"Thanks" to Covid 19 restrictions, there has been an explosion of Home\Remote Working ("WFH"). Thankfully, many of the tools and much of the infrastructure necessary to cope with this explosion were (fortuitously) in place. With restrictions now being relaxed, the reality is that for many, working life has permanently changed.

The benefits to employees:

  • Less\No time spent commuting.
  • More flexible working hours.
  • Savings on travel and the costs of lunch.

The disadvantages for employees can be:

  • Lack of suitable workspace at home - this is often the case for younger members of staff who may well be living in shared accommodation.
  • Young children at home making it difficult if not impossible to concentrate.
  • Loneliness – lack of direct, human engagement.
  • Inability to divide “work” from “home” time.
  • Lack of time spent with senior colleagues providing mentoring support.
  • "Out of Sight, Out of Mind, syndrome" - staff working from home can miss out on promotion opportunities to those who decide to work in the office.

These disadvantages can be mitigated by:

  • Finding and using a local office-type workspace (e.g. a library, coffee shop, temporary office hubs etc.) to provide the right working environment and contact with other people; although not necessarily from the same company.
  • Developing a hybrid solution where staff come into a central office at regular intervals.

The benefits to employers:

  • You can reduce the amount of your office space[1] – and reduce office rent and related costs accordingly.
  • You can re-locate your smaller office to a lower cost (more prestigious?) location.
  • The reduction in the costs that your staff enjoy by not commuting into the office are the equivalent of a salary increase.
  • Having developed remote management systems, you can recruit from a much wider pool of talent.

The right solution for your company - which is very likely to be a mix of distance and office working* - will depend upon:

  • The nature of your business.
  • What works personally for your members of staff.
  • Your ability to develop previous management systems and styles to work effectively with remote working.

A number of studies suggest that the majority of Britons want to maintain at least some aspects of home working and will consider this an important factor in choosing future employment possibilities e.g. a study by Skillcast has revealed that 68% of respondents want to continue working from home even when the lockdown laws have been abolished. Furthermore, 70% of employees across all company sizes, regions, industry sectors ages and genders said that they can be as productive WFH as in the office.

The best solution for your company definitely does not reside in a "one size fits all" formula. The following sections will cover a number of specific issues to be taken into consideration when deciding on your company remote working policies.

*See: the BBC article “How offices will change after coronavirus” which sets out some thoughts on what changes can be expected.

You must ensure that you have the right IT, infrastructure, security and communications systems in place – not only in the office but also in the home environments of your staff.


You should provide your staff with computers and mobile phones which you can configure. You can only protect your network, if you control precisely which devices can access your network; which means keeping work devices completely separate from those being used for personal use.

Team Communication

There are a lot of other ways to promote collaboration and communication within your team outside of remote meetings. Team communication tools enable the sharing of editable documents to make content creation seamless. If you want to talk with team members without using audio-visual features, many apps provide a chat to exchange feedback in real time.

See: The ExportersAlmanac Team Collaboration Platforms.

Project Management

There are lots of different project management software tools that allow for planning and organization online. Collaborate using file sharing, coordinate individual tasks and deadlines with a visual board, and get a complete overview of what everyone is working on.

See: The ExportersAlmanac Project Management Software.

For employers and managers, the prime traditional concern prior to the crisis was the issue of “trust”. How to manage and monitor employees was at the heart of wanting staff to work from the office.

When staff are working remotely it is not so easy to see whether they are working or not. But this then begs the question whether simply seeing staff at their desks was ever enough.

There are companies that offer software monitoring systems (e.g. Hubstaff and Sneek) but their use can be resented by staff: see the research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

The questions you have to ask yourself are whether it is possible to move to a predominantly management by results? If the desired results are achieved, do you actually care if the staff member completed the task in 1 hour rather than 8?

This approach may require a change in management objectives and style e.g.

  • What do we actually expect\require from a particular member of staff?
  • How can this be quantified?
  • Does the staff member agree with these objectives and the time allocated?

Management then have to decide on:

  • What systems to use to monitor progress.
  • How to be supportive to - and not micro-manage - their subordinates.
  • Are you there to control or encourage?
  • If objectives are not being met - how do you deal with this? (It is unlikely that a dressing down over zoom will work.)

The following are some points you need to consider when designing your remote working strategy.

Network Security: Virtual Private Network (VPN) vs a Remote Desk Access System (RAS)

One of the decisions that has be taken when having a remote workforce is whether to use a VPN or RAS.

