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Offices For Your Staff Away From The Office

Offices For Your Staff Away From The Office
By Mark Swartz
Monster Contributing Writer

As a smaller business, you have a dilemma when you send your employees on the road. Unlike bigger firms, you don't have branch offices your people can access. And you may lack a privacy protected online hookup where data (e.g. emails, web documents and other confidential info) can be privately exchanged.
So what do you do?
Simple. Take advantage of free and reasonably priced office space that anyone can access on the fly. Then use inexpensive privacy networks to protect online data exchanges. Here's what we suggest.
Free Office Space
Today's road warrior need only be equipped with a laptop and smartphone to be fully plugged in. They can make phone calls, send text messages, check their schedules, update their files, and access the internet (possibly your private internal data network too) from just about anywhere.
What your staff still needs, though, is somewhere to plunk their bottom, and a table on which to perch their laptop. Enter the modern coffee shop. Many come complete with free Wi-Fi these days. They're open from morning till night. And all your employee need do is buy an occasional beverage or snack to keep the proprietor happy.
Holding meetings with clients in coffee shops is common practice. As is working on important files. Which raises the issue of preserving confidentiality. Here are some hints on how to do so if you're working in a coffee shop or other Wi-Fi enabled venue:
·         Try to sit near a wall and have your back facing it, so that no one behind you can peek at your laptop screen over your shoulder
·         If alone and getting up to buy something (or use the facilities), either take your equipment (laptop, phone) with you, or at least log out and lock the screen so it doesn't show your info if the table is bumped
·         Keep your voice down when on the phone or holding meetings. It's amazing how sound can travel in small spaces. You never know who's sitting at the next table. Hopefully it isn't your competitor.
Fee-Based Office Space
Sometimes it just isn't practical for your off-site staff to work in a public space. Maybe you want to make a better impression on customers being met with. Or you're spooked about people overhearing your discussions. That's where offices for hire become handy.
Every city across Canada has them. They are commonly known as temporary office space or business centers. Typically they're found in office buildings, hotels and airports. Some are bare bones: you get the use of an office, desk and phone, rented on an hourly basis. Meeting rooms are charged as extra.
Then there are the executive business centers. Here you have available a broad array of services. Admin staff can take dictation and type up memos. You can have packages sent and delivered. Meeting rooms with full catering, video setup and conference phones can be rented.
Securing Your Online Data Exchanges
From coffee shops to executive lounges, privacy is a major concern when conducting business. In particular your electronic data is vulnerable to snoopers. Amateur hackers can break into local Wi-Fi networks easier than dipping donuts into a cup of decaf.
To protect confidentiality, one way to go is to use third-party virtual private networks (VPN's). Services such as AnchorFree's Hotspot Shield encrypt your traffic to protect you from all kinds of spying while your computer communicates with the rest of the world. They also give the user anonymity on the Net.
Home Away From Home
Office-alternatives can let your employees be productive while on the road. They're especially good for people who don't like being cooped up in their hotel rooms while travelling on business. Also for those who work from home and are experiencing cabin fever.
Just make sure to tell your employees that privacy is key. Even if they think there are no preying eyes around, it's prudent to take the precautions outlined above. This will truly free them up to conduct your business professionally, unchained from the regular office.