03 443 5499

July 2020

Managing your staff remotely, working from home

How to Make the Most Out of Working From Home!
Written by: Delia Gill

Due to recent world events, most people have now had the opportunity to try out working remotely in one way or another, especially those who work from Central Otago. It’s also been an opportunity to test out our IT systems when working from home and to see if they’re up to the task of simulating being in an in-person environment.

Pros and Cons of Working from Home

There are of course some professions who are unable to work from home, such as nursing and hospitality. Retail is another where it can be more difficult as you don’t have the luxury of seeing things and trying them on before you buy. Office environments are generally the ones who get on with things from home – but do they do this well?
If you’ve had a team working from home, how do you think this compared to working in an office? Would you give productivity during this time a 5 star rating or a 2?
Some love it so much they’ve committed to full-time remote working teams – but with this extreme there needs to be a strong consideration about the long-term effect on productivity and mental health. The question needs to be asked – do your staff actually enjoy working from home? Usually there are some who love it and others who don’t. Two of the main benefits usually cited are the lack of commute and increased flexibility.
There may be people on your team who don’t enjoy working from home, perhaps they don’t have a dedicated office or workspace, and working from home wasn’t what they signed up for when joining your company. If they feel that they need to work from an office environment to be happy and productive, then a balance needs to be found.

How to Avoid Pitfalls of Working Remotely

  1. Depending on your family and available workspace situation, you may need to coordinate with a partner for access to an office or workspace area for video meetings – so be aware of this and plan in advance!
  2. It’s easy to go overboard on too many long team conference calls. The best way to run these are quickly and with a structured agenda, get in and get out!
  3. There’s sometimes a lack of trust that employees won’t work as hard from home, so there can be a tendency to book people into more meetings to make sure they’re doing something… however this takes them away from doing real work and can lower morale. You’ll usually get a happier and more productive team member by showing your faith in them.
  4. Video calls are more tiring than in-person meetings, if you book in multiple video calls in one day it can be simply exhausting. Ask your staff what meetings they have booked in and why, try to keep them to 30 minutes otherwise they can end up tired and less productive. Your staff shouldn’t be spending any more than 4-5 hours a day in meetings.

Tips to Make Remote Work… Work!

  1. Try not to socialise on regular video calls as it can take up so much time and get off topic of the agenda, instead try booking in a weekly social call at 4pm on a Friday – the team can have a beer together (if they choose) and catch up on social matters.
  2. Always keep your video ON during video calls, then people can see that you’re engaged with them and haven’t wandered off to make a cup of tea.
  3. Make sure your environment is set up well so that you have privacy to do your work and that on video calls your partner or kids aren’t wandering around in the background.
  4. Record all your meetings so that attendees or those who couldn’t make it can review later. We use Microsoft Teams and have channels set up for meetings so we can keep all of the recordings, notes and tasks in one easy-to-find location.
  5. Make sure you have a good IT support team for when you need help with your IT setup and services, better to prepare and set things up properly in advance rather than wait until things go wrong!

Use Your Calendar

When working remotely it’s more important than usual to use your calendar effectively, including blocking out time to get productive work done – which cannot be overridden by meetings.
In Microsoft Outlook you can even schedule emails straight into your calendar, it’s easy to block out time to do tasks using this method and the email is right there as a handy reference – you can ask your helpful IT person If you need some tips and tricks.

Conclusion

Some love working from home and others need to be around people in an office environment, so as with most things there is a balance to be struck which ensures a happy and productive team.

If something isn’t working with the team, always look at yourself first – the fish rots from the head down! If something is going wrong then ask yourself why and what you could do to improve things first before you consider what others can do. Own your mistakes.
Think about the long-term effect of working remotely and the effect it will have on morale, it can be exhausting if someone is in video meetings all day. Reducing your overhead costs are a great benefit to not having an office, but always put your staff’s wellbeing, morale and productivity first.

If you’re not sure where to start, then get in touch with us on 03 443 5499. We would be happy to help you!

Want to hear more about how else you can proactively manage your IT? Check out our blogs on:
Be Warned About Backups
Strengthen Your Password Policy

There are plenty of options available for video conferencing at the moment, which has been extremely useful with many people working from home in the current environment. Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams are some of the big names available – but did you know that Teams can also do much more than just video conferencing?

Here at IT Centre, we like to use it for all of our Microsoft apps and workflows. Meaning it’s the tech equivalent of a swiss army knife which can switch between different bits of kit at a moment’s notice. If you currently have multiple apps, workflows, inboxes and files all over the place… then Teams might just be the all-in-one solution you’re looking for.

