When Covid-19 arrived with us and infections began to rise exponentially, and worryingly, one of the first interventions which government made was to advise every citizen who was able to work from home rather than traveling into work to do so.
Really it was a no-brainer. When faced with the dilemma between endangering human life and damaging the economy, a solution that avoided doing either was always going to be an attractive option.
If anything, it forced the hands of a lot of employers who really should have been more proactive in moving towards a home working operation in any case, for a significant number of reasons. As well as being a positive move for the environment, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that it is also a more efficient, and effective, way of working.
An attractive option for employees
If handled properly, the benefits to the employer are many. Logistical differences with getting staff members into work at specific times are sidestepped, and as such a number of obstacles to an efficient working, the operation is already overcome. Less office space is required, and developments in IT networking technology make it more than possible to allow home workers to use their own equipment which in itself generates savings to the company.
For the employee, on the other hand, the main benefits are to be found in the field of job satisfaction. In these times of flexible working, any arrangement which can make allowances for school schedules and the demands of family life immediately takes the stress out of having to balance these various facets of a staff member’s everyday routine.
Of course, if employees are to be encouraged to work from home they will need to be equipped with the necessary tools, and also will have to be given the training that they require in order to work unsupervised. Here we consider some of the solutions which are available to business owners today.
Rooters and cloud systems
As an employee and a private individual, your home internet set-up is unlikely to be of the required grade for sustained industrial usage. Applications will be slow, and there are likely to be significant issues around security.
Unless your home system has the capability to sustain a business-grade connection, the installation of a 4G router is going to be the most practical option in most instances. This will bond your connection from a series of individual SIM cards into one fast, reliable connection. And because it is physically portable, you will be able to take it with you to other locations such as a hotel and to use it as you would at home.
Cloud-based technology is also likely to be of benefit when you are logging in to a wider commercial network from your own equipment. Remote data and information storage become available to you on a large scale, and any security issues that may potentially arise will be relatively easy to work through for any IT department worthy of the name.
Usually, employees would be expected to connect with their company’s CRM, or customer relationship management system. This piece of project management software enables you to retain and interrogate information about clients or potential clients, all provided through a centralized database to which you will have access.
A CRM system can be set up in such a way that is bespoke to your company’s operational procedures, enabling you to track the progress of your quoting process for each individual prospect, compatibly with your accounting software so that invoicing and order details are available to you at your fingertips.
In recent years and even months home working has been made possible for many more people due to some fairly impressive advances in communications technology. In particular video conferencing applications have enabled meetings to be held either on a one-to-one basis or in groups.
With a very simple and basic video and audio connection, it is possible for employees even to use their own equipment as a tool through which full conferencing can take place.
Key among these have been Microsoft Teams, Meet, and Skype for Business, although the Covid-19 pandemic has seen an exponential rise in the use of the increasingly popular Zoom app. Once the pandemic is over it is likely that much of this new capability will continue to be used in place of physical meetings, which often involve arduous and expensive journeys for individuals at much cost to our environment.
Another useful piece of equipment is the time-honored Bluetooth headset. With the kind of distractions that we all encounter from time to time when we attempt to turn our home into a viable working environment, it can be useful just to lock into a telephone conversation and, if possible, even multitask with other work as we do so without having to worry about dropping the receiver.
One final tool we should avail ourselves of is some simple project management software. Primitive versions of this have come integrated with elementary home computer systems for decades in the form of calendars, address books and calculators, but ideally, employees need to be using something more holistic and collaborative. Systems like Basecamp and Plutio offer a real digital workspace that comes in exceptionally useful when trying to organize work sequencing and commercial events.
Being equipped with these very fundamental, and easily accessible, pieces of kit can transform our home work station into a functional office with all the capability that that entails.
A design for the future
Even when the virus has finally gone it is unlikely that we will return entirely to the wasteful and excessive practices of our recent past. The home-working revolution which has been forced upon us by Covid-19 has shown us a new way, which in many senses is a better option than the ways of yesterday. In all likelihood, we will retain that which has worked the best and incorporate it into a new, more joined-up, and sustainable way of doing things.