Working from home has always been something of a tricky topic.
Is your team really working on that proposal? Or are they, in fact, working on finishing up those last few episodes of Love Island? These doubts are natural, and – yes – making your business work-from-home ready does involve a lot of trust.
But it doesn’t have to be difficult and, perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t have to take a long time to implement.
There are many reasons why your business might choose to enable working from home. Whether it’s to avoid the spread of a contagious bug or simply to accommodate an employee who’s had a new baby, the factors vary wildly from business to business. But rather than focusing on the why of working from home, we’d instead like to focus on the how.
If you’ve already decided to make your business work-from-home ready, we’ve put together 5 practical steps to help you do just that effectively and promptly.
#1: Enable remote access to your team’s workstations
Let’s begin with the most direct method of working from home – remote desktop.
Provided you have a reliable business internet connection, your team will should be able to connect to their office-based workstations from home. All modern flavours of Windows Pro and Enterprise come with the Remote Desktop Connection app built in, so – at least in theory – your team can simply connect to your company’s network, log in with their credentials, and voila! They’ll have full remote access to the computer as though they were sitting right in front of it.
But is it really that simple?
Well, once everything's set up, it will work pretty seamlessly – but it can take some legwork to get the infrastructure in place. You should also consider the platforms your team are using – remote desktop connections work directly to Windows Pro and Enterprise, from Windows, MAC, Android and iOS. But if, in your office, you're using the home version of Windows or a Mac, you will need a different approach.
On top of that, you'll also need to set up a secure way for your team to connect to the office. Simply opening up remote desktop connections without adequate security measures can be asking for trouble – so it's well worth doing it right.
If you think remote desktop connection is the right solution for your business, the Get Support team can take care of all the technical stuff for you so that it just works.
Prefer to look at other work-from-home options? Then read on.
#2: Deploy cloud-based software for anywhere, anytime access
There’s no escaping the cloud these days – and for good reason.
With cloud-based software, your business can operate from almost anywhere. So long as you have an internet connection and a supported device, you can check email, work on documents, and much more. It’s easy to how cloud-based software fits into the work-from-home model, and it’s one of the biggest factors that makes it possible at all. So let’s get into the detail.
Here at Get Support, we’re a Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider. What that essentially means is that we’re an approved supplier of Microsoft’s popular Office 365 suite of cloud-based software.
With Office 365, your staff will be able to access the full suite of productivity applications from anywhere with an internet connection. That includes:
- Outlook and Microsoft Exchange Email
- Microsoft Teams
As you can see, an Office 365 subscription covers you for almost all office-based tasks, including email, word processing, spreadsheet management, and more.
With the power of Microsoft Teams, you can even have “face-to-face” video meetings and work collaboratively on the same document at the same time. Who needs meeting rooms, anyway? On top of that, OneDrive gives you shared cloud storage in lieu of a central company server – and SharePoint helps you keep your company documentation neat and tidy.
#3: Invest in new hardware for your team
Let’s imagine that you want to enable work-from-home opportunities for your team, but – perhaps due to the nature of your work – you’d prefer not to use cloud-based apps or remote servers.
There’s a solution to that, too – and it’s as simple as it is elegant: supplying your team with computer hardware to use at home.
The most natural choice would be laptops, as they’ll allow remote workers to carry out computer-based tasks from the location that suits them best. Even better, because the laptops are company property, you’ll be able to have complete control and monitoring of each piece of hardware. But, with cyberattacks on the rise, it’s only natural that you’d want to keep critical business data (including the contents of company laptops) locked down – and supplying your own devices is a great way to do this.
We can’t cover hardware without a quick mention of an alternative to company laptops: BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. As you can probably surmise from the name, BYOD essentially just means your employees using their own laptops or other devices to carry out their work. Whether or not this is an option for your business will depend on a range of factors, including the sensitivity of the work and data being handled. On top of security concerns, you’ll also have less oversight of how the device is being used (with some exceptions which we’ll cover later).
That said, if BYOD sounds right for your business, you could also look into advanced security options like Microsoft Intune, which allows your team to use their personal devices – like smartphones – for work purposes without compromising security.
Whether you choose to deploy new hardware for your remote team, or go BYOD, this is one quick win that can enable work-from-home opportunities almost overnight.
#4: Take your office phones home (virtually) with Voice over IP
While there’s no doubt that the world of business is more digital than ever before, the phone is still an essential tool for many companies. Whether it’s internal calls to colleagues or those critical chats with clients, conversation still drives much of what UK businesses do.
So, what happens when everyone’s away from their desks at the same time? Or when they’re all at home?
With conventional phone systems, calls would either ring out or perhaps be picked up by voicemail to be reviewed remotely later. But that solution is time-consuming and – to be frank – a little bit clumsy. It’s here where VoIP – or Voice over IP – really comes into its own.
In a nutshell, VoIP is a telephone service which operates over the internet rather than a traditional telephone line. Calls can be received on a VoIP phone (exactly like a regular desk phone), via software on the computer itself, on a smartphone or tablet – the possibilities are endless. On top of being untethered from traditional phone lines, VoIP also offers a wide range of convenience features –including call forwarding – without the need for complex setup.
With Voice over IP, your business can get all set up in less than 24 hours – and you can redirect your existing landline, which essentially intercepts all calls and forwards them to the VoIP system. The experience is identical for the person calling, you retain all the functionality of your office phone system – and you enjoy all the benefits of VoIP, too. That’s a win-win.
So, if you’re looking for a fast, modern, and reliable way to allow your employees to make and receive calls as though they were in the office – VoIP is the answer.
#5: Solving the productivity problem
Okay, so we’ve looked at some of the technical solutions for working from home, so let’s address the elephant in the room: productivity.
No matter how much you trust your workforce, there will naturally be some resistance towards allowing them to work from home. After all, how can you be sure that they’re actually working on not simply putting their feet up with a cuppa? If this is something you’re really worried about, we can help.
Here are a few practical solutions you can implement to solve the productivity problem:
- Use software on your own company-owned laptops to track productivity. When an employee is using a company laptop, they’re less likely to spend their time on non-work-related tasks.
- In the case of BYOD, you can rely on software-based solutions such as the tracking available to admins in Office 365 and Microsoft Teams. These can give you a play-by-play log of a user’s activity.
- Project management tools can be an excellent way to track the time spent on tasks vs. output. Even in BYOD scenarios, comparing time spent to deliverables in this way isn’t something that’s easy to get around.
- One of the best ways to make the transition to working from home as smooth as possible is – you guessed it – communication. With video conferencing and collaborative tools built into apps like Microsoft Teams, you can easily set up “face-to-face” check-ins to ensure everyone’s on track.
If your business has been considering allowing (or even just trialling) working from home, we hope this guide has given you some practical tips to help make it happen. In a world that’s increasingly moving towards cloud-based solutions, it seems like it’s a matter of time before working from home is commonplace.
Still have questions about the technical side of remote working? Give the IT experts at Get Support a call now on 01865 59 4000, or get in touch via our website, for straightforward answers delivered in plain English.