How to move out of the office to remote working successfully in hours
Over the past few weeks, employers have been gearing up rapidly to get more staff working from home as the coronavirus crisis changes the way the world does business.
Preparing your staff for home working is not always the most seamless endeavour, with many employees not possessing the facilities to work in a remote environment. Alternatively, being cooped up indoors can feel fairly claustrophobic for many, as people are subject to sharing cramped work spaces with their spouses. So, to help ensure you can optimise work productivity and not let team morale dip as a consequence of the Coronavirus – we have devised a guide to help ensure your team can become “home working champions”.
Communication is Key
For any business it is essential to communicate both internally and externally. Unfortunately, this basic skill set we take for granted has, for many businesses, been jeopardised by the spreading of the Coronavirus. At Click Convert, we have made it our main objective during this quarantine period to maintain communication amongst ourselves and the outside world, to ensure our work rate and efficiency is not restricted – working as a unified and well connected team. Here’s how;
Cables, cables, cables
Cat5 cable, yes that’s right. Go out and buy at least a 100 metres or yards of Cat5 or Cat 6 cable. We had some in stock after we moved our desks around last month and, unbeknownst to us at the time, turned out to be extremely useful.
As many other companies will have found, a large proportion of our staff members didn’t have their own laptops or the software they required to work as usual, so we had to give them their work PC’s. A problem we faced, however, is that once they had arrived home with their office equipment, they discovered that they did not have cabling long enough to set up a home office that was long enough to reach the router.
To resolve this issue, I must have made at least 6 cables (some upto 25metres in length), that were individually delivered to staff in need so that they could comfortably set up shop – mirroring their usual office space as much as possible!
Tip: If you buy a reel of cable it gives you more flexibility. You need the rj45 connectors, crimping tool and cable cutter. Ideally I’d buy a cable tester as well – just note they never seem to work wires 4 and 5. Locally you should be able to get these from an electrical hardware store. I’ve also included a link to suitable products on Amazon for reference.
Cat5 / cat 6 cable – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Tronic-Ethernet-Network-Meters-Blue/dp/B079Y67XMG/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?ie=UTF8&aaxitk=U40m0To707cb4wBi2haJBg&hsa_cr_id=8032180250802&ref_=sb_s_sparkle&th=1
RJ45 Crimp tool and Tester https://www.amazon.co.uk/Crimping-Stripper-Connection-Connectors-Ethernet/dp/B06WW4SQB9/ref=sr_1_5?crid=3KOHF2HAMZ5C8&keywords=rj45+crimp+tool&qid=1585736075&s=electronics&sprefix=rj45+cr%2Celectronics%2C149&sr=1-5
The wire colours for the RJ45’s are Type B POE
Desks & Chairs
Who would’ve thought desks and chairs could cause such an issue?
Indeed, many home environments were not designed for a home office! Your staff may be working from apartments or rural homes which do not have the space to accomodate a spare desk or even an office chair. Yet, the current dining chairs your staff possess may be hard and uncomfortable to sit at for prolonged periods of time. Equally, whilst the idea of working from the couch may sound inviting, it can actually lead to serious back and postural issues. Not to mention the negative effect it can have on one’s workflow – as balancing notepads, phonesets and other office appliances on your knees does not seem that practical, right?
A solution? Consider that your staff may have to take home their office chair and even their desk if they can take it apart and get it in the car. You could even consider asking one of your team with a larger vehicle to transport desks etc (although, be aware of any vehicle insurance issues if staff are using their vehicles for business activities). For those staff with a lack of space in their homes,
Don’t forget power extension cables, it’s surprising how many power sockets you need to start counting the PC, Monitors, Phones, Printers and even a small network hub.
Headsets are going to be vital for many. Try and obtain noise cancelling headsets. Most come as USB connections, but if you’re using a laptop, you can use phone headphones with a mic.
Closing the office building
Before your office suddenly empties and you’re just left with the waste paper basket in the corner, record all items taken by your team, featuring their signatures and date. Keeping a schedule will allow for a smooth and seamless transition back into the office.
If your office has a kitchen / toilets that you are responsible for, then empty any fridges and clean them out. Turn off all electrical appliances. You may even prop open the door on a turned off refrigerator so it doesn’t develop an odour. You may have to turn off all water too, as if a leak occurs, you may not know about it and tracking a plumber down in this current climate may be a difficult endeavor! If you have a heating boiler or furnace you might want to turn that off as well.
Side Note: before you start turning off the electricity supply completely, remember you will need power for the Fire Alarm, Security system and any IT equipment that home working will depend on.
