During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve helped many businesses and their employees switch to a work-from-home model. We’ve found ways to make this transition efficient and we’ve learned key do’s and don’ts for keeping your business running smoothly with a remote workforce.
What hardware do your employees need to work from home?
There are three things that will make remote work most-efficient for your employees.
- Laptop or Desktop Computer
- High-Speed Internet
- Second Monitor
Laptop or Desktop Computer
We recommend that laptops and desktops have at least 8GB or RAM when running a single monitor and at least 16GB of RAM when running dual-monitors. Additionally, these computers should have at least an Intel i5 or i7 Processor and should absolutely have a Solid State Drive (SSD) rather than a Hard Drive. With these specs in mind, any brand of computer should suffice.
High-Speed Internet is a must for a work-from-home workforce. With slow internet, employees will lag on videoconferences, have a harder time downloading important files, have trouble syncing shared drives, and will be less efficient in the amount of work they can accomplish in a given day. We recommend a Cable provider for the best internet service. Cable offers speeds that typically range from 50Mbps – 300Mbps. The minimum speed a user should find acceptable is 25Mbps. You’ll note that DSL and Satellite providers Max-out at 25Mbps and deliver a poor overall internet surfing experience.
We’ve found that our clients have enjoyed increased efficiency when adding a second monitor to their home workstations. They are able to keep emails and other collaboration tools on one screen for effective communication with the rest of their team and clients and on the other screen they have their work and productivity tools. Most computers support the addition of additional screens, though you may find that an additional adapter may be required.
Software solutions every home-working business should consider:
The most-critical communication tool is the first thing you should begin assessing when you are moving to a remote work environment. It is the first place collaboration succeeds or fails. This tool is your company email.
Email is more than email. It is a productivity suite–when done correctly. The successful remote working teams are set-up to view and modify each other’s calendars, assign tasks, share documents via the cloud, etc. Standard email solutions such as those from Zoho, GoDaddy, CPanel, etc. cannot accomplish this as not only do they rarely feature a full-fletched calendar, but they do not tie members of an organization together to be able to collaborate seamlessly. The two best services to accomplish this are Google’s GSuite and Microsoft 365. Calendars can be shared, documents can be shared, email is run efficiently, and external collaboration with clients and venders is more-seamless. Our recommendation would be to use Microsoft 365 over GSuite as it is more-widely accepted in business and works better in tools such as Outlook.
Speaking of Microsoft, a new app that is taking the workplace by storm is Microsoft Teams. We, initially, did not like Teams as Microsoft launched the service in a way that we thought was very frustrating to many users. They automatically installed in on all Windows 10 machines and on top of that, they set it up as a startup program so whenever your computer turns on, Teams is the first thing that pops up–even if you’re not a business user! Though as aggravating as this was, we’ve found Teams to be an exceptional collaboration tool that allows companies to host workplace dialogues, video chats, document transfers, etc. all within one program. It allows division of teams as well so that members of a business assigned to one project in particular can host their own workspace.
Videoconferencing has been a widely-discussed topic among work from home users. The benefits of videoconferencing is the ability to keep members of a team focused on productive goals as they need to bet physically present and it becomes harder to multitask on personal side-projects. We’ve found that videoconferences are great for check-ins, but the more time you spend on them, the less focused an individual can be on actually accomplishing tasks that are assigned to them. We would recommend a morning videoconference discussion and an evening videoconference daily recap. The bulk of the day, though, should be assigned towards productivity on an individual level with a service such as Slack or Microsoft teams for collaboration throughout.
Remote Desktop is another important feature for companies who were forced to move to a work-from-home model on the fly. For those who need to access work computers to maintain productivity, we recommend using Splashtop. They have a wide-range of tools that lets employees work from home, print from home, transfer files between home and work, and effectively hop onto their work computers seamlessly. Additional perks that set Splashtop apart from competitors such as TeamViewer, GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, etc. is their admin portal that allows administrators to assign various users to different devices and to remove their access if needed without removing the software from their personal computers.
Thinking ahead in terms of IT infrastructure…
Many of our clients have found that working from home has really worked for them and that they can cut down the size of their physical office long-term. This is a great benefit to those businesses that are looking for great cost-saving measures. If your business is looking to make work-from-home a long-term solution, we would recommend a few things different approaches depending on the level of IT sophistication your business requires.
Move your physical server into the cloud
One of the first things a business can do is to move their physical server into the cloud. This will reduce the dependency a company has on their physical office, add security, reduce downtime, reduce the need to upgrade hardware constantly, reduce the amount spent on IT service agreements, etc. With a virtual server, employees simply need to be able to connect to the same network as the server through a VPN and then they have all the access they would have otherwise had on premises. (This VPN solution also works for employees needing to connect to a physical server from home rather than remoting into their office terminals.)
Need more control over your data? On top of moving your server to the cloud, you can also move workstations to the cloud so that employees still have to connect to your managed IT infrastructure. This will avoid many security and data-breach risks.
Move away from a physical server all-together
If your business does not need to run a bunch of programs through the server and does not need to have a domain controller overseeing all the workstations, it may make sense to move off of a server solution all-together. That said, consider a solution such as OneDrive, DropBox, Google Drive, iDrive, etc. These services allow for all your file storage, are affordable and allow for organizations to share specific folders with specific people and maintain control over data.