For many UK organisations and their employees, the rapid transition to home working has been both unexpected and unplanned with remote working emerging as unknown territory.

According to the latest research by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), in 2019 only 5.1% of UK employees stated that they mainly worked from home and only 30% had any experience of home working, leaving 70% with no remote working experience.

As well as the need to shift to a home working culture, organisations are also having to quickly adapt their business models to facilitate remote connectivity and business continuity. While many employees may have been fortunate to be armed with a corporate device that the can use in their home office, there are many others having to rely on personal devices.

We know that a lack of corporate approved devices can create various challenges, including urgent issues with network access, data management, connectivity and collaboration. There can also be a greater risk of security breaches if policies are not adhered to and governed. And of course, many organisations may see a drop in productivity as personal devices face limitations in their efficiency and usability.

While in the long-term, it seems likely that increasing numbers of organisations will look to bolster their remote workforce and extend the provision for home working with remote access devices, in the immediate future there are some considerations for staff who are working from home on a personal device.

What are the key business considerations for the use of personal devices when employees are working from home?

Protection and security

First and foremost, you need to ensure that colleagues are securely accessing your networks and any applications, programs and documentation. Ensuring your firewalls are up to date is crucial, and it could be a good time to define your anti-virus policy so staff don’t make modifications to firewalls. To safeguard your corporate data, it is important firewalls are not manipulated. Make sure that staff are aware of your firewall policy and do not download their own versions that could override your network’s provision.

Even employees who don’t have remote access to the network will likely still be interacting with corporate information via emails, document sharing and cloud-based collaboration tools.  There are a number of solutions to help protect your organisation’s network and data. Microsoft InTune is a cloud-based enterprise mobility management tool that provides unified endpoint management of both corporate and BYOD devices. InTune acts like a software firewall and is a powerful and effective way to secure applications.

You should also deploy multi-factor sign-in like Microsoft Authenticator, Google Authenticator and LastPass to add an extra layer of access security to network applications. There are a range of options available including fingerprint (ideal mobile use), SMS verification and app-based authentication.

Finally, screen policies should be rolled out to BYOB devices.  For example, ensuring a screen lock after 2-3 minutes of inaction to ensure sensitive or private data isn’t seen by others in shared households.

Software-enabled collaboration

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) provides an effective way for your employees to access the corporate network and applications via a secure cloud-based application that is downloaded to their device – giving them full access to all the standard software, applications and datacentre services.  There are a variety of VDI solutions on Citrix, VMWare and Windows.

For cloud-based software, now could be a great time to trial or invest further in Office 365. Microsoft recently announced they are providing a 6 month free trial for E1 licenses of Office 365 for eligible customers. Office365 has changed the way employees work remotely, enabling instant connectivity from any where in the world.  Office365 works on any device and allows team members to access applications like Outlook, SharePoint, Teams and the full Microsoft Office suite.  Through apps like Teams, colleagues can use their own devices to attend online meetings, send messages and collaborate on documents together. Teams also acts as a great option for telephony if employees do not have a company mobile device.

While SharePoint can be a great tool for collaboration, it also facilitates access restrictions which may be an issue for remote workers. If you’re worried about documents being shared too broadly, you can amend the digital rights and access to govern who can view, edit and print certain documents.

Back-up and file sharing from personal devices

While back-up and disaster recovery should form part of your ongoing data management and data protection strategy, there are some simple tactics to deploy to those working from their own devices.

Office365 users should make good use of OneDrive to automatically store copies of local files to SharePoint. As well as enabling collaboration, saving documents to the cloud will reduce demands for storage space on personal devices and will also help to mitigate against the potential for damage or theft and loss of personal devices.

Where possible, adhere to a standard policy and regulation around backup of data. You should set in place a specific policy regarding which folders from employees’ devices will be backed up. This of course will protect the organisation from violation of privacy but will also ensure your employees can safely protect their work.

Remote desktop support

In case the age old trick of ‘turn it off and on again’ doesn’t work and without the option for on-site support technical support for employees, organisations will need to consider how they offer remote assistance. Both to personal device and corporate device users. For those with a Windows 10 licence, there are options to run remote desktop access to another user’s device directly from a Windows 10 PC or on Windows-enabled Android or iOS device.

Other options like TeamViewer allow you to remotely access and control the desktop of your computers and servers from anywhere in the world, regardless of which software you use. According to TeamViewer, some 20 million support sessions take place each day via their secure remote platform.

For Mac users, many people use Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) which allows the primary user to manage large numbers of computers at once – installing software and updates to multiple users.

Modern devices preconfigured to your needs

We know that not all employees have the most suitable hardware at home to do their jobs effectively. We can help you procure the latest hardware, with advice and recommendations about what is likely to work best in your organisation both now and in the future.

Working across a range of partners including Microsoft, Apple and Dell Technologies, we can help you source the latest modern devices to keep your business running and your users connected.

If required, we can provide preconfigured devices that are security enabled and loaded with all the applications and software that your employees need, removing the stress of set-up and adoption.

Please contact us to find out more. You can also visit our dedicated web page for information on Microsoft Surface products.

iPad Pro keyboard

Responsive solutions to support your remote working

We know that the rapid transition to home working is placing pressure on IT teams, as increasing numbers of employees work remotely – perhaps for the first time.

That’s why we’re offering a range of responsive tactical remote working solutions including infrastructure services, software and hardware procurement and expert consultancy to help get your virtual office off the ground. We can provide quick, secure options to help maintain your business continuity and advice to overcome any immediate issues you’re facing.

We’re in IT together

By Katherine Murphy, content enthusiast