7 Work at Home Productivity Tips

The good news is that there are plenty of tools out there to help manage employees, keep coworkers connected, and help your office stay productive.  In our last post, we shared how to setup remote access to enable employees to work from home . This time, we’d like to focus on how to manage people and technology in a remote environment.

1. Use collaborative technology.

If you don’t already have Microsoft Teams or Zoom, now is the time to invest in these solutions.

As part of the Office 365 productivity suite, Microsoft Teams is a collaboration tool for with features like:

  • Conversation channels
  • Video conferencing and screen sharing
  • Integration with Office 365
  • Shared document spaces

Zoom is a video conferencing tool with features like:

  • Screen sharing
  • Chat messaging
  • Meeting recording
  • Breakout rooms

Both tools work on both PCs and mobile device. Microsoft has made Microsoft Teams available for FREE.  Zoom is always free, but with limitations.

2. Let employees working at home use office equipment.

If employees don’t have computers or extra monitors at home, consider letting them take their work equipment home from the office. Keeping the same tech set up will make for a smoother transition and increase productivity.

Forbes work from home tech tips

3. Move to Office 365 or G-Suite

Office 365 and G Suite are great tools to utilize at a time like this. They have great data security – even with everyone out of office. Both systems come with collaboration tools like:

  • Shared files
  • Shared calendar
  • Video conferencing
  • Documents can be edited simultaneously

Additionally, G Suite and Office 365 have tons of online support articles, live chat and telephone support. Outsourced technology professionals like us can help troubleshoot your problems and repair your systems if you’re having issues.

4. Encourage employees to create a dedicated office workspace.

There are benefits and challenges when working from home. Maintaining a work-life balance is always challenging, but especially when suddenly everyone is at home.  The kids. The roommates. The significant other.

One key to creating separation between home-life and work life is for each person to have their own space to work – and use that space ONLY for work. Even if the space is small, make it as functional and welcoming as possible. Create a spot near a window for fresh air. Buy a portable file cabinet to keep papers close to you, but neatly out of sight. Make sure you have a comfortable chair that supports your back and creates a good ergonomic position for working.

Mind Tools – working from home

5. Encourage employees to stick to a schedule.

Keeping a daily routine helps employees create normalcy. Encourage your team to keep getting up early, showering, and getting dressed for the day. It’s difficult to be in a business mindset when you’re in your pajamas and haven’t brushed your teeth.  Employees also need to schedule breaks for lunch – and quitting time for the day. When the lines between work and play start to get blurry, sticking to a schedule and a work space will make things clearer.

Employees can support their mental health by making time for:

  • Meals
  • Self-care
  • Exercise
  • Walks outside
  • Chats with friends
  • Cooking nutritious meals
  • Maintaining order in their space

These activities don’t have to cut into work time, and actually, in the long run, will make employees more productivity.

Stack Overflow working from home tips

6. Consider adding “water cooler” chats for employees to connect.

Most of us find friends at work and love catching up with them on our lunch and breaks. That can’t happen without the communal office. Create a channel for your team to stay connected and chat about fun, non-work topics. Boost morale by creating employees their own chat group or optional video conferencing time just for socialization. Starting with a silly riddle or trivia question can be a fun way to divert the brain quickly from work talk.

BBC Work from home the right way

7. Give employees the technology needed to be productive – and protect your business.

For some businesses, initially enabling employees to work from home was a mad scramble to keep the business operating. Now that it appears this situation may endure for a while, businesses need to think about how to improve remote operations to help employees stay productive and to protect business data. We’re seeing clients:

  • Buy anti-virus software for employee home computers
  • Invest in CRM software to enable better collaboration on sales opportunities
  • Setup VOIP software to route phone calls professionally to cell phones
  • Move their documents and file storage to the cloud
  • Improve software integrations

Providing secure, remote access for employees is not a “one size fits all” solution, but instead, requires a consultation to understand your unique needs. Use the form below or contact us at 586.263.1775 to get started.

