The world seems very different than it did in January. Ever since the lockdown started on March 23rd 2020, the entire economy has found significant challenges in enabling teams to work from home for the foreseeable future, especially around productivity, security, resiliency and collaboration.
Finding novel solutions to these problems will help businesses in the long run, not only to increase the agility of businesses, but improve productivity too, though, only if the right foundations are put in place first.
As the dust is starting to settle, we’re beginning to get a clearer idea of what our customers will need in the short and long-term, to ensure businesses can carry on thriving, even through these tumultuous times. But one thing is for sure: homeworking is here to stay.
During this period of unpredictability UK businesses have been forced to adapt to homeworking and some have adapted better than others. For most it’s been a matter of trial and error and seeing what works for each individual operation. So, here’s our top three tips for adapting to a successful homeworking strategy.
Choose scalable connectivity
Your team now has all the physical hardware it needs – laptops, video conferencing software, wrist rests and second screens – so, that’s mission accomplished, right? Wrong.
Your homeworker’s communication is only as effective as the internet connection it runs through and the residential connections we all rely on for our iPlayer, YouTube, browsing and gaming are just not fast, reliable or secure enough to handle business usage.
Internet services for businesses are usually built to include a number of device and network-level security features to protect operations from malicious sites, hackers and misuse.
Considering that homeworking seems here to stay, it’s time to look further afield than just the once’s connectivity and look to bring remote worker’s internet connections in line with those used at larger once sites, because there are plenty of benefits, other than security that your team will be able to take advantage of.
If the internet goes down at the office, you lose money, so quick fixes are essential and the same goes for your homeworkers too. Internet outages on residential lines have no guaranteed timescales for a fix, which could mean hours, days or even weeks of lost productivity for staff. Business connections mean fast fixes within the agreed Service Level Agreement (SLA) guarantee.
While consumer download speeds are usually up-to-task, upload speeds are often overlooked. As video calling and VoIP calls are reliant on both upload and download speeds, they’re key to collaborating in real-time for your staff.
Reliable Remote Management
Remote employees may require secure VPNs to access central information and business can’t manage an employees’ residential connection as its completely separate from the business. Therefore, Static Ips and strong remote management features are essential features, unique to business connections. They’re also perfect for running fixed assets like CCTV and alarms systems, that again can be managed remotely.
Supporting homeworkers is an important consideration for businesses looking to protect their future success and by broadening the scope of your network to your team’s home offices, you can take back control of your system’s performance and gain a more detailed insight into team performance and the efficiency of your operation.
Collaboration with clarity
While businesses need to ensure homeworkers don’t fall victim to endless meetings and video calls in the name of ‘clear communication’, they do need to provide connectivity that supports high usage, while face-to-face contact is not an option.
Keeping staff morale high is important, especially at times like this. So, look for tools that enable your workers to communicate in different and more personal ways. IM software like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and MiCollab, are perfect for quick conversations with more involved, personable dialogue and the option to include emojis and GIFs, making communication more enjoyable and more responsive than traditional email.
Collaborative tools like virtual retro boards, workshop facilitators, and live polls and Q&As, keep staff engaged during town halls too, so make sure you’re using the right tools for the task at hand!
As some return to the office part-time, we will start to see more hybrid meetings, with some office attendees, and others from home. Therefore, it’s even more essential to get the process correct to ensure remote employees feel involved and part of the team, while ‘on site’ employees will require equal access to the tech they’ve been using at home.
Expect distraction and work around it
As you may be aware, childcare continues to be a challenge for many employees …
It’s an issue that employers can help overcome. By making time for regular check-ins that accommodate individual circumstances, employees can work around their existing constraints, so set your expectations and offer flexible ways for staff to meet them.
One person might prefer a check-in email at the end of the day, or another may like to correspond over IM throughout the day. As long as you’re considering their home/life balance when working out deadlines, then you should keep your team happy and (relatively) stress-free.
