The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak is already having a dramatic impact on all our work and family lives. During these uncertain times, technology is helping keep the economic wheels turning. One of the immediate outcomes of the crisis has been many people working from home, slowing the spread of the virus. In this article, we will look at ideas for organising yourself to work from home, how to get connected and the tools to use. Although remote working might be new to some people, it has actually been steadily growing in popularity. Over 4 million UK employees worked regularly from home during 2018.1
Benefits of remote working
Remote working has all sorts of benefits for employees and businesses alike. Remote workers tend to be more productive than their office-based colleagues are. Remote workers are ranked 7.7 out of 10 for productivity while office workers are ranked 6.5.2 Under normal circumstances, remote workers tend to be happier and less stressed. Studies show that many office desks sit empty for 50 to 60% of the time.3 According to Global Workplace Analytics, businesses could save an average £9,000 per year for every member of staff who works remotely half the time.4 And prior to the crisis, 90% of UK employees said they would like to work from home part of the time.5 Research also shows that having the flexibility to work remotely from home can improve staff retention. The average cost of replacing an employee for a small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) is £12,000.6
The first thing you need to consider when working from home is a dedicated workspace. If you are able, setup a small desk in a quiet part of your home. Agree some ground rules and explain to your family that when you are in your workspace you should not be disturbed. Creating a separate space will help prepare you mentally for work mode.
Develop a routine
Some people will definitely find working remotely more of a challenge than others will. Developing a daily work routine will help you maintain your focus and achieve objectives. What’s more, routines are proven to have psychological benefits such as reducing stress and anxiety.7 Once a task becomes a habit, it is much easier to perform. As well as dedicated worktime, you should also schedule breaks into your routine.
You will need remote access to your organisation’s IT network and systems. Typically, this means having a secure laptop computer, ideally less than 3-years old, and home broadband service. If you don’t have broadband at home then a SIM card or mobile dongle will get you on the Internet. Even the most basic telephone system should allow you to forward calls from the office to your mobile or home number. Organisations with Cloud telephony can install softphones on workers’ computers and mobiles. A softphone is an app that mimics all the features of a desktop phone with voice, data and video carried over the Internet.
Having staff access systems from outside your organisation’s network and firewall creates an added security risk. That is why Modern Networks recommends that organisations adopt multi-factor authentication (MFA) for access control. Just using a password is extremely insecure. MFA is a combination of something you know (your password) and something you have (usually an app that generates a random six-digit code on your mobile phone). Ideally, devices should also be encrypted and properly backed up to ensure data protection.
You can use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) while working remotely. A VPN allows you to connect to your organisation’s private network from the Internet securely. Many organisations like Modern Networks provide VPN services to our clients. However, VPN should be used sensibly, and locked down by your IT administrator or service provider to maintain security and minimise risk.
Your office in the clouds
Office 365 is a great platform for any organisation wishing to introduce remote working. First, Office 365 is Cloud-based, enabling you to work from anywhere, on any device. All you need is the Internet. You don’t need a VPN connection. Next, you get all the familiar Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Additionally, you get OneDrive Cloud storage, SharePoint file share and document management system and Teams, which is a communications and collaboration tool (soon to replace Skype for Business). You can make calls, host video meetings, schedule projects and work across multiple devices with Teams. It also integrates with numerous Microsoft and third party apps, making it easy to customise to meet your unique business needs.
The support you need
Once at home, it is important your staff receive ongoing technical support from your IT department or service provider. Having friendly, skilled and sympathetic Service Desk engineers at the end of the phone and email can make the sometimes difficult transition to home-working much easier. The majority of IT issues can be fixed quickly, easily and remotely. However, even the best Service Desks will not be able to fix every incident immediately. They will keep you fully informed of what is happening, and estimated time-scales for when incidents are likely to be resolved. One last point, a good service provider will not just be there to fix problems. They will be doing preventative maintenance to keep downtime to a minimum, ensuring your systems are secure, and thinking and planning for what your organisation will need tomorrow.
Making the most of your time
According to research, the average UK commute takes up to an hour a day. Londoners tend to have the longest commute times with an average of 81 minutes.8 That’s a lot of time stuck on crowded trains or sitting in traffic. Working from home enables you to claw-back some of that valuable time. It might mean an extra hour in bed, the opportunity to get some exercise or improve your professional skills and qualifications. LinkedIn, Coursera, Udemy and edX are just some of the many online learning platforms that offer an amazing choice of free and paid courses.
Remote, not alone
One of the downsides of remote working is a feeling of isolation, even loneliness. Luckily, many of the tools mentioned earlier in this article can help prevent a feeling of social isolation. They enable teams to stay in touch and meet face-to-face using video conferencing. Similarly, starting an online course or getting out for some exercise can reduce feelings of isolation. Many organisations use internal social networks such as Workplace by Facebook and Slack to create online communities and to strengthen teams.
The little book of remote working
To complement this article, we have produced a 9-page guide that briefly summaries how to work remotely, stay productive and stay secure.
Download the little book of remote working.
Today, many of us face weeks, possibly months, working from home. Hopefully, remote working, social distancing and other health precautions will help slow down the spread of Covid-19 and keep us all safe. Certainly, we have the tools to ensure that we can all communicate and cooperate as effectively as possible during this challenging period.
To learn more about how Modern Networks can help you setup and support staff working remotely, contact us now.