In 2014, we wrong about how any employee who has more than 26 weeks of continuous service with you will have the right to request flexible working, and you will be required to give the request serious consideration.

Well this was made a reality for nearly everyone in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world. We were forced to work from home and avoid human contact/lockdown to avoid the spread of the sinister virus sweeping the country.

Many businesses who hadn’t had the correct IT networks and systems in place to operate also had to reconsider how they were going to operate safely and how their data would be secure across many home networks and devices.

Additionally, the world had to understand and be agile around processes for remaining business as usual. The traditional working day had to change in order to suit the new lifestyles forced upon us from this pandemic.  This meant flexible working hours, meetings, more technology etc. to ensure business operations suited the new working environment.

Studies Show that Flexible Working Leads to a Happier Workplace

Workplace Employment Relations Study’s have shown that enabling flexible working, including working some or all of the time from home, leads to a happier and more productive workforce.

Additionally, research from the Harvard Business Review shows that people who work from home are far more productive, with 12% of people drawn less into meetings and 9% focused more on customer, third-party communications.

Employees can save time and stress by avoiding the rush-hour commute, or fit their work in around family commitments. Those members of staff who feel they have greater autonomy and freedom over how and when they do their work are more likely to “go the extra mile” for their employers.

But there can be one major challenge to working from home – and, no, it’s not the irresistible lure of a comfortable sofa and the Jeremy Kyle Show. It’s the technology. The best laid flexible-working plans can be thrown into disarray by a dodgy internet connection or a corrupted flash drive. How can you guard against these problems and help your staff to work effectively from home?

1. Make sure your staff have a good home internet connection

Yes, this costs, but not nearly as much as the time lost when a cheap-as-chips domestic broadband service cracks up when the kids get home from school.

The benefits of high upload speed broadband is imperative to business success. If a company is switching to a remote-based working method, and the cost of things like commutes and office space are removed, their is ample opportunity to use the new influx of cash to optimise the internet speeds for your staff who are working from home to ensure they’re super productive.

2. Make sure your business has the best internet service you can afford.

Not all internet connections are created equal. Many small businesses suffer from fluctuating broadband speed, which can have an impact on day-to-day operations as well as on the connectivity of people working from home. To optimise your businesses output from both in-office and remote working, considering high-speed business internet solutions is a high priority.

This has two benefits – one is the direct impact this will have on day-to-day operations for your team in terms of a fully optimised IT network and internet. The second, is the ability to pass data more efficiently and quicker than having poor internet speeds. This my feel like seconds in time, but this is dollars and pounds in time saved for the business.

3. Install an IP-based phone system to connect the employee’s home with the office system.

VoIP Telephones create a more professional image if home-working employees can make and receive telephone calls on the office number, avoids poor quality calls from mobiles, and makes expenses easier to deal with. Voice over Internet Protocol technologies can be a useful way of making these connections.

4. Ensure you have a seamless email system.

With the vast majority of business communications now taking place via email, it is essential that home workers are able to pick up and send emails working from home as if they were in the office using webmail or other Outlook connection options.

A connected email service provides quality and secure email communications for teams, but also the importance of an outward facing, professional look for the business.

5. Internal communications tools.

Working from home requires keeping a finger on the pulse. Therefore, there needs to be a central communications network for sharing files, keeping up to date on tasks/projects and meeting with teams to discuss the progress of projects. This requires a digital communications tool like Microsoft Teams, Asana or Slack.

These tools are often used in the office now, anyway as a form of liaising with third party supplies, as well as communicating with internal teams in different departments rather than picking up a phone. Businesses have become far more efficient in their daily operations as a result of the use of internal communication platforms. However, this must be managed by teams as the opportunity for reducing productivity is heightened if these tools are overused.

6. Decide between using a VPN connection or a Virtual Workstation interface.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a means of connecting external machines to your network using the internet. Your home workers can log in and connect directly to the office network from home, keeping your data secure in the process.

A Virtual Workstation, on the other hand, can be set up on the office server and home workers connect to it using a web interface without the need for a VPN connection. A major advantage of a Virtual Workstation is that it can used from any location and with any hardware, so you do not have to spend time setting up individual machines and is available for everyone to use.

7. Consider giving everyone a work laptop.

There is substantial value in assigning everyone a portable work laptop that they can take from work to home. It is set up the way they want it to be, and there is no risk of saving a document on to a home computer or having to compete for time on the computer with other members of the family.

8. Find a solution to the document-sharing challenge.

Sending documents everywhere via email slows down the systems, eats up your storage, and creates a version-control nightmare. If employees are going to work effectively from home, you have to create systems and policies that enable them to share documents from the office network. Most small businesses do this by creating shared network drives either on the office server or in the cloud, using applications such as Docushare, Dropbox, Skydrive or Google docs.