work-from-home employee to be able to make and receive calls and APPEAR as though they are in the office to the caller, then look for someone who can set up your phone system to work with your remote employee’s home phone or cell phone. Usually, this can be accomplished with VoIP technology (Voice Over Internet Protocol). Confirm that whoever you hire can either provide these services or has a partnership with a reputable vendor who has this expertise.

  1. Make sure your consultant is willing and able to be a vendor liaison for your specific business applications or other specialty applications.

It’s amazing how many critical applications work fine within the office network, but then slow down or shut down when accessed through a remote location.  It’s important to ensure that your consultant is able and willing to confirm that your applications will operate efficiently remotely, which means they may need to get on the phone with the help desk of one or more of your software vendors.  Some consultants do NOT offer this service or will charge you extra for it.

  1. Look for a consultant who has expertise in setting up employee monitoring and content filtering.

It’s more difficult (but not impossible) to protect company secrets and proprietary information when it’s stored in a location outside of your office. Therefore, make sure the company you hire has expertise in setting up and managing content filtering and security for remote machines.

Bottom line...

If you plan on catching up on some work from home AND you’re using a personal device such as a smartphone or personal laptop – DON’T! Unless your personal device is covered under our Managed IT Services plan, you could accidentally introduce a virus to the company’s network.

ONLY devices that are under our vigilant watch of patching, updating and monitoring should be used to work remote. Side Note: We can set up a way for you to work from home securely; call our office if you would like us to set that up 845-237-2117

If you'd like to learn more about what Meeting Tree Computer can do, or if you would like to schedule a free business IT consultation to see where your company stands and what possibilities are open for your business, call us today: 845-237-2117

Meeting Tree Computer is a complete technology solution provider and the leading IT Support and Managed Service Provider in the Hudson Valley Area. We're located Orange County, NY, but we service all of the surrounding areas including Dutchess, Rockland, Sullivan and Bergen County. Learn more about Meeting Tree Computer today!