A few years ago we wrote a post with tips on working from home. This was the result of new legislation that meant an employee could request flexible working if they had worked for your company consistently for 26 weeks. If working from home was requested, you were required by law to give the request serious consideration.

Working from home became a reality in 2020. We were hit with an unforeseen pandemic that caused mass disruptions to office-based working and required countries to enforce a work from home policy for any non-key worker. This meant those that could do their job remotely were required to do so for a brief period of time.

By August the government looked to encourage a return to work, however, during September research showed a potential requirement to return to work from home to reduce the second wave of cases that have continued to grow throughout the pandemic.

Due to the peaks and troughs in cases and continual changes to social restrictions, companies have the opportunity to plan ahead for any potential working remotely requirements that should arise until it is deemed completely safe to return to work.

Working Remotely: Forward Thinking Business Practice. But How Do Employees Feel?

What started off as safeguarding employee health and wellbeing soon shifted to a cultural change in how companies operated. Increases and improvements in IT support and technological advances in device, connectivity and online security, have paved the way for employees to work remotely as effectively, if not with more productivity and operational output for their employers.

Reports show that of the 60% of the population that continue to work from home and even now, working from home has remained for many companies. This new way of working has heightened the requirement from employees to work from home more regularly. Studies reveal that 78% of employees would like to remain working from home long after the pandemic.

Furthermore, two-thirds of employers believe that their employees are more productive working within their home working environment. This is due to a reduction of distractions that often occur when working in an open-plan office. Conversely, Nuffield Health reported that 36% of employees believe that they’re suffering from remote presenteeism. To add to this, 25% of employees are suffering from loneliness and lack of social activity due to not being in an office.

Not all employees will want to remain working from home, however, for those who wish to do so, there are big benefits. These range from increased creativity and productivity to a more flexible work-life balance and autonomy. Businesses that are succeeding within the remote working strategy have agile home working plans and are constantly innovating their home working policies. This ensures both the business and the employee see a cultural, work-life balance and operational benefit.

With this comes responsibility from the employer and employee to work together to ensure their work from home plans are effective. To ensure that this can be the case, we recommend that you check out these learnings and tips for working from home.

Working from Home IT Support Tips for Employers, Managers and Employees: Get the Best Performance Out of Your Team

Working from home requires not only working from home IT support but also an understanding of the best technologies for working remotely. From a team perspective, you also have to consider cultural and social practices

Creating a Working from Home Policy & Plan

The key to successfully implementing remote working practices is to create and implement a set of home working practices and policies. This can be in the form of a plan that outlines everything from requesting holiday’s, accessing a VPN, security practices and equipment.

A remote working plan clearly outlines to both you and your team the responsibilities and expectations in order to achieve optimal business efficiency. This also gives your employees a chance to see the efforts the companies have put in place to ensure that their home working set-up is as comfortable as possible and suitable to their needs.

A good working from home plan will outline the following:

  • VPN access
  • Cybersecurity policies
  • Employee hardware and software
  • Contact for IT Support and Safety
  • Communication channels for concerns/queries
  • Working schedule
  • Social opportunities
  • Mental health support

Working from Home IT Equipment – Do Your Staff Have Everything They Need?

It’s not enough to expect an employee to work entirely off of a laptop. Employees making the transition from office-based to home-based working would expect some form of continuity. This means IT assets such as hardware, including monitors, keyboards and mice would need to be replicated in their new working environment to continue with productivity levels.

To ensure that the employee has the best home working set-up and computer support possible, you’ll need to provide a list of items they’ll receive. These are usually:

  • Multiple monitors – employees usually operate off two or more monitors in the workplace, so this would need to be replicated at their home, too.
  • Laptop and monitor stand – avoid any neck or back-related problems by ensuring that any computer stands provided in the office are sent to the home office to ensure the employee is maintaining strong posture when working.
  • Mouse and keyboard – efficiency drops if you’re transitioning from a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to a laptop keyboard and trackpad. Replicate their work environment to ensure continuous working performance.
  • Additional technology – depending on the service your company provides, your team may require additional technology to do their job efficiently. Consider web development – developers would need multiple mobile devices to test and debug any website development issues that arise.

