By Isaac Kohen, VP of R&D at Teramind, provider of employee monitoring, insider threat detection and data loss prevention solutions.
The year 2020 went down as being uniquely disruptive on many fronts. Unfortunately, these challenges are unlikely to abate regardless of it being the start of a new year.
For starters, according to a recent survey by Business Roundtable, leaders expect the economic fallout from the current pandemic to extend well into 2021. At the same time, a roundup developed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealed the deep uncertainty facing many businesses in today’s operational environment.
Meanwhile, entrepreneurs will continue to grapple with shifting workplace expectations as disruption, agility and flexibility increasingly define today’s workforce. Afraid for their safety and happy to eschew long commutes and crowded offices, many workers are ready to embrace remote work more frequently, and many employers are happy to acquiesce. Therefore, many companies expect to accommodate a hybrid workforce that combines remote and on-site workers.
Simply put, business leaders and entrepreneurs can be forgiven for feeling a little stressed about the road ahead.
Specifically, managing these teams in today’s high-stakes business environment is difficult, even for the most seasoned professionals. For entrepreneurs, the task is especially daunting. In response, leaders need a focused approach to the challenges ahead, pursuing the right priorities with vigor.
Here are three things that entrepreneurs should pursue to achieve peace of mind when managing remote teams.
At a time when entrepreneurs desperately need their teams to be highly productive, creative and effective, there are some concerns about worker productivity in a remote environment. Consequently, sales of employee-monitoring software are skyrocketing as leaders try to provide oversight and accountability for remote teams. This software often tracks employees’ app activity, message frequency, keystrokes and even mouse movements.
However, entrepreneurs need to know that activity is not the same as productivity. In other words, the rudimentary application of employee monitoring software can provide some critical insights to leaders, but it doesn’t tell a complete story.
Instead, leaders should consider an outcomes-based approach to monitoring and productivity assessment. Not only does this approach ensure that employees are focused on the most important activities that drive business success, but it gives workers clear guidelines, goals and success criteria. By aligning monitoring metrics with established outcomes, entrepreneurs can ensure that everyone is rowing the proverbial boat in the same direction.
Already a problem before the pandemic, cybersecurity concerns are amplified in a hybrid work environment. Unfortunately, according to a survey of chief information security officers, most companies sacrificed their cybersecurity capabilities to enable remote work. Now it’s time to renew their focus on this critical issue because the cost and consequences of a cybersecurity incident or a data breach are extraordinarily high, including recovery expenses, reputational damage and more.
Fortunately, while cybersecurity risks abound, entrepreneurs can make significant strides toward protecting data and critical infrastructure without massive capital investment. These categories include:
• Insider Threats. Both on-site and remote employees represent potent threats to data security. In a remote environment, malicious and accidental insiders are especially problematic, but leaders can address these concerns through monitoring initiatives, endpoint data loss prevention techniques and, perhaps most importantly, clear communication.
• Fraud. Phishing scams and other fraud attempts are increasingly targeting remote workers who may be more likely to be fooled by these malicious messages than their on-site counterparts. Comprehensive awareness training can equip employees to identify instances of fraud, making them a defensive asset rather than a liability.
• Connectivity. Bad actors are exploiting workers’ remote connections and consumer-grade technologies. Be sure that remote workers have basic tools, like a trusted VPN service and two-factor authentication, to keep their connections and accounts secure, regardless of location.
Cybersecurity incidents are especially consequential for small and medium-sized businesses, making this a top priority for entrepreneurs learning to lead remote teams.
Today’s transition to remote work is happening alongside a litany of other factors that are making employees stressed and anxious. As leaders struggle to adapt to their new roles as managers of remote teams, these concerns are exacerbated.
As Harvard Business Review notes (registration required), “Some managers may be finding their roles more difficult than before — and making their subordinates’ lives more stressful as they struggle to adapt.”
Of course, leaders aren’t the only reason that employees are struggling. Many are working more hours than ever before, even as they struggle to adapt to the physical manifestation of the always-on mentality that can quickly lead to burnout.
Highly effective leaders will meet the moment with unbridled transparency, compassion and commitment to excellence. Specifically, entrepreneurs should prioritize:
• Communicating openly, honestly and frequently in a two-way setting.
• Setting clear and consistent work expectations.
• Modeling personal care and operational best practices.
Ultimately, leaders are setting the tone for the teams, which is especially important during times of uncertainty and transition.
The transition to remote work is just one challenge for today’s entrepreneurs, but it will be a bedrock component for many organizations moving forward. When challenges abound, focusing on the right priorities can be the difference between success and failure.
By pursuing the right approach to productivity, cybersecurity and longevity, leaders can lead their teams through this tumultuous time.