Overcoming the disadvantages of remote working, with Storm-in-a-Box

Forward thinking businesses are treating this year’s shift to remote working not as a temporary workaround, but as a valuable long-term opportunity. Get it right, and there’s the potential to boost productivity, increase staff engagement – and perhaps even reduce your physical infrastructure spend.

But alongside this opportunity comes certain challenges. Not least, can your newly scattered workforce still access key systems and connect with each other seamlessly? Is the infrastructure in place to ensure uninterrupted workflows? What about support and security?

Here’s a closer look at the toolkit you need to overcome these challenges. We’ll also show you how Storm-in-a-Box can help you build a remote, resilient workforce in one simple package.

Staying connected

There’s both an operational and a personal element to connectivity. It’s vital not to overlook either.

Obviously staff need remote access to the files, software and other assets necessary to fulfil their role. To maintain cohesiveness and avoid individuals feeling set-adrift, you also need a hub for teamwork.

If you haven’t done so already, now is almost certainly the time for a move to cloud storage. To enable reliable, remote access to your assets, this is always the starting point.

A suitable Microsoft 365 subscription will probably need to be in the mix, too. For homeworkers, this gives them access to the Office suite they will need day-to-day. The 365 ecosystem also includes SharePoint; an incredibly useful tool for organising, sharing and collaborating on files in the cloud. And of course, there’s Teams: probably the most trusted hub for virtual face-to-face team cohesion.

Security

When a significant cohort of staff moves to remote working, it alters your cybersecurity and data availability risk profile. Particularly relevant risk factors can include targeted phishing and email compromise schemes, exploitation of consumer-grade routers, as well as devices getting into the wrong hands.

Make sure you carry out an audit to review the security and disaster recovery measures you have in place. Ensure that your employee safe usage policies are relevant to remote workers, and that endpoint devices have properly configured firewalls, including anti-malware and intrusion prevention.

Performance

When the initial lockdown was first announced, many firms were forced to retrieve laptops from the backs of cupboards, while employees themselves had to cobble together workstations at home.

A make-do approach is tolerable in emergencies. But if remote working is going to be a long-term arrangement, you really need to make sure your infrastructure is fit-for-purpose.

Dialling into a sales pitch on sub-par equipment is hardly going to do much for winning customer trust. And if business software keeps crashing because you are running it on under-powered portable hardware, it’s going to be a major drain on productivity.

Review your infrastructure – including endpoint devices – to ensure it will meet the needs of remote workers. Remember that this isn’t a one-off process: natural degradation means that hardware will need to be renewed every few years.

The answer: Storm-in-a-Box

Storm-in-a-Box, our new IT support package, is designed to provide a simple, cost-effective way to tackle the challenges linked to remote working.

Storm-in-a-Box starts with our unique 4D discovery process, where we DISCUSS your proposition, DESIGN for your needs, DEVELOP your tech and DEPLOY our expertise. It’s exactly the approach you need for updating your infrastructure.

Next, we produce a boxed offering, packaged just for you. All your needs are met for every user, including Microsoft 365 and managed cloud storage, security software and data backup.

All backups and software updates are handled remotely by our team. In the event of a support issue, we’re just a phone call away – wherever your employees happen to be based.

Every three years, you get a full hardware replacement, at no extra cost.

And finally, all of this is consolidated into one manageable payment per-month, per-user. Want an easier way to unlock the full benefits of remote working while minimising the risk? Take a closer look at Storm-in-a-Box today.

Working from home – pros and cons for employers

According to one UK survey, 9 in 10 CEOs plan on retaining at least some element of working from home (WFH) as a long-term feature. The potential upside of WFH (e.g. higher productivity and lower overheads) is a compelling prospect for any employer. But of course, the pitfalls are real too.

Here’s a rundown of the benefits of remote working, as well as the risks to guard against.

Pros of working from home for employers

Productivity

The paranoid attitude to remote working is that it gives the green light for slacking. The evidence shows something different. In fact, one major study of 16,000 employees found that WFH can bring about a productivity boost equivalent to one extra working day each week.

Without a timewasting commute and the distractions of the office, it seems staff are more focused on core tasks, and they get more done. A word of warning though: as you’ll see below, you need the right technical and support framework in place to achieve a productivity boost.

