Enabling a Remote Workforce: A Guide for IT


To say businesses have had to adapt quickly during the first half of 2020 would probably be an understatement. Many companies went from having largely in-office workforces to almost entirely remote workforces literally overnight. One HP survey from April found 96 percent of office employees were working from home, and 63 percent were doing so without a dedicated workspace. That was a lot of change for everyone—very quickly.

As a company, HP has taken many steps to support this newly remote workforce. We’ve provided virtual training, regular communications from management, family support, fitness and wellbeing sessions, and a dedicated mobile site for news and updates. All these activities can promote a positive, more collaborative remote work culture, which is incredibly important during this time.

To build on what your company as a whole is doing to enable remote work, IT also needs to make its own adjustments since it plays such an essential role in productivity. At HP, for example, IT adjusted infrastructure to support the 90 percent of office workers suddenly working from home, converted call center agents from desktops to laptops, and enhanced network security. So what can your team do to make day-to-day operations, communication, and collaboration easier? Let’s consider the important steps IT can take to contribute to a more successful remote work environment.


Provide the tools your employees need

This first step is pretty obvious, and it’s likely something you had to figure out very rapidly. Employees needed laptops or PCs right away. But many may need additional hardware like external monitors, keyboards, printers, and even noise-canceling headphones. If you haven’t already, check in with employees to get feedback about how their hardware is working for them and if there’s anything else they need. People’s homes may not be built for remote work, but you can help them improve their work environment, whether that’s their kitchen table, a desk, or a separate office area. Remember that everyone’s job is different, too, and people’s needs may vary depending on their role.

Once you have hardware squared away, make sure everyone has the software they need for work. Is your VPN set up, and does everyone have access to it? Is antivirus software up to date? Do employees have access to all the programs they used in the office? IT needs to keep software organized and ensure everyone has the login information they need.

Take stock of the collaboration apps your teams are using, too. These could be communication tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, or Slack, but may also include project management applications. It’s possible these tools vary from team to team within your organization. But it’s up to IT to make sure these teams are using the best options available, so gather feedback and adjust as needed.

Finally, don’t forget about the importance of a reliable internet connection. While you can’t control the internet situation in all of your employees’ homes, you can educate them about best practices for securing their networks, maintaining reliability, and developing a backup plan (like a mobile hotspot) if the internet goes down.


Give security the attention it deserves

The 2018 iPass Mobile Security Report found more than half of CIOs believed their mobile workers had been hacked in the previous year.1 Fast forward to today, and security concerns are bigger than ever. Phishing has increased dramatically so far in 2020, and many industries are seeing more ransomware attacks.2 Unfortunately, a remote workforce can increase your risk of a security breach. Your endpoint devices are no longer in the office, and employees may access company information from their own devices.

IT’s approach to handling these added security challenges should focus on two things: technology and behavior. First, make sure your endpoint devices like PCs and printers are as secure as possible. Hardware that comes with built-in protection like HP Elite PCs, which include a comprehensive security portfolio, can reduce risk by automatically protecting firmware, isolating browser tabs to protect the device from infection, and more. Whenever possible, invest in inherently secure hardware to make IT’s job easier in the future.

Second, educate employees about security best practices for remote work. By reinforcing secure behavior, you set up another line of defense against attacks. You could schedule regular trainings or email communications about topics like phishing, malware, and network security. Don’t overlook simple things like password security, either. Have employees use dual authentication whenever possible, and remind them not to save passwords for work accounts on personal devices.


Develop long-term plans and procedures

By now, most businesses have realized the new normal we’re living in will likely involve more remote work. It’s also reminded many that disruptions to business operations can occur quickly, and it’s critical to be prepared for the unexpected. For IT, this means not only consistently testing your technology, systems, and procedures, but also making plans official by writing them down and educating your teams about them. Business continuity planning isn’t just for upper management—you need a plan, too.

Your IT plan should include procedures for deploying, maintaining, and troubleshooting hardware and software. But don’t overlook the simple things, either. For example, do your employees know who to call if they have a tech issue while working from home? How about a security issue? These procedures should not only be written down for your IT team’s reference, but also regularly shared with employees.


Is your IT team ready?

Enabling a remote workforce requires following these basic steps, but it’s also an ongoing process. 2020 has been a learning experience for everyone, and the lessons you’re learning now can inform how you respond to both increased remote work and unexpected disruptions in the future. Make sure your IT department takes advantage of this opportunity to become more resilient.

[1] iPass, 2018 Mobile Security Report

[2] CISO MAG, Ransomware Threats Surge by 25% in Q1 2020: Report