Cybersecurity for Remote Working – Ensure Your Network is Safe

Cybersecurity is of the utmost importance when working from home and is a consistent IT support requirement for companies implementing this practice. Unfortunately, WFH contributes to 20% of cybersecurity breaches and is the leader in causing cybersecurity issues. Therefore, it cannot be stressed enough how imperative it is to secure any home working environment.

The main issues arising from remote working security breaches are:

Incorrectly Implemented VPN – a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is used for remote access to company drives to allow employees who are working remotely to access company documents and save directly to company drives. Essentially, these are used to send and receive data across company networks.

VPN issues arise when the VPN provider chosen by the company hasn’t been correctly vetted, hasn’t correctly implemented the VPN or only covers the last mile encryption and this was not understood/communicated effectively during your procurement stage. It is so important that you have an IT support team, whether internal or external, who are proficient in rolling out VPNs for remote working.

Use of Cloud Based-Services – using cloud-based services such as Google Drive can make data sharing and access extremely easy. While some services are highly secure, others are easily targeted and compromised. Unfortunately, hackers who target cloud-based services are aware of many chinks in the armour. Injecting malware, hijacking accounts, and insecure APIs are but a few issues that arise from the use of cloud-based services without sufficient due diligence.

Phishing Scams to Business Email Accounts – you might believe that this won’t happen to you, however, phishing scams continue to be a high priority for cybersecurity professionals as scammers continue to be creative with their approaches. Of late, hackers have jumped on the public fear around Coronavirus to leverage malware injections onto the hardware. Once onboard, hackers are able to observe and control desktops, cameras and access private data.

Learn more about how your business could benefit from protection with our Cybersecurity services 

Safeguarding a Remote Working Environment – Access, Firewalls and Precautions

Administrative access control policies such as Firewalls and access levels allow IT teams to assert control over what employees can access and download onto their hardware. This restriction allows a level of safety to a company’s IT operations by requiring the IT administrator to confirm/deny anything that is requested to be downloaded onto company property.

Firewalls also prevent unauthorized access to private networks and are also used to monitor your traffic levels as well as block any unwanted traffic to the network.

From a security perspective, it is still important to run some form of security against malware using software to ensure a basic level of IT security throughout your company IT system. Additionally, companies should consider pre-installing browser security applications onto their employee’s computers to avoid any potential harm from employee browsing.

To understand the potential vulnerabilities that could be a risk to your business, learn more about our Cyber security Audit

Homeworking Communication Channels – Keep Your Team Connected

Remote working will require a new form of communication. Of course, the phone still works, however, decisions can be made more efficiently through the use of digital communication channels.

A lot of companies are turning to services such as Slack that allow you to break down communication channels based on team members, clients, service offerings and more. This allows fluid correspondence throughout the working day, but can also act as a distraction if not properly managed.

The great thing about these products is that they can be monitored. However, we don’t recommend becoming Big Brother – that’s not good for office culture. This type of reporting can simply be used to see if there are efficiencies that can be made in communication or if there are areas that require more time communicating than others. This provides you with an opportunity to optimise to improve business productivity.

Final IT Support Tip: Keep Your Team Social

Working from home means that the office culture we all care about can wane if not managed correctly. Don’t forget your team are sociable creatures and no office removes a level of face-to-face communication that can impact employee morale.

Find ways to improve social activities within your company, for the sake of employee happiness. A fun suggestion, for example, could be to use ‘Donut-Time’ which is an app on Slack. (An internal communication platform.) This nifty little app pairs employees together randomly and facilities a social conversation. We recommend providing 30 mins a week to this initiative to allow employees to unwind and catch up with their team just like they would in the office.

Like everything, working from home IT Support tips are based on experience and perspective. Given the current world we live in there are no set rules to how you run your business remotely, however, these are some best practices you need to have in place. Cybersecurity is key to business data, but employee wellbeing is key to long-term success.

To find out more about our Oxford IT Support Services here at Equity, or to learn how we could support your business, we welcome you to contact us today.