Smiling handsome freelancer working remotely from home. He is speaking on the phone.

COVID-19 Causes Changes in How We Work

Times are changing faster than ever. With the situation involving the novel coronavirus taking new twists and turns every day, many are finding it hard to find even footing both regarding their personal lives and their professional ones.

For many businesses this has also brought about situations that they did not have plans in place for to adapt to the ever-evolving needs of the pandemic. Many businesses have begun to turn to work from home solutions, sending their employees out of the workplace to conduct their daily operations in isolation to prevent any possible infections of the workplace and ensure personal safety.

Some of these businesses have taken very reactionary approaches to handling these issues, implementing work from home policies that may not be fully realized. Additionally, some companies have instituted these polices while providing technological tools like laptops and phones that employees are expected to use without proper support should anything go wrong.

While their hearts may be in the right place, it can lead to problems that can damage productivity and create delays in system processes for those working at home. Because of this it is important to make sure that your plans, and your IT are both set up to accommodate and adjust for these new norms.

Whether you’re already working from home, or setting things in place to do so, make sure you are properly prepared will get you set up for success, and allow you to work with piece of mind during this period of increasing isolation, or during any other events in the future that may require teams to work from home.

Making a Work from Home Checklist

As you make preparations to transition your business from working in office to working from home, you need to pay close attention to what you are doing, and what your needs are so that you can properly execute on that plan.

Creating a checklist of your own can go a long way in assisting this, especially when made with an IT company that can assist and provide proactive solutions that will ensure that any hurdles or road bumps are minor along the path. We’ve also compiled a checklist of things to take into account that can help you be aware of what things you will need to set up a proper protocol for you and your team.

The Fewer Devices, the Better

Almost everyone has heard the phrase less is more. This is especially true when setting up your business to work from home. The more tools that your employees have to use and manage, the more risks there are of them possibly making mistakes during setup.

This can prevent productivity and cause a great deal of frustration for everyone involved in the process. So, what do you do? Well, the first step would be to take stock of what your day to day operations require. Analyze any devices or software used while determining which ones are absolutely critical to perform daily tasks. You may find that while you are used to using certain things that they are not all necessary and that you can create a stripped-down version of these workstations to allow from work from home operations.

Here at LG Networks we developed an out-of-office work toolkit that has allowed for staff to work from home during the pandemic. We’ve paired down workstations with multiple monitors, tools, phones with headsets, and other items down to this setup:

  • Laptop computer with Office 365 and our Helpdesk Interface
  • VoIP Phone

Now that seems pretty bare bones, but what it shows is that you can adapt your workplace to accommodate a simpler setup for people working from home. By doing so, you allow for your employees to have an easy setup and allow them to focus on work, rather than whether or not their technology is going to cooperate and work as intended.

Always Online

One of the most important parts, if not the most important part of working from home is establishing proper channels for communication. As you’re not going to be able to walk over to your coworkers or have an in person meeting, being able to reliably communicate and get documents to one another will become a major part of your new work environment.

This is where use of the internet comes in. With applications like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and many others, organizations can keep contact no matter where they are located.

Because of this, employees are going to need fast, stable internet connections. While this is not a problem for most people, many will probably notice that their home internet might not have the speed or stability of their in office equivalents. In some cases there also may be issues with the internet such as slow performance or disconnections as this can be a common problem faced by many when first starting to work from home.

In order to ensure that connectivity is stable, and at a level to handle things like video calls and other communications tasks, there are a few things that you can do to test and make sure that you are getting the most out of your internet connection:

  • Make sure to reset your connection every so often. If your connection feels sluggish or inconsistent, turn your modem off, and then back on again. Once your connection has fully reset, retry it and see its performance.
  • If performance is still sluggish, consider contacting your internet provider and see if there are any additional options to improve internet speeds and connectivity.
  • If you are using WiFi connections, consider moving where you are working to test connectivity. If that still does not help, then you might wish to consider utilizing a landline connection via an ethernet cable.
  • If this is still sluggish due to overall increased use in home internet usage, then a phone’s hotspot option can also be used to connect to the internet.

Once these issues are given proper trouble shooting, and solutions are found to take care of them, you can work to ensure that your internet is working efficiently.

Keeping Schedule and Office Space

A big part of the work from home transition is figuring out how to work. As many people are not conditioned to the experience, this can be a difficult thing to adjust to. With a bit of work and some discipline though, people can keep productive.

One of the most important things is to keep in practice when transitioning to working from home is scheduling. Keeping a consistent schedule can assist with ensuring that you are working on time, and during proper work hours to get your tasks completed.

