Monday, March 2, 2009

Set up a Remote Office Securely and Productively

As more businesses try to get their costs under control, some are considering giving up some or all of their office space. They're encouraging more employees to work remotely so that the business can move to smaller quarters with lower rents or rent out some portion of their existing space to other businesses.

This can be a smart way to wring more efficiency out of your budget, but it does leave one question: how to make sure employees stay productive and coordinated, no matter where they're working. Here are a few measures you can take to set up a "virtual office" that delivers the same results as your old physical office:

  1. Set up a VPN (virtual private network) that allows employees to securely access company servers and share files.
  1. If you're not already on a VoIP (voice over IP) phone system, think about switching over. It can save you a lot in long-distance bills, plus you can seamlessly forward calls from the business number to an employee's home phone. VoIP phones can also forward voice mails to email so that employees don't miss calls while they're away.
  1. Find a good web conferencing provider so that you can hold impromptu meetings and share documents even when you're not all in the same place.
  1. Don't forget about security. Every home office should be equipped with a locking file cabinet and a good shredder so that documents are as secure offsite as they would be onsite.
  1. Stay in touch! The biggest problem that many physically distributed offices experience is a breakdown in communications because employees suddenly become allergic to the phone and prefer to conduct everything by email. Encourage people to pick up the phone if it's going to take more than two rounds of email to resolve an issue.

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