Performance management

Who are your most effective employees? When everyone is based on-site, it’s easy to overestimate the value of certain behaviours. For instance, just because particular workers always stay late or seem to look busy, it’s not necessarily a reliable performance indicator.

Remote working usually brings about a change in management focus. Clocking on times are no longer as relevant. There’s less micromanagement, and more analysis of outcomes, such as workload progress and the quality of work produced. All of this can encourage more accurate, unbiased performance measurement.

Cost reduction

Cost-wise, there can be a big difference in housing a permanent on-site staff of 100+, compared, say, to allowing the bulk of those employees to work remotely some or all of the time.

Remote working is definitely something to consider if you are looking to rein in your overheads and reduce your property footprint.

Staff retention and recruitment

On the whole, WFH is a morale booster for employees. It leaves them better able to manage their personal commitments, with less stress and more free time.

So it’s no surprise that workers actively seek out potential employers who offer remote working as a perk. In fact, according to Total Jobs, 28% of UK employees would change jobs for one that offered remote working. To boost recruitment and encourage retention, without necessarily increasing salary levels, WFH is a big draw.

The cons

Workplace culture

With scattered workforces, it can be that much harder to maintain team cohesiveness. Indeed, workers themselves often complain of feeling isolated if working from home over a prolonged period. Onboarding is another sticking point: if new starters are physically separated from their peers and managers, it’s more difficult to train them in your preferred way of doing things.

Security

With all those portable devices and home wifi connections in play, your cybersecurity ‘attack surface’ becomes that much bigger. In fact, more than three quarters of IT leaders think that their company is at a greater risks of threats such as phishing and insider fraud if staff are based at home.

Proper training, remote device management, antivirus, firewalls, access controls, along with an up-to-date recovery plan: these are all essential.

Technical support

We’ve seen how WFH can result in a productivity boost – but this doesn’t happen by accident. If you supply your staff with sub-optimal hardware, if access to assets is unreliable or if connectivity is patchy, the impact on productivity will inevitably be negative.

Striking a balance

How do you take advantage of the undeniable benefits of WFH, while eliminating the cons? For one thing, a blended approach can make perfect sense; i.e. enabling your workers to switch between office and home to get the best of both worlds.

The right support is essential, too. That’s why you should pay close attention to Storm-in-a-Box; our new WFH-friendly support package. It equips your staff with the hardware, software, security, cloud storage and IT support they need for one simple monthly fee per-user. Interested? Discover more here.

How remote working can increase productivity

The myth is that to get the most out of your workforce, you need to keep them within close reach. The experience of many businesses over 2020 has put that myth to rest.

Evidence suggests that remote workers are at least as productive as their office-based peers. And in fact, homeworking can actually boost output. Here’s a closer look at the link between remote working and productivity, and at the tools and processes you need to get the most out of a working from home (WFH) model.

Can WFH lead to a productivity boost?

For lots of firms this year, remote working was something they were unexpectedly forced into. It involved a quick learning curve – and we had no idea what the impact on productivity might be.

But once the dust settled on the new working norm, many businesses found themselves pleasantly surprised at the outcomes. One study suggested that 82% of employers had seen sustained or improved productivity with staff working from home. As for the staff themselves, two thirds of employees consider themselves to be more productive when they are not in the office.

What drives productivity for remote workers?

There are several factors:

Less dead time. What happens once you eliminate the time wasted on commuting, on drawn-out internal meetings and other distractions? It means staff have more time to devote to core business tasks – i.e. the things that really matter.

Higher engagement. So long as it’s combined with flexibility, remote working usually means that staff are better able to juggle their work and personal commitments. This positive work-life balance can help to free up time, energy and headspace; all of which are vital if you want staff to perform at their best.

Self-responsibility. When it’s managed effectively, remote working tends to mean less over-the-shoulder supervision, with staff encouraged to take more responsibility for day-to-day task management. Far from being a recipe for slacking, this can actually mean that employees operate more effectively. In fact, a move away from micro-management is one of the best ways to boost both engagement and productivity.

Remote working: tips for boosting productivity

Management technique

For WFH to work, firms need to move away from a ‘clock-in’ culture. After all, so long as designated tasks are completed on-time, is it really necessary to insist that staff are logged in 9-to-5? Greater autonomy tends to lead to increased engagement, which in turn, tends to result in a productivity boost.

