How to you and your team can work more flexibly

People hangout together at coffee shop

By Gary Young, Equinox

If you ask your staff how many would love to be able to work somewhere other than the office?  What can you do to help them achieve this while keeping your business running smoothly and your customers happy?

Avoiding commuting and fewer distractions such as unnecessary meetings etc. when combined with the right tech, can actually increase productivity within your business.  Let’s look at what you need to make this happen.

Equipping your team to work remotely

Employees will need the right technology solutions in place. They cannot work unless they can get into the network, send and receive emails and access the internet. Let’s look at what they will need:

  1. Network access

Network access needs to be controlled to ensure your data is secure, but that doesn’t mean you cannot give remote access and remote working capability to your team.

If they are going to work remotely on a regular basis and still spend some time with you in the office, the simple choice is to give them a laptop instead of a desktop. Depending on your network setup, there are a number of tools you can use to connect your team to your network without compromising security:

  • Office365 means your data lives in the Cloud and can easily be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. Generally, more suited to smaller businesses, but being adopted by more and more.
  • VPN technologies, often with two-factor authentication, are declining in popularity, but if you still have a local server infrastructure, this belt and braces approach may be the right one for you.

If they are working from home, they will use their home internet connection. Make sure they have unlimited data packages so they don’t incur any big bills whilst working.  If they are on the move, tethering to their phones and using the data packages is simple. 4G, and currently rolling out 5G, mean connection speeds are no longer an issue and dramatically increases the number of places they can work from. Local free WiFi provision, such as coffee shops and pubs, can provide that connectivity, but may be a security risk, so are best avoided.

  • Security

Absolutely vital in today’s world. Skimping on your IT security is a very dangerous thing to do. The proliferation of ransomware and other nasties means you would simply be running a risk that doesn’t make sense.

Endpoint protection from companies such as Sophos and ESET (https://www.eset.com) make it easy to secure any device that is connecting to your network, whether that is laptops, mobiles or even an employee’s personal machine. Many will allow you to wipe data in the event of a potential security breach too.

  • Communication

If communication is simply between staff, mobiles will often be sufficient. If clients need to talk to remote workers, and they need to talk to clients, you may need something a little better.

Most VoIP telephone solutions have multiple ways to connect your clients and employees:

  • Mobile agents: an app on the mobile that converts the mobile to a desktop during the call, using the internet as the call carrier. This can sometimes work over the GSM network but will use the 4G when that employee is out and about.
  • Softphones: if your employee is simply sat in front of the laptop, whilst working from home, a softphone app may be better. The laptop becomes the phone and the employee uses a headset
  • Divert the calls: re-routing calls to and from mobiles can be done on most VoIP solutions. The number dialled by the client (and presented to them if the employee calls them) is the DDI or your company number rather than the mobile number.
  • Productivity

Project management and collaboration tools have been around for years now and continue to improve.  Products such as Slack or Trello are probably the most well-known, allowing your teams to share information, instant message and allocate tasks with ease. Microsoft is fairly late to the party, with Microsoft Teams, but is rapidly capturing market share, particularly amongst Microsoft fans.

Remote working without one of these tools is significantly more difficult.

You may also want to think about offering more flexible hours. Employees may like to start work early, or they may prefer to work into the evening. Unless they have, for example, a customer-facing role or there are other issues it may be well-worth having a conversation with them about this.  The technology is there to help!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Young is Director of independent telecoms brokerage Equinox. Gary works with companies, charities and other organisations to help them choose the right telecoms packages for their needs and thereby reduce their costs. He is particularly knowledgeable on the integration of IT and telecoms in business.  www.equinoxcomms.co.uk

Twitter: @CommsEquinox

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