Another week...another Prime Minister briefing. On Tuesday, Boris Johnson advised people to work from home wherever possible...having encouraged them to go back to work a few months ago! This time though, we are looking at a six-month stretch.
For businesses that invested in home working technology to get them through the initial lockdown, this news will not be too painful. They can simply revert back to the remote working practices that saw them through the end of March to mid-July.
However, if your business struggled to operate effectively during that time and could not wait to get back into the office, then it begs the question: What’s stopping you from working from home?
I understand that not all businesses can accommodate remote working but there are plenty of office-based roles that can be transferred into a home environment, especially with children now back at school to reduce distraction levels.
Here are some of the scenarios that may be preventing you from comfortably adopting a long-term remote working strategy:
Cannot transfer calls to remote workers
This will probably be because you are using an ageing phone system that is located in your office and does not have the functionality to transfer calls to remote users. We know this continues to be an issue from the calls we make to our prospective customers.
Out of reach of your desk handset
If you are working from home, then your desk handset will certainly be out of reach and will be a symptom of the issue above. This can be fixed with a cloud-hosted phone system using handsets twinned with mobile devices. It does not matter where people are working, calls between users will be free, transfers will be easy and you can make and receive calls as if you were in the office.
Miss face-to-face meetings
You may have overcome this issue by using a video calling app like Zoom, but you also may want to consider using apps that integrate with your phone system for a more professional experience, especially if you want to invite clients to a video meeting.
Miss your colleagues
We all do... but you can still stay in touch with them using the apps mentioned above along with video, you can chat via instant message, share your screen and send files. You can view their availability too to choose the most appropriate means of contacting them. If they are in a meeting, you can email them or message them. If they are available, you can initiate an audio or video call. The aim is to ease collaboration and give you an opportunity to check in with your colleagues.
Cannot access all your files
When lockdown was announced in March, some people picked up their PCs and took them home or transferred the files they thought they would need to a personal laptop or computer. The former does not guarantee access to office-based servers and the latter poses a significant security risk. The ideal is to offer remote access to individual desktops and corporate servers via a secure virtual private network, then it really is like using your PC at work...but you’re at home.
Remote access overload
Some businesses may have already made remote access available for a number of home-based or mobile workers, but most will not have been prepared for a whole business trying to use it at the same time! This will have put serious pressure on your internet bandwidth with frustrating results, as staff usually access servers using the local area network in the office. Your internet service can be upgraded - it might take a little bit of time though - or you could shift your servers to a data centre where the connectivity is primed for remote access.
Poor connectivity at home
Hopefully, some of this may have been solved with the kids heading back to school. No more competing with Fortnite or NetFlix! However, you may still be struggling. Network providers are now beginning to bring out homeworking solutions that offer you a business-class service level agreement in case there is an issue with your connection. You may also want to consider 4G dongle or MiFi to give you the connectivity you need.
Worried about investment
These are worrying times, but businesses cannot appear to be closed by not answering their phones or failing to respond quickly enough to other enquiries. The issues above can be resolved without a capital investment. IT and comms services can be purchased on monthly subscription basis, often for the same as you are already paying as savings can be found along the way.
We have been helping businesses find solutions to accommodate home working for six months. I have listed a few case studies below to give you further helpful reading material. Needless to say, we are happy to help any other businesses with issues likes these to make working from home as productive as possible for the next six months.
Citizens Advice East Devon