Open channels of communication

One of the biggest productivity barriers is when workflows get interrupted. Examples include technical issues, waiting for responses from co-workers, or simple process queries. Email is usually a poor channel for these types of query; those long threads can quickly become unwieldy. To avoid productivity logjams, the right videoconferencing, messaging and collaboration technology is essential.

Technology

Hardware-wise, make sure that portable doesn’t mean underpowered. If staff are running business software on devices that are below or close to the recommended minimum spec, then performance issues are inevitable. The same goes if employees are dialling into meetings on sub-par equipment or using consumer-grade communication apps.

Remote working definitely has the potential to have a positive impact on productivity. But it’s important to remember that success isn’t guaranteed. To maximise the benefits of this working model, the right support and toolkit is essential. For exactly the type of IT support you need to maintain a productive remote workforce, check out Storm-in-a-Box today.

Top 5 pros and cons of working from home

As 2021 approaches, working from home (WFH) is still the reality for many employees. But what about the future? Is it worth making WFH a permanent feature, or should back to normal (whenever it comes) mean back to the office?

Drawing on the employee experience, here’s our rundown of WFH pros and cons to help you decide.

The pros

Productivity

The myth is that WFH is a slacker’s dream. The reality for most staff is that they are at least as productive when home-based. Thanks to the absence of peripheral office-based distractions and non-productive meetings, many actually get more done.

According to one survey, 65% of workers say they are more productive when working from home. Many employers are noticing this, too: two thirds of them report increased productivity for home workers compared to on-site workers.

Work-life balance

So long as the deadlines are met and meetings are attended, it doesn’t matter too much precisely when staff are at their desks. So whether it’s the school run in the morning or a lunchtime workout, remote working makes it much easier for employees to meet their work obligations, while also managing their personal lives.

Travel

It’s stressful, tiring, not to mention a colossal waste of time. So it’s not surprising that the ability to ditch the commute regularly comes at or near the top of the list of reasons why employees like working from home.

Cost

The average UK worker spends almost £800 a year on work travel. And while all of those deserted branches of Pret might be bad news for the exchequer, it makes a substantial difference to your wallet if you are not buying lunch every day.

Of course, WFH can mean extra expenses in other areas (heating and electricity, for instance). But on balance, the savings on commuting costs and lunches more than make up for it. In fact, a survey from September showed that 73% of workers were financially better off since the lockdown.

Health & wellbeing

WFH can give employees more time and space to take care of themselves. For instance, in one survey, more than three quarters of workers thought that remote work allows for a better diet, more exercise, less stress and a generally healthier lifestyle.

The cons

Isolation

At first, the novelty of not having to drag yourself into the office is liberating. After a while however, employees can start to miss the face-to-face interaction and the general office buzz.

46% of UK workers have experienced loneliness when working from home. For younger staff, this rises to 74%. Regular video meetings and catch-ups can be a vital morale booster.

The ability to shut down

The one good thing about the daily commute is that at least it bookends the working day. If staff are home based and keeping flexible hours, it’s easy to drift into an ‘always on’ culture, where they are expected to respond to requests at all hours.

Good management is essential, including keeping an eye on employee workloads, and encouraging them to take time out and switch off.

Development and training

When you are sitting a few feet away from your mentor, a lot of on-the-job training happens naturally. With WFH, it takes a little more effort to replicate this. For junior staff especially, it’s a good idea to pencil in regular catch-up and progress meetings.

Communication and troubleshooting

For a quick query relating to a technical or process issue, the easiest way of solving it is to pop your head around the door of someone in the know.

For WFH, you need a more user-friendly alternative to long email threads for routine communication. You also need to ensure that your IT support partners are able to quickly respond to the needs of a remote workforce.

Technical frustrations

Trying to use business software with an underpowered laptop can be a frustrating experience, and a huge waste of time.

The plus points in favour of WFH are impossible to ignore. Meanwhile, the negatives all have one thing in common: with the right management and support in place, they can all be overcome. For a closer look at effective ‘WFH-friendly’ IT support, take a look at Storm-in-a-Box today.

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