Keeping in touch is more important than ever but, with a rich stack of tech in place, you can host quick and effective check-ins with the different members of your team. Collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams and MiCollab allow people to see when each other are busy or when they’re in calls. This enables workers to better use their time, not calling colleagues
that are already in meetings, or on lunch, for example.
Ultimately, by allowing staff to take better and more control over their time and providing with the right tools to assess their teams and operations, business can become more productive with a robust homeworking policy and our products and services can enable you to do just that, so get in touch and discover how we can help you adapt to the new normal of the economy.
Our 6 top tips for homeworking
Its all about finding your rhythm, many have not found it easy working from home with all the distractions around you, take a read of our top 6 tips:
- Get dressed! Even though you are at home, getting dress will improve your state of mind
- Have boundaries with people around you, don’t let your cat, your dog your husband or kids distract you. Make sure they understand that you are working even though you’re not in your usual work environment
- Get out and about! You may not miss your everyday travel but just because you are working from home does not mean you have to stay cooped up indoors, go get some air
- Pick up your phone and have a conversation with a work colleague to help you engage you with your normal surroundings
- Make sure you take breaks. It’s easy for us to just get into the mode of work and forget about the whole wide world around us but its important to take regular breaks; go for a walk, walk your dog or go get some lunch (if you’re not self-isolating of course).
- Join in the team WhatsApp chats. Use this and share the funny videos etc. For anyone who is furloughed, they will appreciate still feeling part of the team.
As homeworking is set to stay, business-grade connections for remote workers could be the answer to cutting costs and excelling in the ‘new normal’.
UK businesses have adapted enormously since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Almost overnight, they were forced to send workforces home and establish new remote working protocols. So much about the infrastructure, processes, operations and technologies we relied on was forced to change and now looks unlikely to return to ‘normal‘ anytime soon.
Many industries have suffered as their business ground to a halt while everyone remained indoors, and despite the loosening of lockdown restrictions, businesses are now faced with the economic aftermath of the pandemic, described by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as a ‘recession like we’ve never seen’. This is undoubtedly a challenging time for business leaders, but its not all gloom and doom. For some, the pandemic has thrown up new opportunities and presented new ways of working that they would have been reluctant to accept if they had not been forced into trying them by lockdown. For example, Chief Executive of Barclays Bank, Jes Staley, made headlines a few weeks ago by speculating that having thousands of workers in expensive offices may be a thing of the past, and the bank is reviewing its ‘location strategy’ long term in the light of its operations during the pandemic. So, if a Big Five bank like Barclays can see the benefits of embracing remote working for its 70,000 global workforce, why not consider a similar model for your business?
We’ve all faced the frustrations that go with home-working; worries about security, frozen video conference screens and lack of speedy resolutions to connectivity issues, but for weeks now desks have remained empty while teams worked from home, highlighting that it is possible to collaborate closely with colleagues without being in the same location. So how about a bit of new thinking for the ‘new normal’? Rather than looking to return to a centralised future and maintaining expensive offices, let’s focus on a new solution: business-grade connectivity for homeworkers.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that outlay on physical office space is better spent elsewhere. Empowering homeworking through business fibre lines for remote workers is an ideal strategy for UK businesses looking to save money and excel in the new normal. Installing business-grade connections for staff will cut OpEx and remove the common frustrations homeworkers experience with their residential connections. Of course, this is a major change in mindset but as our lockdown experience has proved we can adapt much more quickly than we thought possible when change is forced upon us. So now is the time to capitalise on the lessons we have learnt during the pandemic.
Investing now will put you ahead of the game in terms of connectivity and cost efficiencies, but let’s not forget the reason we were locked down in the first place. While COVID-19 remains an issue remote working is the best way to protect the health of staff and protect your business against an uncertain future.
Already a number of cities in the UK have had restrictions re-imposed and it is likely that the winter will bring a new wave of chaos. Let’s face it, humans are sociable creatures so I can’t see the office disappearing altogether but creating a workforce that can operate without one, certainly seems like the future.
