Top 10 Essentials for your Home Working Toolkit
While cloud technology has boosted mobility for businesses and made it possible to work from anywhere with any device, the Coronavirus (Covid-19) has had quite the polar effect with immobility and working from home with personal devices being the new norm. The question of whether remote working is more productive or not is still up for debate. Findings from a three-volume study of the subject by enterprise software company Aternity (“The Remote Work Productivity Tracker; Global Trends in Remote Work Productivity”) found that as stay-at-home restrictions have eased in Europe, remote work productivity has declined, despite employees spending an additional 3 hours per day on their computers. Many employees are starting their workdays later, with little or no face-to-face interaction. Of course, there are many ways to enhance home-based productivity – this article focuses on the top 10 essentials that every employee should have in place to at least give themselves a fighting chance.
1) Stick to the routine….
Working from home on a semi-permanent basis means that you have to set clear boundaries between home and work. Establish a routine where you wake up in the morning at the same time each weekday. Refrain from accessing work emails until work time has actually started. With the lack of the daily commute, establish a pre-work routine which provides you with at least 15 minutes of exercise time and breakfast. Many people prefer to skip breakfast, and while the old adage “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” rings true to many, this is more about keeping to a daily drill and not what you are eating. End the day on time (as you would at work) with a similar 15-minute exercise wind-down.
Your work environment will be different to that of an office. If you are using a laptop then be conscious of its positioning to avoid various strains (arm, back, eye). Arrange the laptop screen so that the top edge is level with your eyes. Try and establish a work setting with the use of a desk. An adjustable chair and footrest work well to improve your comfort and subsequent productivity.
2) Internet improves productivity…
Work is hard enough without waiting ages for web pages to load or emails to send. With the widespread use of Internet telephony and video conferencing, the need for a high-speed, reliable Internet connection has become the critical path to getting work done. The most suitable Internet technology for home workers is FTTC (“Fibre to the Cabinet”) broadband (see our guide to Internet connectivity here). It is similar in technology to the existing, slower ADSL services and is installed over your existing telephone line. Advertised download speeds of 80Mbps in reality deliver between 20Mbps and 60Mbps. Providers such as Virgin also have their own variations of this technology offering speeds of up to 350Mbps. A rollout of FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) will also deliver equivalent speeds, with 4 million premises to be covered by March 2021. For even higher speeds of up to 10Gbps take a look at leased lines.
3) Anyone going Phishing?
This is a big subject; for starters make sure you are aware of the terms phishing, hacking and Identity theft and how they could impact your organisation. Unsurprisingly, cybercrime has become more profitable than the global illegal drug trade (Source: Cybersecurity Ventures). To bring it into context, a hacker attack occurs every 39 seconds(Source: Security magazine) with an average of 75 records being stolen every second (Source: Breach Level Index).
Some basic advice – ensure that you use strong passwords, with at least 12 characters including symbols, numbers and lowercase and uppercase letters. Use an online password generator to help with this task. Ensure that all of your devices have the latest endpoint protection (we install Trend Worry-Free for our clients). For mobile phones, MDM (mobile device management) applications are common for locking down devices and protecting business information. As a security measure, avoid accessing business resources from public networks such as coffee shops and shopping malls. Use Multi-factor authentication and encryption where possible.
4) Make it Virtually Private
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that transforms a public network into a secure private network to offer anonymity and privacy to users. It masks your IP address and transmits data from public networks via a secure and encrypted “tunnel”. So, using a VPN service to access business networks is highly recommended, especially when you are working from a shopping mall or a coffee shop. Popular products include NordVPN, Surfshark, PureVPN, PrivateInternetAccess.
5) Face to Face Meetings…in Isolation
With 44 million daily users of Microsoft Teams (Source: Forbes) it is clear that video conferencing has become the de facto way of arranging face to face meetings whilst working from home. Microsoft Teams, Bluejeans, Zoom, Cisco Webex, Skype are some of the popular video conferencing apps available today. A strategy for most businesses is to utilise a video conferencing solution such as Microsoft Teams for most internal and customer / supplier meetings, but then to have a subscription to Zoom or Bluejeans for larger video conferencing requirements. Most applications include a host of features such as chat, email and business voice calling to offer a single, consolidated communications experience.
6) Cloud Storage
A cloud storage service will enable you to access files from any location and share them with colleagues from any device, making collaboration that much easier to accomplish. Common offerings include Microsoft Onedrive and Dropbox.
7) Let’s talk….
In a homeworking environment, there is no one size fits all communications method. Colleagues, customers, suppliers, friends, family all communicate using a wealth of different media and software applications. Whilst video conferencing is an invaluable communications platform for any toolkit, it is not always the most suitable. So also consider other communication methods such as Internet telephony, chat, messaging, and so on. Tools such as Microsoft Teams (included in Microsoft Office 365 suite) aim to provide a single application from which multichannel communication is possible. Screen sharing is also fairly standard for performing remote presentations.
8) Delivery on time…
For project driven environments, powerful project management software is invaluable to help you to schedule tasks, collaborate with colleagues, implement document workflows, generate reports and track project progress. Products such as Jira, Basecamp, Trello, Asana are some of the popular project management tools. For Office 365 users, Microsoft Project is available as part of a monthly subscription.
9) Houston, we have a problem
For speedy assistance in resolving a problem on your laptop or PC, remote management software enables IT support professionals to access your device remotely and solve your technical issue. Teamviewer is a popular tool for remote control and support and enables the management of a range of devices. Other popular applications include LogMeIn, Zoho Assist, AnyDesk.
10) Time Management tools
Without big brother watching, scheduling your time is down to you and can be a difficult task. Time management tools help you to efficiently schedule your time, track project time and record hours if working on customer problems. Functionality enables you to create time sheets and custom time reports for easy invoicing and submissions to payroll. ProofHub, Toggl, HubStaff are some of the popular tools in this sector.
There are many more tools out there that you can add to your home working toolkit. Always research any new products you wish to use and ensure that they help improve collaboration and productivity, whilst being simple to learn and cost effective for your organisation.
Telappliant is a leading managed services provider serving over 6000 UK businesses with telephony, Internet, IT and cybersecurity solutions. We work with businesses to increase productivity, maintain business continuity and simplify IT management. No gimmicks or fancy buzzwords, but just a strong team of technology professionals working to help solve your business challenges.