Internal Communication

If you are constantly trying to keep up with your inbox and struggle to find that important email, then you are certainly not alone. Many businesses are now using tools like Slack for internal comms which can drastically reduce email clutter, did you know that Teams has a similar function? It’s a quick way to communicate with your internal team or give them a call – some of us have gone so far we’ve eliminated internal emails altogether!

File Storage and Structure

Having multiple locations for files, unorganised file structures, different file versions and not being able to find something is certainly not uncommon. Using Teams allows you to directly integrate with Microsoft’s file hosting service, OneDrive and have all of your files in one place, and also makes file sharing easy with external customers or suppliers.

Department Groups

Everyone has access to what they need in Microsoft Teams by setting your team and only having access to what’s important for you – split these up by department or otherwise as suits you. Then you can interact with your colleagues however you need to based upon the large array of apps and workflows available. For example, you might want to hop on a quick call with a member of the admin team, share some private documents with management or your marketing team might want to set up a quiz to share with your customers.

One-Stop-Shop

If that wasn’t enough, you can also use Teams to book your meetings, keep track of them in the calendar, run live webinars for up to 10,000 people and integrate CRM and customer ticketing apps. Basically it can be used as your one-stop-shop to replace the multiple different apps you are currently using, with multiple logins and varying integration capabilities.

If you feel disorganised, have files here there and everywhere and want to centralise it all to keep them in one place securely in the cloud – then Microsoft Teams might be the answer for you. It will help you centralise your files, communications, email addresses (across multiple domain names) to become more organised.

If you’re not sure where to start, then get in touch with us today on +64 3 443 5499. If you’d like to visit or email us, you can find our details here.

Let’s Pivot to remote work! But wait… how?

The environment in which we operate has significantly changed over the last few months. Businesses have been driven to embrace remote working. There has been no better time to question the efficiency of your workflows and systems. A business simply needs to have online functionality and the ability for staff to continue to work remotely. The need for increased collaboration and file sharing amongst teams is essential, which is where SharePoint can offer an excellent solution. How? Read on..

Reducing duplicate files

Are your documents and folders in a bit of a mess? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us! With the change of employees, each individual has different ideas on how to organise filing systems, so yours has likely evolved into a mix of conflicting folders and duplicates. Have you ever collaborated on a document, emailing it back and forth until you eventually find yourself so confused as to which document is the most up to date? Yes! We have all been there. Working remotely means that now, more than ever before, we have a huge need for collaboration. This means that the same mentality needs to be embraced with your document management system. SharePoint allows you to have one central location where your documents are stored, categorised, updated and backed up. You can set up permissions so that others can access and update. No more version 2.1.5.0, saved on everyone’s drive!

Capturing version history

SharePoint gives you the ability to capture version history. You no longer have to spend time hunting for the latest version of the health and safety policy! This not only helps reduce the number of duplicate files but it offers a history of who has last worked on the document. Having access to older versions can sometimes be a lifesaver. This means that if a colleague accidentally deletes some information from an older version when updating, you can still gain access to the previous version with a click of a button.

Access from any device or location

Accessibility is key. You might be working from home, stuck up north or down south, or perhaps on a family outing and work suddenly needs urgent attention. SharePoint allows you to jump on your laptop, tablet or other device and instantly access all of your work files. Quick, easy access has never been so important and can ensure as little downtime as possible.

Collaboration – being able to work on the same doc at the same time

The strong need for collaborative tools has increased, especially with a workforce that is frequently operating online and remotely. SharePoint allows users to collaborate by working on the same document at the same time. Additionally, you can easily create and customise your own intranet. Fancy right? This provides the perfect platform where you can share and manage content, knowledge, and applications to empower teamwork, quickly find information, and seamlessly collaborate across the organisation. Not to mention, bring your team together!

Better Security

One of the most common concerns about embracing cloud platforms is the security of your data. We need to change our perception about having everything stored onsite and having ‘physical’ control. A company like Microsoft has an entire team continually working on the safety of their platforms so perhaps it’s time to embrace cloud options which can give your business the leap forward. You do also have control. Backing up your data, and implementing multifactor authentication are two key steps to helping keep your data safe. What does this really mean?  Backups: using a third-party provider to back up your data is essential as Microsoft only manages the security of its platform… not your data!. Multifactor authentication makes it harder for anyone to hack or steal your data. It is a simple system whereby you might, for example, be required to enter a password as well as a text message code using an authorising app.

The way we do business has dramatically shifted. The damaging effects of a worldwide pandemic means we need to embrace technology to help us ride this wave of change. If you’re ready to make the move to more efficient and collaborative and secure document management, we can help get you started. You can pop us an email or give us a ring. We would be more than happy to walk you through the process in plain English! 

IT Centre is part the IT Alliance, a group of like minding companies working together around the country to bring better value and services to clients.

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