This Spring marks the anniversary of the UK’s national lockdown as part of the Government’s Coronavirus management strategy.

Overnight, businesses across the country were asked to get employees working from home where possible.  Whilst the UK had seen a move towards greater home and flexible working pre-2020, it wasn’t quite prepared for such a dramatic move.

For Excalibur, it was a fairly straightforward process to roll-out home working across the business as a significant number of colleagues already operated remotely or worked flexibly.  For customers, who hadn’t previously needed remote capabilities, it was a different story.

The Excalibur engineering team worked above and beyond to get these customers and their employees set-up to work from home.

Our main work covered; supply and configuration of laptops, enabling remote network access, establishing VPNs (virtual private networks) setting up collaborative communications platforms, installation and upgrading of security and IT support for homeworkers.

A year on, more experienced in working remotely ourselves and with a track-record of successfully enabling our customers to do the same, we have put together the Ultimate Guide to Working From Home.

 

STEP 1:   Getting IT and Communications Right

Employers need to be committed to making working from home a success and invest in IT and communications that will boost an employee’s remote working capabilities. Make you, your business and employees have:

The Right Equipment

  • a well specced laptop with a reasonable sized screen and camera for meetings
  • a quality headset

Good Connectivity

  • the best local connectivity available in your home – are the speeds good enough, consider upgrading to superfast broadband if it is available in your area (employer and employees need to pre-agree how to fund any upgrades)

Access to the Cloud

  • Cloud based multimedia offers a huge range of options when it comes to business to promote collaboration and communications. From; voice, ‘chat’ platforms, email, text and video through to creating group meetings with applications like Teams, SharePoint and Microsoft 365.  Make sure you have access to one of these platforms and embrace using it.

 

STEP 2:   How to secure remote working

On top of establishing a secure virtual private network, Excalibur recommends taking advantage of additional to security solutions that will protect a company network and devices – fixed or mobile – from intrusion, malware and malicious threats. With mobiles and laptops being the main tools for home working, Mobile Device Management solutions adds an extra layer of security for the remote user, from strict ID/verification logon protocols, greater control of what applications employees can and can’t access to regular security maintenance and upgrades.

 

STEP 3:         Remote Working Tips 

Creating a healthy home working and home life balance is central to building a positive remote working culture that delivers results for business as well as high levels of engagement and wellbeing among employees.

Whilst there is plenty of tech available to help create a place for colleagues to cooperate and thrive, it can be isolating or difficult – particularly if you have a house full – to work from home.  To make the most of it and avoid the pitfalls, here are our remote working tips:

 

Create a Designated Workspace

If you don’t have a designated study, try and avoid using the kitchen table and create a comfortable and light workspace that you can designate as your office. But, be sure to clear it away at the end of the day so you can fully switch off in the evening without the site of your laptop.

 

Establish Routines

Creating a new routine will provide to structure to your day and is a good way to maintain productivity.

  • Get up, shower, all the usual things and get dressed for work. Get Comfy – make sure you opt for something comfortable if you do not need to dress formally for a webcam meeting.
  • Make the most of your commute time. Use this time to exercise, meditate or do “one of those jobs” that you have been meaning to do for ages.
  • Breaks and lunch. Make sure you step away from your workspace for lunch and take regular breaks to stretch out.  The latest research says you should stand up every 30 minutes.  A few trips up and down the stairs or around the block will help get your blood circulating.

 

Planning and focus

Plan your working day in blocks of time with scheduled breaks.  Timetable in a variety of activities or project work and meetings to bring variety into your day.  This will keep your mind fresh, focused, and motivated.

 

Stay in Touch

Make sure you are in regular contact with colleagues beyond scheduled team meetings.  Pick up the phone or video call to speak to people, don’t just email.  It is great to just run ideas by people or ask for guidance.  Remember, it’s also important to ask how your colleagues are feeling, get up to date on what things are going on in their non-work lives too – much as you would during an informal coffee break.

 

STEP 4:         Managing Remote Teams

Managing remote teams can be a challenge.  Businesses should have a clear goal to put in a place an operating model that truly support working from home and that will have a positive impact on company culture. Key starting points should be:

 

  • Agree a company policy on how your business wants its employees to operate and work from home.
  • Take the time to work out a policy that meets management and employee expectations in terms of engagement, productivity, and a healthy home/work balance.
  • Management need to introduce fair ways of measuring productivity, managing and developing staff and nurturing a healthy company culture
  • Clearly define what face-to-face meetings staff need to be in the office for and agree what sessions can be run remotely.
  • Use collaboration tools to bring teams of colleagues together to set objectives and goals, share progress, ideas and successes as well as problem solving. Don’t limit these sessions to just work. Consider having the odd bit of social fun too e.g. virtual drinks or quiz.
  • Managers should look to increase the frequency of 121’s to check-in on individuals needs and development.
  • Recognise good work by sending out an email to an individual or team. A team or individual may be out of sight, but this shows they are not out of mind.

As Sophie Smith, Excalibur’s Head of Business Development says about working from home;  “It’s no longer purely about where you work, it’s how you work that matters”

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