Our Tips For Home Working During COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has quickly changed how we work as a nation, with the vast majority of employees now positioned away from the traditional office environment and working from home.
This is all possible through the use of technology that allows us to stay connected with colleagues through broadband, phone lines and perhaps most effectively, video and conference calls.
Technology for remote working
With these unusual times upon us, it is uncertain to know when we can resume normality in our day to day working life. Remote working is likely to continue for an extended period of time, and once this is over, may allow for more flexible working in the future.
Through the use of technology you can ensure that your clients and customers still get the same level of service they expect, especially as you can reroute calls so your work contact stays the same, and with reliable telecoms such as hosted telephony, you’re easy to reach any time of the day.
Advice on working from home
If your comms are already set up for remote working, we have collected some top tips for working from home which will be especially helpful if it’s a new way of working for you and your team.
Start as normal
Get ready for your working day as you would if you were going into the office by getting dressed into smart or smart casual clothes. As you may not be dealing with clients on video calls you can relax workwear to suit your new routine as the need to ‘dress to impress’ may not be applicable each and every day.
By starting early, getting dressed and getting a coffee, if that’s part of your normal routine, you can set yourself up for the rest of the day and get into a productive mindset to succeed.
Have a dedicated work space
A dedicated work space is good to have if possible when working from home. It means that you can have a proper set up with everything you need so you’re ready to be productive during your working hours. It also means that you’re able to leave that area at the end of the day knowing that your working day is over and now is the time to relax. It can also be a ‘no go area’ for other members of the family for certain times of the day, giving you the boundaries you may need.
If you have a business mobile, then try turning it off at the end of the working day and leave it in your dedicated workspace (if this is applicable for your job role). This allows you to separate work life from home life.
When working from home it is really important to make sure you still engage with the people that you work with. It is sometimes easy to get caught up in your work as there are less distractions around you so it’s a good idea to pick up the phone to a colleague from work to help engage in normal work life.
If your business uses hosted telephony solutions, getting in touch with your team can be extremely easy as everything is based in the cloud. This allows you and your colleagues to all keep the same phone number and easily call internal phone lines, as it would be from the office, as well as contacting customers.
If you can, try to:
- Have a dedicated time to talk to your line manager or team
- Maintain scheduled meetings as normal, simply host them digitally rather than face-to-face
- Use cloud based software to collaborate on work rather than working individually
The flexibility of hosted telephony solutions can certainly help make ‘the new normal’ feel less uncertain and stressful.
Keeping active is very important, especially as current restrictions limit our time outside, including commutes. Whilst it is easy to simply transition time outdoors into looking at our computer or phone screens, make sure you get out for a form of exercise, such as going for a walk, run or a bike ride near to home.
Staying active has an incredible host of benefits; it keeps you fit and healthy, encourages endorphins and can break up your day.
Taking breaks is very important to do when working from home. It can sometimes be easy to forget to do because you are not in your normal routine.
To make sure you are taking any entitled breaks you usually have when in the office, make sure you tell your colleagues you are on your break and will not be responding for a while. Then make sure that you move away from your working area and log off, maybe using this time to go for your daily exercise.
Maintain a routine
It is important to keep a routine when working from home to allow yourself a balance between your work and private life. This can be achieved by maintaining your normal working hours – 9am-5pm, 8.30-6pm, whatever they may be – and signing off as you would usually. Routine can also include when you take your daily exercise, when you make yourself a coffee or tea, or when you have company wide or team meetings scheduled.
Keeping the same working hours may be complicated if you have children at home or need to share any technology with a partner or other family member. If this is the case, being flexible might be necessary, in which case try to maintain your workspace as discussed.
Contact our team about remote working
If your business is already utilising our cloud based phone systems and wants to know more about the features that can help your team work more effectively from home, then please get in touch with us on 01256 391 046.