(BPT) - Many companies, large and small, are now offering work-from-home options. In the past decade, an increasing number of firms are offering the choice, whether it’s a full-time opportunity, or a side benefit employees can use one or more times a week. According to the 2017 State of Telecommuting Report, 3.9 percent of U.S. employees work from home at least half the time. That’s a whopping 115 percent increase since 2005.

Letting employees work from home has many benefits. It can save money on overhead costs. Without commute times and distractions getting in the way, telecommuting lets employees begin the workday earlier and get more focused work done at home.

Surveys show that companies that offer work-from-home options see a positive effect on employee retention, plus they find employees return to work sooner after an illness or surgery, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Both of these things can have a positive effect on a company’s bottom line.

Whether your goal is to let people work remotely all the time, or give employees the option to telecommute a few days a week, it requires thought and planning so you can avoid productivity pitfalls and security breaches. That means offering the right systems and tools that can replicate the systems used in the physical office space. Before you begin planning, here are key considerations.

1. Set and define expectations

Setting expectations is an important first step. For example, define which employee interactions call for a more personal method of communication. Brainstorming sessions and monthly check-ins, for example, may be better suited for video conferencing, while electronic messaging may be fine for updates, quick questions and other day-to-day interactions.

2. Don’t leave security to employee promises

It’s crucial to take steps to guard off-site devices against cyber thieves, so they don’t gain access to sensitive company or client information. Relying on data policies alone has its limitations because the risks of working in an unsecured network are not always understood or fully appreciated. The more reliable remedy is to use a data protection solution. This not only encrypts data on all devices, it lets you stay in control of who can access this information.

3. Keep access to files easy and secure

One of the problems with telecommuting is when devices malfunction, break down or are lost or stolen, important files can get lost or damaged. This destroys any productivity gained and, again, risks sensitive information getting into the wrong hands. Cloud-based solutions keep documents off individual devices by giving employees a secure portal to files and software. Because these cloud solutions are web-based, accessing these can be as easy as opening a web browser and entering a user name and password.

4. Make sure employees have the tools they need to get their job done

Depending on the profession, PC setups at home must vary to suit a worker's needs. Employees such as designers or engineers, who spend their days coding and creating content, need more powerful systems with the appropriate applications, storage and performance, while professionals who travel consistently from their home office to client presentations and coffee shop meetings require a more versatile and mobile device, such as a laptop or 2-in-1.

No matter the role or responsibilities of today’s work-from-home employees, a PC setup is not complete without a full complement of high-quality computer accessories and peripherals. Busy professionals can comfortably multi-task with the addition of dual displays, as well as leverage a mouse, docking station and keyboard, to enable a fully productive and efficient work space.

5. Open the lines of communication

Work-from-home jobs that require time on the phone with colleagues and clients may need a more robust voice communication system than using their personal mobile devices. A voice over internet protocol (VoIP), for example, gives you multiple ways to let remote workers easily establish voice (and video) communications. Whether they need to transfer a call, hold a video conference or have a conference call, VoIP offers a seamless way to bring people together across the miles.

Now that you have the fundamentals of building a good work-from-home system, you’ll be on your way to offering a popular workplace benefit that won’t compromise security or productivity. For more on how you can enable remote work for your business, contact Dell and find out how smart, secure tech can empower your company.