Keeping a consistent schedule can also assist in establishing a work/life balance, allowing you to work when you need to and unplug during off hours.

This also applies to keeping a place to work that is separate from the places you relax in. Doing so can help with establishing better focus and allow you to create a sense of an office space, even though you are still in the comfort of your home.

It is important during work from home hours that you establish habits and practices as you would in the workplace. The reason for this is because it can be easy to become distracted while in your own abode and wander off to do other things. While everyone does and should take breaks during the workday just to keep themselves fresh, there is a tipping point where a person can just become unproductive.

By setting up these spaces and keeping these habits moving, you can ensure that you are going to be able to focus on your work, and be able to work alongside your team effectively.

The Importance of IT

One of the more important parts of working from home is making sure everything is working. As the workforce is going to be out of the office, and largely on their own, they have to have working equipment to ensure that they can do their jobs. If there are any malfunctions, they may be left adrift and unable to work.

This is where having IT Support comes in. Your tech support team is going to be instrumental in the transition, and continued use of your devices during the mandatory periods of isolation brought on by COVID-19. The issue there is that in many instances, onsite IT will not be able to provide the same kind of support that would be available in office.

So what do you do in that case?

There are a few options, but many of them can carry big risks that could leave your team, and your business in a bad place. In order to fully understand, lets look fully at the options.

No IT Support

This one is not really a valid option if you wish for any kind of technological safety net or peace of mind.

Not having IT Support of any kind can leave you at incredible risk of compromise. Whether it is from failures of hardware or software, improperly installing updates, hackers, or any number of problems, no tech support means that you will be left alone to take care of the problem.

Even if you are a tech-savvy person, this is an incredibly precarious situation to put your organization in. As changes are constantly happening with technology, and dangers on the internet, it is hard to keep up with that, and manage business operations. It is highly recommended that this option not be used if you wish to keep a safe, stable working environment.

Keeping Data Secure

An often overlooked aspect of remote working is the issue of computer security and ensuring that private and confidential data remains within the walls of the company’s network. With multiple employees accessing sensitive data from multiple devices across multiple locations, keeping this information secure is going to be a challenge. Office 365’s Advanced Threat Protection helps ensure your company’s data remains secure while encouraging collaboration.

Break/Fix Support

Another option for IT Support is to use the break/fix model. At its core this model is exactly what it says on the tin: Something breaks, they fix it.

While this is a viable solution that can save money, it doesn’t offer a fll support suite. As you are only using their services when things are broken, the task of general upkeep, updating, and other technology needs are still left up to you and your organization.

Again, this creates a split in attention, as you, or someone in the company, will likely have to double as the “tech person” that has to keep everything up to date and moving smoothly, which can take time away from their other duties.

As a result, systems are likely to be down for longer, and the loss of productivity greater should a meltdown or any kind of IT disaster occur.

Managed Services

That brings us to the Managed Services model.

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are a sort of all-in-one outsourcing solution for It. Working via a subscription model, most MSPs provide 24/7 support.

However, unlike the break/fix model of other IT, Managed Services provide a support that works alongside your company. For many of these businesses, they don’t want to just wait around until there is a problem or wait until you identify possible issues. Instead, they will work with you to proactively identify gaps and problems, and then suggest and implement solutions accordingly.

MSPs also will have teams at their disposal. Meaning that if you have employees working from home, they can still help you, and may indeed be able to still come on-site as needed to solve problems that require that in person touch.

In a lot of cases Managed Service Providers will also actively monitor your systems and performance, meaning that they can prevent problems before they happen, and may identify and be working to fix issues before they are noticed by your business. Most IT technicians at MSPs take a lot of pride in their work, and have both the work ethic, and certifications to back this up.

This also can extend to software updates as well, as some of these providers will be able to roll out updates to applications like Office 365 and others to make sure that you are able to keep everyone on the same page regarding that they are using on their devices.

Because of all these things, managed services make for a great route for IT support both in and out of the office. They can get the work done, and the prices are usually affordable for businesses of all sizes looking to keep a consistent, quality support system.

Final Details

These methods can help you to better set yourself up for success when making the transition from the office to the homestead. Of course the specifics will vary from business to business, but the important part is to start thinking, and start talking about these things to get solutions in place sooner rather than later.

Setting yourself up to work from home is no simple task. A lot of work must be done, and you and your team all have to be willing to adapt and change how they view productivity on the day to day. However, with good communication, planning, and consultation with your IT support, you can create a system that keeps you and your people connected, and able to work efficiently through these confusing times.

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