Today, many people regularly work from home offices, coffee shops, and hotel rooms. The constant availability of the internet combined with the speed and performance of today’s laptops has made remote work easier than ever.

Remote work vs. in-office work

For various reasons, some employers discourage or don’t allow remote work. Manufacturers may feel it’s unfair to let operational staff work remotely when plant and warehouse workers have to come in. The office environment is naturally conducive to building friendships, fostering teamwork and encouraging collaboration. In an office, employees have fewer distractions and it’s easier to keep company information secure. You may not have the technology in place to allow remote work.

Amidst concerns about Coronavirus, employers who didn’t setup remote work capabilities in the past are now looking for ways to keep the business running. One of the easiest ways is to allow employees to work from home.

Obviously, working remotely and in-office are not the same. You don’t have the same fluid interactions between employees as when they’re within walking distance from each other. Paperwork and contracts can’t be passed around. Some software systems may only be available on premise.

So, what exactly do you need to do before letting your employees work remotely so they can be productive, and your business can continue to function smoothly?

5 Key Considerations When Setting Up Remote Access for Employees

1. Off-site data security

Decide which employees are eligible to work from home, and what software and systems you’ll make available to them. Most employees are loyal to your business, strive to act in a professional manner, and would never intentionally cause a data breach. Despite good intentions, studies show that employees are consistently the top source of data security breaches.

In the office, you can have layers of firewall protection and data security monitoring built into your local area network. Offsite, you can implement security protections in various ways.  However, if you don’t already have the technology in place, it will take time to setup.

Some of the simpler ways to enforce data security standards are by:

If your company works with sensitive information, you want to be especially careful in setting up remote access. You’ll want to limit access, printing or downloading for records like:

  • Patient health records
  • Trade secrets
  • Sensitive financial or security information
  • Compliance or legal data

In addition to working with the software vendor to configure the application security settings, call an IT Service Provider like us (586.263.1775) to help setup the remote working environment.

2. Devices used for remote work

Decide who will provide the computers and laptops employees use for remote work. If your company buys them or allows employees to take company equipment home, you have more control about what you allow on the device. Make sure your employees are familiar with any new IT Policies related to remote work equipment.

Microsoft Office 365 and other IT vendors have software available that enables employers to wipe remote devices in the case equipment is lost or stolen.

3. Enabling secure off-site file access

What about file access? If employees aren’t working in the office, how can they access company files? You have two main options here – a VPN or the cloud.

VPN – Virtual Private Network – You can restrict access so that employees must exclusively connect through a VPN, providing a direct, encrypted connection between their remote device and the main office server. This is a way to offer full, but secure access to remote employees. Be prescriptive about which VPN tools employees use. Consumer-grade free VPN applications may expose your company to malware or adware. Learn more in our prior article about setting up a small business VPN.

The other option for file access is to use a cloud software like G-Suite or Office 365. If you already have a cloud software set up, you’re good to go! If not, migrating to the cloud is a great way to keep files secure while giving employees access to their work anywhere.

Both G-Suite and Microsoft Office 365 can be set up relatively quickly. If you have a large amount of data or lots of users, the process will obviously take a bit longer, but is worth it in the long-run. These software suites include email, calendar, spreadsheets, documents and a whole host of other business productivity tools. See which Office 365 applications are available, depending on the plan you select. We are happy to help you figure out the most expedient and practical way to get started.

4. Video communication tools

You probably already rely heavily on email for communication. That likely won’t ever change. What does change with remote work is that you should consider adding a video communication tool to share desktop applications and see friendly faces via webcam. Video communication tools to keep everyone in touch and on task. Some of our favorite tools are:

  • Microsoft Teams
  • Google Hangouts
  • Zoom

5. Set expectations for remote employee work

Let everyone know your expectations for office hours, availability, and results expected. Especially when remote work is new, make sure employees know how to login, how to communicate and who to call if they experience technical difficulties.

Working remotely can be challenging for everyone at first. Don’t get discouraged.

