How to manage remote teams and keep your company secure

remote work

The shift to remote work has brought on a new set of operational and security challenges for many organizations. A majority of employees will not be returning to the office anytime soon, evidenced by Google’s recent expansion of its work from home (WFH) mandate until July 2021, along with the current state of the world in general. With the future of work now a reality, it is pivotal that organizations learn how to effectively manage remote teams securely.

There are many steps managers and organizations can take to ensure their remote workforce is operating at its best while remaining secure. The key to this whole practice is treating offsite employees the same as in-house by implementing new endpoint management, IT, and security processes that lead to the same end results that were achieved when folks were in the office. But what are the key steps managers should keep in mind to navigate these unchartered waters? What can organizations do to better manage and secure their remote workforces? 

Communication, Communication, Communication

Establishing and maintaining good communication with all employees is necessary, whether they’re at home or in the office. Unfortunately, employees are no longer popping by their co-worker’s office for a quick chat or congregating around the coffee pot in the company kitchen.

Communicating with your remote team members regularly will help them function better as a whole -- and it will give them a sense of inclusion. Additionally, experts suggest taking at least one hour a week to have one-on-one conversations with remote team members over video conference to give both parties visual cues that can't be shared over the phone or in an email.

Communication is also key when it comes to an organization issuing critical security updates. Employees that regularly work from home can overlook these updates and not do their part in remediating them. Whether it’s communication about issuing directives or dealing with phishing emails that are making the rounds within an organization, it's essential that remote teams are in the loop so they can do their part in ensuring proper security measures are taken. 

Time Zones and Remote Team Management for Cybersecurity

Living and communicating in different time zones is difficult for everyone -- especially remote team managers. This is especially true when it comes to patch deployment. If your IT team needs to deploy a system-wide update, your remote workers should know about it. While a one-hour time difference may not be a huge deal, more drastic time differences can really become a hindrance to your security efforts, depending on how your organization’s system is set up. Employees may need to ensure their devices are turned on during off-hours, based on how your organization’s network is configured.

This is also crucial when it comes to your IT team needing to deploy a system-wide update. Remote workers, wherever they may be around the globe, need to be informed. At the very least, provide your remote employees with a head's up if there's going to be a system-wide update to make sure the device is on and ready to be updated. Additionally, this will help with any confusion once they power up their device and notice specific changes have been made.

Onboarding Remote Workers Doesn't Have to Be A Security Nightmare

Onboarding remote employees isn’t something too many of us hear that often, but with the current situation we’re all facing, it will need to become the new normal. Onboarding from scratch can be a daunting task for management -- and your IT team -- if an organization doesn’t have the correct technology and processes already in place. Every remote worker is another endpoint to keep track of, and when your remote team members have complete access to your organization's network, securing those endpoints is essential. 

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 their home Internet and your IT management tools can push any necessary updates to ensure these devices are adequately secured in a timely and efficient manner.

Proactive Cyber Hygiene -- Whether Remote or Not -- Is A Must

One of the most important tenets of remote team management is cyber hygiene. When your employees are spread out in various different areas of the country or globe, it creates a very diverse environment for remote work. Patch management and endpoint security are particularly concerning when it comes to remote workers. If you have a remote team, it's essential to make sure those endpoints are updated and you have visibility into them, regardless of whether they are BYO devices, company-owned devices, devices that are part of a domain, or devices that aren't.

Unsecured endpoints are a major risk to every organization, 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. This is why good cyber hygiene practices should be put into place -- form virtual cybersecurity training for all employees all the way up to patching. There will always be vulnerabilities popping up within an infrastructure, but that’s why organizations should keep their patching up to date.

There are many things to consider when it comes to successful remote team management but securing remote devices should be a top priority on the checklist of to-dos. This relies heavily on the managers and executives communicating with their teams while also keeping up and implementing endpoint and cloud protection plans and technologies.

Image credit: fizkes / Shutterstock

Richard Melick is Senior Technical Product Manager, Automox

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