With companies increasing their headcount to support expanding business opportunities amid an improving economy, a growing number of businesses in the Asia-Pacific are allowing staff to work from home--an initiative that comes with several advantages as well as IT challenges.
In the latest ZDNet Asia IT Priorities Survey, some 32.9 percent of businesses said they plan to implement remote support technologies within six months, while 23.7 percent planned to do so in 6 to 12 months. Conducted in July, the survey polled 3,657 IT decision makers in the Asia-Pacific region including China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
Companies that support a mobile workforce typically do so in efforts to improve productivity and lower costs for the business, as well as provide better work-life balance for their employees.
Brian Richards, head of Kelly IT resources, noted that in order to have an effective and productive workforce at home, organizations should have fairly mature work processes in place with clearly defined business objectives.
This view is echoed by HR director of Lenono Asean, Tan Ai Sim, who said it is critical that management sets its primary objectives depending on their deliverables for each department, such that employees are clear about what they need to do, regardless of location.
Richards added that "working from home" typically means productivity will be measured through milestones achieved, and there are online tools available that can help companies monitor day-to-day activities.
With remote working, though, also comes the challenge of protecting network infrastructure in the event of cyberattacks.
Richards said: "The main challenges would be network security and maintaining data integrity and confidentiality. Anyone accessing the corporate network remotely could potential grant unauthorized users access and also corrupt data by unknowingly introducing malware and viruses."
Tan added that while Lenovo's "work from home" policy is open to all, staff located in emerging markets may experience difficulty due to a lack of Internet access. However, the Chinese PC maker ensures basic mobility for all by giving each member a laptop that allows them to work from any location.
Cloud supports easy data access
The growing adoption of cloud computing has ensured that critical data and applications can be accessed more easily from various points of connection, and companies agree that supporting technologies will be critical in ensuring such capabilities.
Richards explained that cloud computing would definitely enable more functions to be performed offsite with minimal dips in performance. "This due to the combined computing power of pool resources, centrally and commonly available applications and enhanced security," he added.
For Tan, cloud computing has made it a possibility for Lenovo staff to work from home in areas where real estate is expensive. However she cautioned that this is "only applicable to specific functions or departments that do not require front-end interaction with the customer or client".
Richards further added that typically, staff who are allowed to work from home do not require access to confidential and sensitive information, such as those in general support and sales.