Keep in mind that some employees will have difficulty working from home. They may have children or other family members clamoring for their attention. They may not be comfortable with video chat and need extra time to learn technology and change their processes to find new ways to collaborate. Be patient and keep in close communication. It’ll make the entire process run much more smoothly.

Need help setting up remote workers?

We’re here to help – as much or as little as you need. We can do everything from ordering and shipping laptops, to setting up remote access, to helping review your IT policies and procedures. Our team is here to help your business thrive by supporting remote work through a strong business continuity plan.

Give us a call at 586.263.1775 or email info@eclipse-online.com.

 

Working remotely FAQs

How to help your employees working remotely?

Make sure your employees feel safe, connected, and know how to get in touch for questions. Set goals for your workers, check in frequently and be proactive.

Are there benefits to remote work?

Remote work gives you a lot more flexibility to balance work and home life. You no longer have to commute, saving time and money. Remote work can also eliminate regular office distractions, making you more productive.

How good is Microsoft Teams' security?

Microsoft has a built-in enterprise-level security system in place.

How do you help your employees working remotely stay productive?

Keep in contact with your employees and make sure they stay in the loop. Advise them to take breaks as they would if they were in office, and to create their own special work environment at home.

Setup a Small Business VPN

Will ISPs sell your data?

Last week Congress voted to allow ISPs to sell your data.  This news has people in a panic, concerned about what the ISPs can or will share.  Some sites, like Motherboard, predict a data pilfering free-for-all, proposing that information shared may include:

“Financial and medical information. Social security numbers. Web browsing history. Mobile app usage. Even the content of your emails and online chats.”

Other sites give us some reassurances that ISPs would show more restraint and that this rule change was only created to enforce consistency.  Wired magazine’s article, “Big Cable’s Case for Selling Your Data Doesn’t Hold Up” argues that you get what you pay for. Just as Facebook and Google offer free services, but “FREE” comes at the expense of being able to collect information and use it to serve up targeted advertising.  While this measure is flawed, creating consistency and clarity of the FCC rules would actually be a good idea.

In response to this ruling, Minnesota has already voted to pass internet privacy protections and other states will likely follow suit.

Don’t panic. But take data security precautions.

As a consumer, you’ll of course want to protect your personal devices.  But be cautious.  Reports show that up to 38% of Android VPNs on the Google Play store are plagued with malware. According to the Hackread article, the 10 worst VPNS are:

  1. OkVPN
  2. EasyVPN
  3. SuperVPN
  4. Betternet
  5. CrossVPN
  6. Archie VPN
  7. HatVPN
  8. sFly Network Booster
  9. One Click VPN
  10. Fast Secure Payment

Businesses need to take even greater data security precautions.

Businesses have all the same concerns as consumers, PLUS more. Leaking information could reveal:

  • Trade secrets
  • Pricing information
  • Client email addresses and private information
  • and much more!

That’s why many larger businesses (especially those in finance, health and other industries with compliance regulations) insist that remote employees exclusively connect through a VPN.

What is a VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.  Basically this technology allows users who are on a public WIFI to create a secure, direct connection between the remote device and the main office server. Think of it like a tunnel, where all of the data that travels through this tunnel is encrypted. No one, except the VPN server IT administrators can see this data, not even your ISP.

How to setup a Small Business VPN

For small businesses, VPNs are frequently setup using software. Larger businesses often use VPN hardware that comes with additional functionality for data load balancing and a hardware firewall.  Whichever you decide – VPN software or VPN hardware – you’ll want to ensure you do all the steps to set up your VPN correctly. Setup is critical, and when done incorrectly will compromise the entire point of having a VPN.

Popular small business VPN software programs include:

·         Windows Server comes with built-in VPN software.

·         Vyprvpn

·         Hamachi VPN [AM8]

·         OpenVPN

All of these VPN software programs are well vetted. Which VPN solution is right for you? Well…that depends – on your IT environment, the number of users you plan to have on the system and the level of security you want to achieve. If you’d like our advice and are interested in having a professional IT team  set your VPN up for you, please schedule a free 30-minute call with one of our technical specialists.

VPN Consultation