Since the advent of the Internet, the way that global businesses go about their work has changed in about every way imaginable. As an unlimited global communications tool, the Internet has made it possible for companies to operate over geographic distances that would have been unheard of before (especially for companies without enough resources to maintain local footprints all over the world). Today, even the smallest businesses can support remote workers all over the globe without maintaining costly or complex infrastructure.
There are plenty of reasons for small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) to embrace remote workers, not least of which is the amount of overhead savings that may be realized by lessening reliance on branch offices and all they entail. Providing flexibility for employees also helps SMEs recruit and retain top talent at a time when competition is fierce at every level. There are, of course, preparations that SMEs need to make if they’d like to support remote workers. To help them along, here’s a look at how SMEs can support a modern mobile workforce.
Enable real-time communications
One of the hurdles that SMEs must overcome if they’re planning to rely on a mobile workforce is the fact that they’ll need to plan ahead to maintain collaborative efforts when key employees aren’t physically together. That means they need to create a communications infrastructure that is available at all times and from anywhere. The core of such systems, for most businesses, is a hosted VoIP phone system solution. Hosted VoIP makes it possible for employees to have calls directed to their cellphones or landlines at whatever location they’re working and to function as if they were sitting at an office desk. Most of the commercially available options include phone extension apps for Android and iOS so remote workers can use their personal phone as a business extension. Some can even integrate with chat systems like Slack to provide seamless transitions from text-based communications to one-on-one or one-to-many phone calls.
Provide secure access or virtual infrastructure
These days, VPN services are everywhere. Once the domain of large corporations, they have risen to become an invaluable personal data privacy tool and a means for SMEs to support far-flung employees. For SMEs with existing computer infrastructure, it’s now possible to add VPN support through inexpensive hardware upgrades. Most business-class firewall appliances now support VPN in some capacity and are an affordable option. For those facing tight budgets, there are open source options available that cost nothing but a little time and effort to set up. Companies without existing infrastructure or who are trying to shift to a completely remote environment can also opt for one of the many SME-targeted desktop as a service (DaaS) solutions as a means of providing a unified desktop environment for remote staff.
Secure cloud storage and file sharing
There’s one last must-have for SMEs looking to support a mobile workforce, and it is a cloud storage provider that allows for secure multi-user access and provides plenty of storage space. That’s because one of the things many business owners and managers fail to realize is exactly how much data their business generates every day because it’s hard to gauge when employees all work on separate computers and store files in dozens of locations.
When everyone is working and saving to a single location, storage space fills up in a hurry, and managing access can be a chore. The tricky part for SMEs is choosing a provider that will support whatever kinds of access the business will require, from multi-user simultaneous file editing to versioning and indexing functionality. Most of the bigger cloud storage providers, like Google, Amazon, and Dropbox will include the needed features, but choosing the right solution can make or break your remote workflows – so weigh your options carefully.
Get to work
SMEs that lay the proper groundwork to support a mobile workforce will reap the rewards of their new, flexible operations. Their costs will be lower, their productivity will rise, and they’ll be ready to take on the competition. Best of all, they will do so without having to make much in the way of upfront investments. All that will be left to do is to get to work building the business into a powerhouse in whatever industry it targets – and that’s what most SMEs are all about.
To learn more about how business can prepare themselves for the future of work, read “Is Your Organization Equipped To Lead The Workforce Of The Future?“