Meeting the Tech Needs of Telecommuters

Working from home is great for many employees, but are you meeting their technology needs?

If you’re a small business that has employees who telecommute, or would like to telecommute, consider their technology needs. A survey from Staples Advantage found that telecommuters not only have 25 percent less stress when they work from home, but also rely heavily on technology to get work done.

Dan Paterson, the Director of Merchandising at Staples Advantage, said that the basic technology needs for a telecommuter is a laptop, notebook, or tablet, wireless Internet access, and the peripherals, such as a mouse or a keyboard. He also recommended a unified communication system so workers can get in touch with those back in the office, or also working from home.

Technology Needs

In addition to Internet connectivity and access to company networks, key considerations for telecommuters include:

  • Communication tools – Telecommuters say they rely on email (96 percent), instant messaging (68 percent), videoconferencing (44 percent) and unified communications technologies (25 percent) to stay connected.

“Telecommuters need to stay connected and to communicate effectively,” Paterson said. He recommended a wireless headset to help with communication, and with multi-tasking.

  • Security – A proactive security strategy can help telecommuters prevent data loss, breaches and viruses, which can be spread to company networks. More than two-thirds of telecommuters say they didn’t receive IT security training in preparation for home office work. Fortunately, many are applying good judgment and security best practices – 95 percent say they install operating system updates right away and 84 percent don’t store personal data on their machines.

“People don’t like to be vulnerable,” Paterson said. “You need to make sure your employees are comfortable with their secure network, and that you approve devices to make sure they won’t jeopardize company data.”

Paterson recommend providing each telecommuter with a dedicated laptop or notebook, and briefing telecommuters on the company protocols involving security.

  • Data backup – Nearly 1 in 3 telecommuters say they never back up their data – leaving themselves and their companies vulnerable to data loss. It’s important to educate telecommuters on how and when to back up their data. Data backups should be automated and tested to ensure functionality.

“It’s so important from a company standpoint, and people don’t do it as often as they should,” Paterson said. “I would suggest a portable hard drive [for telecommuters] and that you regularly back up your system.”

People usually choose to telecommute for one of three reasons:

  1. To have a better work and personal life balance
  2. To eliminate the morning commute
  3. To be more productive

“Technology gives people the ability to do this,” Paterson said. “Companies ought to accept a policy that allows it. Now, people can work from anywhere.”

Staples Advantage conducted an online survey, with responses from more than 140 telecommuters at companies of various sizes and across industries. The survey, conducted in May 2011, asked respondents, who work at least one day per week from home, about their home office set-up, furniture and technology, as well as their overall experiences telecommuting.

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About Allison Midori Reilly

Allison Midori Reilly is the CEO and Founder of Stirring Media, LLC. Stirring Media, LLC is a content marketing and news production firm that provides content marketing and business blogging services to the small business market. Prior to that, she was a freelance writer, who was published in over a dozen print and online publications, such as Smallbiztechnology.com, American City & County, Ideabing.com, Transport Topics and St. Louis Commerce Magazine. In her spare time, Reilly is an active member of Amnesty International as well as an avid poker player.