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Tuesday, October 27, 2020
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Meeting the challenges of working from home

These are challenging times as we all struggle to come to terms with the deaths and the ongoing mental, physical and financial stresses that our families and colleagues may yet suffer.

With the spread of Covid-19, remote work is suddenly an overnight requirement for many.

It is realistic to assume that shifting to the “home office” will become the new normal for many of us for some time. We are being forced into the world’s largest work from home (WFH) experiment. And it may not be easy for many to implement in a short time frame.

According to a 2019 merchantsavvy global survey, 61 percent of companies currently have some sort of remote working policy for their staff, but not necessarily the data and IT policies to match this.

HR and health and safety requirements aside, the biggest challenge may stem from the lack of technology infrastructure and lack of comfort with new ways of working.

This may not be an option for everybody due to home lives, work types and activities. And some may be engaging in WFH for the first time, which means figuring out how to stay on task in a new environment that may not lend itself to productivity.

So what are the key considerations?

The workspace

Having a dedicated space at home helps. It is best to put on work clothes and set up a desk, or location that is not the sofa, kitchen bench or bedroom.

This also advises those living with you that “I am now at work”. A desk and comfortable office chair are desirable. Two or three monitors will offer more productivity than one screen. And for those using laptops I’d recommend mice and keyboards with a docking station.

Printing

You will no longer have the use of the office scanner / printer, and this may be a requirement.
Connectivity

Where possible, an uncapped high speed internet connection is desirable. A backup 4G router can also be supplied to separate work from streaming TV.

  • Phones. Divert phone systems to mobiles or if you have a VOIP phone system, it is easy to take the office / desk phone and plug it in at home. With some systems, an app can be downloaded to your mobile phone allowing you to also make and receive calls from your office number.
  • Remote access: A VPN (virtual private network) customised and connected to your office environment is one of the better, most secure options. Team Viewer and netconnect are less secure, cheaper options. Windows has Remote Desktop (RD), and Apple RD is built into the operating system.
File sharing

File sharing options like google drive, one drive, dropbox, etc are handy to save “dialing” into the office. These can also be used to collaborate and share, and make sure you follow the rule of not emailing anything over 8mb.

Infrastructure and security

Don’t overlook security. One of the problems with distributed workforces is that remote workers are prime targets for those wishing to exploit vulnerabilities.
This is obviously a concern when dealing with sensitive data, proprietary information, and contracts.

  • Password hygiene: Strong, frequently updated passwords protect businesses. Do not use the same password across multiple applications. (check out lastpass, keepass, passportal for password control and single sign on options )

If the company owns the device, then it should ensure it is properly protected with up-to-date antivirus, monitoring, remote access agents, device encryption, and firewalls.

Cyber security policies should designate which devices can be used for which kinds of business activity. If you are providing your own equipment be mindful of company security policies. Multifactor and 2Factor authentication is a must.

Communications and meetings

WFH success depends heavily on whether you trust employees to do their work, even if you can’t see them.
Focus on performance outcomes and productivity reviews.

Set accurate expectations with employees and enable supportive interactions. WFH can feel unstructured, so have clear-set expectations for communications day to day.

Time management tools like Timely, Toggle, everhour and focus applications like pomodoro can assist.

Communication and instant messaging tools like Teams, Zoom, Slack, mattermost, google hangouts, discord, facebook and whatsapp, can keep the office banter and communications going.

Headsets with boom mikes and noise cancellations are a good option when using these.

  • Maintain as much face-to-face interaction online as possible – especially to those employees who live alone and might feel more isolated.
Get ready for the remote-work future

This vast remote-work experiment is also a great opportunity to prepare for the future.

According to recent Gartner research:

  • By 2030, the demand for remote work will increase by 30 percent due to Generation Z fully entering the workforce.
  • 64 percent of today’s professionals say they could work anywhere and remote work policies are common (in place at
  • 71 percent of organisations).

The mandatory current use of remote work for business continuity signals that it’s time to revisit remote working policies.

And to redesign them for wider application when business defines what our new normal will be.

Tony Snow
Tony Snow
Tony Snow is chief executive and co-founder of Stratus Blue. He can be contacted at tony@stratusblue.co.nz.

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