Can businesses ever trust the remote worker?

Quentyn Taylor, director of Information Security at Canon Europe, says that the 'there's an app for that' mentality has become an established concept in employees' private lives, but is often far from a reality in their business environment.

"To ensure remote workers have the tools to carry out their job effectively, a change in organisations' mind-sets is necessary. The focus must shift from technology to business, and therefore from controlling to enabling users to work remotely," says Taylor.

He adds that what many organisations fail to realise is that implementing remote working technology comes with the significant task of ensuring that the workforce is appropriately trained in how to get the best out of it. "CIOs must therefore remember that every IT investment also requires investments into training," he notes.

"Ensuring that employees feel confident when using business technology means CIOs can make huge efficiency gains from the very place it's being lost: the remote workforce. Undoubtedly, addressing this issue will go a long way to safeguarding investments into IT," says Taylor.

For the IT administrator, the task of making sure the remote worker is working is all about providing the right tools. However, Steve Gardner at Heat Software says that they should focus on the secure delivery of services, rather than maintaining control over the endpoints, which is wholly impractical.

"Ultimately, end users need the ability to provision their own mobile devices with little or no interaction with IT operations," says Gardner.

He adds this can be achieved through a consolidated application delivery system, such as a mobile App Store, that provides a "one-stop-shopping" experience for accessing all business applications. "Similarly, data can be stored and distributed via a secure and commonly accessed repository," he adds.

But if an organisation has settled on securing the endpoints, Alistair Forbes, general manager of LogicNow, says that cloud-based antivirus technology would be the ideal way to safeguard a dispersed workforce.

"Utilising the advantages of a management platform that is hosted in the cloud means that the IT administrator has visibility of the status of all of their systems wherever they are, and that the malware definitions are kept up to date in real-time, irrespective of location," he says.

He adds that an equally important part of the security arsenal is software patching. "With the cloud, patches can be pushed out to an organisation's machines, whether they're on LAN, in a remote office or in a hotel room on the other side of the world," he adds.

Keeping the remote worker in the loop

Remote working is not going to go away, but there will always be the need to go to the office to retain a sense of contact with colleagues on important projects.

"It is important remote workers have a healthy mix of in-office and remote working time," says Martin. "I think it is very important to include remote workers on all team activities and communications so they are not left behind, and to prevent them from feeling detached."

Employers who strike the right balance on remote working are going to be the ones who end up with happy and productive workers.