The COVID-19 pandemic gave many businesses across the globe no option but to work remotely.
Whilst many started hunched over dining room tables and stray children were regular guests on team Zoom calls, businesses and their employees have quickly adapted to prove that many can operate just as well, and in some cases better whilst working remotely.
As we gradually return to normality, many businesses will now be asking the question of whether remote working will continue to be a part of their business going forward.
If you are debating whether or not to make the switch to a home based or remote working model, take a look at some of the things you must consider including GDPR, security and productivity.
The Benefits of Remote Working
It is surprising that many businesses have found they can have their staff work from home and productivity has remained high if not higher than normal.
Admittedly, some of this is down to the fact that people have not had places to go and friends to meet up with but on the whole, there are less distractions when working from home.
Staff have also seen a benefit, the time saving of the daily commute often adds up to 10+ hours a week and the petrol, car servicing, bus and rail fares have also been saved too.
Reduced energy costs in the office add up over a few months and as for the refreshment bill – it is non-existent at the moment.
So why not just closedown the office and have everyone work from home permanently?
Considerations Whilst Remote Working
As businesses, we have all reacted at speed to keep our communities safe and reduce the spread of Covid-19. In the longer term though things may not work quite as smoothly and although it is not impossible to have staff work from home on a permanent basis there are some additional considerations to take into account.
A Place to Work
Both staff and customers have been really accommodating during lockdown. Phoning your bank and speaking with someone who has their dog or child making noises in the background has been part of life during Covid-19 and we have all worked positively to allow life to continue.
It would be great if everyone remained this positive and accepted that a business can still deliver a great service despite the fact that the phone calls and video sessions may not be as professional as before.
However, it is expected this will be less accepted as the norm and so home workers will need a proper desk, chair and work-space so that they can close the door and be in work mode.
As an employer, you will still need to ensure that health and safety is complied with and this includes the regulations around Display Screen Equipment (DSE). The HSE provide a useful leaflet available here for download which highlights the minimum requirements expected of employers. There is nothing specifically stating what type of desk, chair etc is required but there is plenty of guidance on the correct working position for staff that are using DSE all day. It would be very difficult to argue a claim of long-term back pain was not caused as a result of spending 8 hours a day working from a sofa or the edge of a bed.
Internet & Connectivity
Many home Internet connections are not that great and where they are placed in the house relative to the home office will be important. Having long cables trailing down staircases and through the lounge is not an ideal setup and consideration might need to be given to connecting wired devices such as VoIP phones onto wireless.
Potentially there may be a good business case to have a business Internet connection fitted – we can advise and support this through one of our business partners. The advantage of this is that the connection can be place directly into the home office an minimise those long cables.
Alternatively, if a good Internet is already available in the home but not in the correct place it may be possible to utilise other technologies. Powerline extenders are on option which allow the electrical circuit to be used to carry the Internet signal. The office side of this connection will usually have 1 or more sockets to plug in a phone or a computer and this will fulfil the requirements for many.
Unfortunately, this is not the perfect solution for everyone as connections sometime suffer as a result of other electrical equipment on the same circuit (fridge freezers are renowned for this). Even more common is that a home extension has been done and a second consumer unit has been fitted and this will stop the signal completely.
Another option is the use of 2 access points, one of which plugs into the home router and the second plugged into the office. Assuming wireless connection works over this distance it offers one or more sockets to plug a phone and computer and can be a great if not slightly more expensive option.
The final consideration with home internet is what happens when other people in the same household want to use it. Modern games played from games consoles have a habit of utilising most of the bandwidth and this may necessitate a business Internet connection or changes to the activities that staff can reasonably undertake when the entire street becomes a slow zone.
As a business, you are responsible for ensuring you know where data is, that it is secure and that it can be removed if requested. There are lots of ways to share data depending on whether these are standalone files such as Microsoft Word or Excel files or whether these are databases such as a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Either way ensuring that the data is backed up and encrypted will remain an important part of compliance.
We have all become used to people calling us back, probably using their personal mobile phone and blocking their number. In the longer term this will need to be thought through so phone calls can be transferred to the right people and potentially phone recording can occur. Cloud based VoIP systems are part of the solution and once again we can advise via one of our business partners.
Many may have been pleased to abandon the monthly team meeting, but a regular team meeting ensures that everyone is pulling in the same direction and different inputs can help to resolve problems more quickly and effectively.
One to one meetings are also important in helping to develop staff, assist with personal circumstances and ensure general happiness in their role.
Using video meetings via Microsoft Teams or Zoom are certainly more commonplace now but web cameras are key to these being a success. As humans most of our communication is by body language and voice inflection, without video it is difficult to get a full understanding of these regular meetings.
Remote Working Solutions
Throughout the lockdown, our customers have continued to present us problems that require solutions using existing equipment and minimal budgets. It has been an enjoyable challenge to find answers to the many problems posed but on each occasion we have found a way around the problem to ensure businesses remain operational through remote working or other solutions.
Longer-term home-based working will require more planning and thought. Without a dedicated room or part of a room they can convert to a home office, it will be very difficult for employees to work from home productively and without long term health issues.
Internet solutions have to be next on the agenda. Most of their time will be spent accessing the cloud or remote connecting to the work environment, a reliable and relatively fast Internet will make this very much easier.
Many homes will have access to decent Internet connectivity but will have opted for a cheaper solution that fulfils their home requirements. This may need the business to fund or part fund a solution that is better able to fulfil the higher demands of home working.
The Future of Working?
There are many challenges and considerations that businesses need to consider before making the decision to include remote working as a part of the way they operate.
If you are looking to continue working remotely full time or as part of a hybrid model, ensuring your staff have the correct hardware, security and connectivity will provide significant benefits in terms of efficiency and productivity.
To find out more about remote working solutions, give our team a call on 0117 975 9523 or fill out the form below and one of our team will get back to you.