What Tech Do Offices and Users Need to Work from Home Effectively
As we all rush to set up the infrastructure needed for employees to work from home, the most important thing is to remember that it needs to be done properly! With the right tech in place, employees can work more efficiently and effectively than using ad-hoc methods, while ensuring they stay healthy and sane at the right time. Just because we’ve all been thrown for a loop in the way that we now have to work doesn’t mean that the work we do can’t flow just as smoothly as in the office.
Let’s look at the tech necessary to have your team working from home with ease.
Laptops for all
Not all of your team necessarily own a home desktop computer or laptop. Canvass your employees to see who has what machines. Where there are gaps, you need to purchase or lease equipment to support the people who don’t have their own.
Leasing is a nice option in the current climate when cash flow may be tight. You also can have your current office laptops or desktops delivered to your employees if this is a feasible option.
Working on a laptop all day can be straining on the body. If you want to avoid any future health claims you can distribute ergo equipment to your team to help keep them happy and healthy. This can include laptop stands (such as the Nexstand) as well as external keyboards and mice. These can all be sourced relatively inexpensively.
Along with ergo equipment, encourage your team to get up and stretch – take a break, make a cup of tea, for 10 minutes out of every hour worked. This means less stress on the body and eyes. After all, humans weren’t designed to sit in front of a computer all day!
Stable internet connection
This is especially important for those who don’t have computers at home – they may be using their mobile data package instead of having a home wifi network setup. You need to ensure that all of your working employees have access to stable internet that shouldn’t cost them extra. This may mean topping up people’s internet plans or having home networks installed in extreme cases. For businesses that do a lot of data-heavy work (e.g. development and transfer of videos), you may need to consider more lightweight options if you are budgeting.
Examining your current internet plan for your workplace and then seeing if you need additional services can be confusing as well as frustrating. Using a third party to iron out the optimal service/cost/provider network infrastructure necessary is a good idea at this time.
A VPN for your office to the home
A VPN is the most critical component for most businesses to allow their staff to work at home. The private resources on your office network need to remain private – which can be achieved by VPN tunnelling to the home. This isn’t a job for consumer VPNs, like ExpressVPN, or Proton. Instead, it requires a custom setup for business.
If you have systems admins on your team, they may be able to configure this for you in-house. However, if you’re struggling to set up your VPN correctly, then it’s a good idea to get in an experienced service provider to do the configuration to ensure the security is tight. Providers will use a preferred VPN client/configuration, which you will get to pick. For instance, we recently introduced AWS VPN to our customers.
Video Conferencing with Teams
We need video conferencing because we want to see what everyone’s kitchens and home offices look like! No, but really, video conferencing that is reliable and built for remote work is a necessity here. This may be for a quick one on one chat with a coworker to clarify something, to flesh out project details with a few people, or just your usual team meetings.
As in-person team meetings often need a whiteboard or projector to demonstrate certain things visually, you’ll need a video conferencing software tool that also has screen sharing to share visual elements.
Teams (great if you already have a Microsoft subscription) is a top contender for its stability, but another options Zoom (however security concerns have been raised about Zoom recently so do you due diligence or speak to your IT professionals).
Team chat with Slack (or Teams, Discord…)
In the same vein as video conferencing, you’ll need a place to chat both one on one and within teams in your workplace – but via text. Forget email. Email should be used only for external communications preferably.
There are plenty of software products that allow you to chat like this – add all the people within your organisation, create team chat channels, and also share and collaborate on files. These chat applications are your lifelines for collaborative work. Just like face to face group meetings can often waste time, so too can video meetings. Leave the group video meetings to your usual necessary meetings, and use async text communications for the team (and 1-to-1) chats.
Which app to choose? Slack gained popularity among software development groups, but has now gained a more widespread following. Microsoft Teams offers similar functionality (plus you can check out our Slack vs Teams write up here). Want to try something a little more leftfield/up and coming? Discord could be a solution.
Virtual lunch breaks and watercooler chat
A part of helping your team with their mental health during this work from home period is to introduce times dedicated to virtual lunchbreaks, where employees can either chat altogether or pop in and out to say hi. It’s handy to have these as video conferencing so it’s like have lunch together or a cup of coffee together in real life.
This type of office camaraderie and playfulness that your team already (hopefully) have is important to nurture and foster online too, so the trust and friendships remain – which makes for happier, more productive employees.
Instead of making all your employees download the suite of software applications they usually use at work, you can utilise virtual desktops instead. So, what does that mean? That means, instead of an employee seeing their at-home desktop screen setup, they can view the same desktop setup they see at work, plus use all their regular apps, all without reconfiguring their computer.
The biggest cloud providers, Azure and AWS, offer virtual desktop products for customers, Windows Virtual Desktop and Amazon WorkSpaces, respectively. These are certainly not the only options out there. VMWare is another major player in the space. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) takes time to set up and roll out but it means that your users won’t need to configure their own systems or learn new work patterns – they’re ready to work as usual.
Home security suites
Working from home usually means working with BYO equipment. Do you really trust that Ben from admin has his home device security up to your work device security standards? Let’s go with no. This means that you need to implement security measures across a remote series of devices including virus scanning, firewalls, email security, etc.
Virtual desktops do manage to get around these security issues – all the security is done either in the cloud or in the sever in the office (or some combination). However, if you have decided not to use virtual desktops, there are a range of options.
Using Microsoft Sharepoint as a remote platform for document management, intranet, and collaboration tool may make good sense if the majority of your team rely mainly on Microsoft products to do their work. You can pair this with Azure security.
The other way to go is to offer a suite of security products recommended for home use and roll out to all your employees’ machines.
Time tracking apps
If the time that an employee spends on a task is directly billable, then you will need a way to track how much time they are spending, remotely. You can achieve this by using web apps like Toggl, an app which also has a browser add-on. These apps can track time and attribute the logged time to clients, projects, and goals, plus notes can be added where necessary. Team reporting is available in a click so that you can see what everyone has been up to.
Project planning and collaboration
If you usually distribute notes and do face to face meetings for project planning and collaboration then it’s time to pivot to a digital way of doing this. Apps like Asana and Trello can be used to distribute individual and team workloads, track projects, and add information as it comes to hand. Different contributors can be added at different times, and different views of projects overall can be generated for managers.
New tech training
Some people will have already used these type of systems before and/or pick them up in a jiffy. For others, they may need to be walked through how to use them. Consider putting together training packages (or getting an outside provider to offer online/video training) so that everyone can understand and operate the new tools they are working with.
Need help with your remote tech purchasing or configuration?
A1 Technologies understands that we need to get more people working effectively remotely – and fast. The easiest way for organisations to achieve this is to pair with an experienced partner to get the job done quickly and professionally. We are experienced in remote working setup including network and VPN configuration, security for remote access, virtual desktop configuration, training packages, and more. We also offer a managed services setup, so we can be on hand for any questions or troubles when you’re rolling out and getting used to working with your new remote office. Get your employees back working to their full potential from home. The tech is already there to make any home the office, so if you need help rolling it out then please get in touch.
Acknowledgement to Freepik for their great images.
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