Working remote is an increasingly desirable option for employees in just about any industry. In fact, estimates suggest that 50 percent of the workforce today works from home, at least some of the time. While remote work can be great for employees, many organizations struggle with managing remote teams effectively, especially when it comes to cybersecurity.
There are many steps managers can take to ensure their remote workforce is operating at its best – and its most secure. Taking the time to treat your remote workers like in-house employees is crucial to managing remote teams effectively. Which means, keeping your remote team functioning the same way you manage your in-house team is key to keeping your organization secure at every endpoint.
Hiring remote workers doesn't have to be a security nightmare
It's one thing when a long-time, trusted employee asks to work from home a few days a week. But hiring remote workers from scratch can be a daunting task for management – and your IT team. Every remote worker is another endpoint to keep track of, and if your remote workers are going to have access to your organization's network, securing those endpoints is essential.
Hiring in-house employees is challenging enough – let alone hiring someone you won't ever even see at the office. Experts suggest that organizations give new remote workers a “trial” or “test” period as a freelancer or contractor before making them an official employee. Having remote workers complete small projects before bringing them on full-time gives managers the opportunity to see how you work together.
While these suggestions are great, they do not address the problem of keeping your remote team secure. For organizations looking to secure their remote endpoints, cloud-native management tools are a novel solution to a growing problem. These tools reduce your corporate reliance on a VPN as a means to provide security or system updates to your distributed corporate endpoints. Remote workers simply connect to the Internet and your IT management tools can push any necessary updates to ensure these devices are adequately secured in a timely, efficient manner.
Managing remote workforce cybersecurity requires good communication
Good communication is necessary for managing all your employees, regardless of where they work. It's easy to keep the lines of communication open with in-house employees, but remote workers miss out on in-office interactions that help build rapport and give them the opportunity to discuss issues off the cuff. Additionally, employees that regularly work from home can miss out on critical security updates. Whether your company is issuing directives on dealing with phishing emails or deploying new patches, it's essential that you keep your remote team in the loop.
It's important for managers to make sure that their remote teams have solid lines of communication that they can count on. Communicating with your remote team members regularly will help them function better as a whole – and it will give them a sense of inclusion, which is also important for remote workers. More importantly, if a remote worker has a security concern, such as a patch that failed on their end, they need to be able to communicate that information to your IT team as soon as possible.
Cloud-native patching tools, like Automox, offer full visibility across all endpoints, no matter where they are located – as well as the ability to remediate vulnerabilities, even on remote devices. For your tech team, this simplifies the task of resolving vulnerabilities on remote devices and increases their efficiency.
Experts also suggest taking one hour a week to have one-on-one conversations with your remote team members. Video conferencing is an especially attractive option for managing a remote workforce because so much of human communication is nonverbal. This gives both parties visual cues and other visual information that can't be shared over the phone or in an email.
Remote workers are especially prone to feeling isolated and uninvolved. Keep your remote team up-to-date with the latest relevant developments in your organization. Let them know when their projects are successful and how they're contributing to your company's goals – and keep them up-to-date on your organization's latest cybersecurity endeavors.
Time zones and remote team management for cybersecurity
Living in different time zones can make remote team management especially difficult. This is especially true when it comes to patch deployment. While a one-hour time difference may not be a huge deal, more drastic differences can really become a hindrance to your security efforts, depending on how your system is set up.
If your IT team needs to deploy a system-wide update, your remote workers should know about it. Depending on how your network is configured, they may need to ensure their devices are turned on. And at the very least, it's nice to give your remote employees a head's up if there's going to be a major update the next time their device turns on.
With automated, cloud-native patch management tools, you can take some of the pressure off your team when it comes to endpoint management. Regardless of where your remote workers live, the right tools can help you keep track of endpoints and ensure those devices are getting patched. A good patching tool allows you to remediate vulnerabilities from one central location, without needing multiple other programs.
Time zone differences can also make it difficult for remote workers to reach out to management to voice concerns outside of scheduled meetings. Having consistent availability on platforms such as Skype or Slack is crucial to keeping the line of communication between you and your remote workers open.
Depending on what kind of industry you are in, you may find that you really need a remote team that's within your time zone, or close to it. While many organizations find they can work well with workers all over the globe, that may not be the case for your company. As the manager of a remote team, keeping tabs on time zones is always a good idea. This is especially true if the job you’re looking to fill needs a high level of communication. Keeping remote workers within (or close to) your organization's time zone can help keep communications accessible for both management and remote team members.
Remote team project management
Good communication at the right time is important for keeping your remote workers happy, but it's also essential for good management. Be open with your remote workers about what your expectations are in terms of turn-around time, quality and quantity. Making sure everyone is on the same page is key to ensuring projects are completed on-time.
Organizations with remote teams can also employ project management tools to help keep the team up-to-date, and ensure that tasks are being completed as requested. While it can be tempting to rely on email, project management for remote workers can get out-of-hand pretty quickly if documents and conversations aren't organized. Project management tools can help your team make the information they need and share readily accessible.
Effective collaboration is essential when it comes to project management for remote teams. In-house employees have the benefit of communicating in person, getting to “whiteboard” ideas and speaking more casually about work. Remote teams miss out on this, but with a solid project management system in place, you can keep your remote team members “in the loop” more easily.
Cyber hygiene for remote workers
One of the most important tenets of remote team management is cyber hygiene. Patch management and endpoint security are particularly concerning when it comes to remote workers. Especially if your remote team is using devices (or, endpoints) that are part of your company's network, you need to know if those devices are being patched and updated regularly.
Unsecured endpoints are a major risk to every organization's security, regardless of size. Managing cybersecurity needs across a remote workforce can be a difficult task – especially if you have workers that are using different operating systems. Many on-premise patching solutions are limited in terms of endpoint visibility and ability to transcend OS, which can be problematic when it comes to cyber hygiene for remote workers. Limitations in endpoint visibility are already problem enough; most CIOs and CISOs say that patches they thought were successful actually failed to deploy across all their endpoints.
If you have a remote team, it's essential to make sure those endpoints are secure, regardless of whether they are BYO devices, company-owned devices, devices that are part of a domain, or devices that aren't. Modern, cloud-native solutions, like Automox, give you full endpoint visibility – including remote endpoints. With Automox, users can see in real-time what patches were successful and what vulnerabilities need to be resolved, as well as take action to remediate those vulnerabilities.
There are many things to consider when it comes to successful remote team management. Who you hire and how they fit your team are some of the most important things to consider when building your remote workforce – as well as creating strong channels for communication and managing projects with your remote workers.