The fundamental difference between that two is:

  1. With a VPN, each laptop or PC is connected to the other and users work off their own device (but are able to transfer files to and from their devices to others on the network.
  2. A Remote Access System (RAS) is where users connect to a central server and all processing and data management are managed on that server, no file exchanges can take place unless specifically authorised.

Further advantages of an RAS are that files are not transferred between the user’s and the office’s devices. Therefore:

  1. You do not lose control over your files.
  2. The user only sees an image of the file as it is being managed on the server or PC in the office. This makes using very large files much easier and avoids bandwidth bottle neck problems.

Endpoint Security

When storing company data on personal devices, it is vital to use a strong and reputable anti-virus program for threat detection, and schedule frequent scans to remain virus-free. Furthermore, as mentioned above, using an RAS means that your data is kept within your company network and you maintain the benefits from the security measures your organisation already has in place.

See: The ExportersAlmanac Anti-Virus & Malware Services.

Physical Security

If you are working in a public space, line of sight should be considered. Who can see your screen from the seat you’ve chosen? If you are working on or with confidential things, find a seat with limited access to your screen. Make sure you take all devices with you when you use the bathroom and when you get up for another coffee, too. Do not leave any company hardware in your car and make sure you always lock doors. Keep work data on work devices.

Download a password manager so that you and your staff can use longer, more secure passwords without needing to remember them. Do use multi-factor authentication; two or more pieces of evidence to grant access to a computer. Most phones and laptops have built-in encryption options - ensuring that all your devices have this enabled can prevent any data being leaked or access should the device be lost or stolen.

See: The ExportersAlmanac Password Managers.

Allowing staff to work remotely without a policy in place can lead to misunderstandings on what is expected from them, which in turn generates disconnect and confusion on both sides. Here are some general guidelines that can help you establish some formal ground rules:

Staff Eligibility

Decide which roles can be performed successfully away from the office. You will find that some positions will be more suited to telecommuting than others. Define when an employee becomes eligible for telecommuting privileges. This might be the moment they sign their employment contract, at the end of their probation period, or after a successful performance review that confirms that they have established themselves as trustworthy – every employer will have different preferences.


Decide in advance how a remote employee’s performance will be assessed. If it makes sense for the position, you should set some productivity goals.

Employee Availability

Communication is the key to successful remote working. Therefore, it is very important to set expectations about the availability and responsiveness of telecommuters from the start. Do your team members need to be available during traditional office hours, or are they free to schedule their workday however they want so long as their work is done? Do you expect everybody to answer emails and messages straight away, or are you happy for them to do it in their own time? Will remote meetings be scheduled in advance, or should your employees be available for unscheduled calls? Whatever your choices, make sure to communicate them in advance so the rest of the team can plan their workdays accordingly.

Technology, Equipment & Security

When you set up a remote working arrangement, your remote employees need to be able to do their work away from the office without incurring any expense, aside (perhaps) from sourcing good internet connectivity and a suitable workspace. This means that you need to provide (and pay for) all the equipment they need. It is also a good idea to educate them on basic cybersecurity best practices, especially if they are planning on working from a public space, and to set rules on what company equipment should not be used for.

Protecting Confidentiality

Telecommuters need to keep in mind some basic guidelines to protect the confidentiality of sensitive information. For example, confidential conversations with customers and colleagues cannot be conducted from a place where they can be overheard.

Suspension of Privileges

Working from Home should be considered as a “privilege”. Therefore, it is very important to communicate what the consequences are for breaking these ground rules, according to the severity of the infraction. Minor infractions like an occasional dip in productivity could be addressed by more frequent performance assessments with the line manager, while major ones such as continuous, unjustified lack of responsiveness could result in the suspension of all remote working privileges.

Notwithstanding the above, the overuse of video conferencing over the past year has resulted in “Zoom Fatigue”. Zoom (including other similar video conferencing systems) drains your energy because it flattens all of your social interactions – personal or professional – into the same, unnatural grid of disembodied faces. The four chief factors include

  1. Constant, close-up, interrogation-like eye contact from the other participants that does not go away, even if you are not the one speaking;
  2. Constantly looking at your own face,
  3. Having to sit still for an extended period; and
  4. Not being able to easily and accurately pick up on cues like body language.

You should take into account that there are four main ways of communicating and balance their usage accordingly:

  1. Face-to-Face: Makes it easier for participants to perceive the subtleties of interaction, such as people's movements and the inflection of their voices.
  2. Video: The next best thing but not when used nine-to-five, or for every meeting.
  3. Phone Calls (audio only): Perfectly acceptable alternative to video and less draining than video sessions.
  4. Text (email, chat and SMS): Best used when not requiring an immediate, interactive response.