Gary Young: Let your staff enjoy the summer

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Gary Young: Let your staff enjoy the summer

Although the UK’s average summer temperature is 19 degrees C (66F) as we’ve found in recent days, the temperature can go a lot higher. Many of your staff would love to be able to work somewhere other than the office particularly when it’s sizzling. Let’s look at how you can help them enjoy the summer, without impacting company performance or productivity.

Remote working

Figures suggest that up to 50 per cent of the workforce could be working remotely in the next few years. Whilst part of this will, undoubtedly, be due to the growth in freelancers and the gig economy, there are a number of benefits for employees and their employers.

1.No commute

Avoiding the struggle with trains, buses and traffic is a real bonus, especially in big cities. When employees don’t have to commute, they often start work earlier and so get more done.

2.Fewer sick days

Unless someone is seriously unwell, the chances are they’ll be happy use their laptop and still get a lot done. It also means they can work around e.g. doctor or dentist appointments. The time they spend not commuting can be used for more exercise, or rest – delivering a healthier individual.

The above, combined with the right tech, can actually increase productivity within your business. The idea that employees will shirk if not under the watchful eye of their manager is simply no longer true – if it ever really was.

Equipping your team to work remotely

To maintain, or even increase, productivity so staff can enjoy the summer, they need the right technology solutions in place.

1.Network access

Network access needs to be controlled to ensure your data is secure.

If they are going to work remotely frequently, 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 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. There is 4G coverage across 99 per cent of the UK (some operators are stronger than others in some areas). Local free WiFi provision, such as coffee shops and pubs, can provide connectivity, but may be a security risk, so are best avoided.

2.Security

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 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.

3.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 voice over internet protocol (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 global system for mobile communications (GSM) network but will use the 4G when that employee is out and about.
  • Softphones: if your employee is using a laptop at 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 direct dial in (DDI) or your company number rather than the mobile number.

 

4.Productivity

Project management and collaboration tools 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.

5.Flexibility

Being able to enjoy the summer may mean that they aren’t working during parts of the day. Taking a walk with the dog or taking the kids for a bike ride may be their idea of enjoying the summer. If they know that this is perfectly fine, they will get their work done; just at a different time of the day. They may get up early to do it, or they may work into the evening. Unless they have a customer-facing role and have to be available during certain hours, it really doesn’t matter when the work gets done – does it?

6.Trust

We mentioned that some still believe that employees have to be constantly watched. The statistics show this simply isn’t the case, but if there’s still a lingering doubt within parts of your business, it’s going to lead to issues. If employees don’t believe they are trusted, they may well slack off while looking for another job.

We have a lot of nice days in the summer and it would be great to let your employees enjoy them, while maintaining productivity and performance.

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About Gary Young

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.

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