Installing a VoIP system
VoIP: Voice over Internet Protocol is, at the simplest level,a phone system that transmits voice calls over IP networks. It is a means of making phone calls using an internet connection, rather than making a call using a regular phone line.
Installing a VoIP system can benefit your business in a number of ways, particularly within the current coronavirus crisis. Firstly, you can save money, as the cost of using a VoIP is considerably cheaper than utilising a conventional phone – particularly for long-distance conference phone calls. At Click Convert, we save a considerable amount of money contacting our US clients and sales team via VoIP systems, which would otherwise rack up a hefty bill!
VoIP systems are also portable, in the sense that regardless of where you are, if you have Internet access, there should not be any problems in terms of costs and connections to make external phone calls. The VoIP system also extends beyond the realm of phone calls and facilitates video conferencing, enabling you to stay in touch with your co-workers and clients to discuss important deals, affairs, meetings, files, documents or agendas – no matter where you are. This truly is a system which enables you and your staff to become real home-working champions!
The outline is you will receive a new main phone number and depending on who provides your VoIP service, either extensions or extensions and direct dial numbers for all your team. You redirect your existing number to the main VOIP number. This number is part of a hunt group (a collection of phone extensions from your team). When a call comes through, it will either ring all members of the hunt group at the same time or hunt through the group until it finds someone to answer the call. A VoIP system facilitates an easy transition of calls between team members – so despite working remotely, it’s as if nothing has changed in your business – except your dog alerting you to a squirrel outside during calls!
The great news is that Voip phones systems cost virtually nothing to set up and calls are considerably cheaper than existing phone systems.If you would like traditional style handsets I’d recommend Grandstream phones. Try a Grandsteam GXP-1625.
I would also recommend two VOIP phone system providers. In the UK, I would recommend a CallSure http://www.callsurenumbers.co.uk/ . They have a great system that is amazingly simple to set up. You will be given a web site address and a code and it downloads to your mobile or desktop. In minutes you will be up and running, John at Callsure is very helpful and I have used him for years.
The second Voip provider is RingCentral. https://www.ringcentral.com/ They provide American and UK systems. Again, great customer service, apps for mobiles and desktops, plus you can use a physical Voip phone. The advantage with Ringcentral is they throw in a few extras, the important one being web meeting software.
Maintain Regular Contact Internally
Those photos just recalls the days when the team met in person! Now that we have discussed staying in contact with the outside world, we should mention the importance of communication within your business.
Being cooped up in your home isolated from the outside world can feel fairly lonely, right? And it’s likely employees will start to feel like they are going insane, staring at the same screen all day without the basic human necessity of social interaction – believe me, it’s already starting to happen! And if you are used to a busy workplace environment, with conversations aplenty throughout the day, remote work can be very isolating.
As a way of safeguarding ourselves from slowly demising into a pit insanity, at Click Convert we ensure that everyone maintains regular contact on a daily basis. We find Skype to be a really useful software for doing this, as all you need is the app on your computer or mobile device and you can add everyone in your company via their username to a chat. At 9am every morning, the whole of our team has a meeting to discuss the ongoings of the business and the health and safety of every staff member. We then find it extremely productive to break off into individual team meetings to talk about the works and issues pertaining to their department; delivery team, sales team, finance team and managers meetings. Finally, we schedule another meeting at 10:30am for a team building/morale discussion, which usually revolves around “non-work related” topics, as a way of conserving a sense of connection amidst the chaos! You really start to notice that when you spend the day working on your own, actually calling people and having a conversation can be much more stimulating and productive than a chain of emails.
Skype is really easy to set-up and we really encourage utilising this platform to stay connected with your colleagues. For more information, click the link here!
Another platform that we use regularly is Zoom; a cloud-based video conferencing service you can use to virtually meet with others – either by video or audio-only or both, all while conducting live chats – and it lets you record those sessions to view later. Similar to skype, Zoom enables an unlimited number of one-one-one meetings even with the free plan. You can also screen share your device in one-on-one meetings or large conference calls so they can see exactly what you are referring to, ensuring you stay virtually connected. RingCentral meeting which is included with the Ringcentral VOIP system, is really provided by Zoom.US. See https://zoom.us/pricing
Sharing Data With The Team
Communication during lockdown is vital and Google provides a great set of tools to assist you with this. A large proportion of our services involve collaborative working, with various omni-channel marketing strategies we have in place for a number of clients. In order to ensure we are all in sync and well versed with each others projects, we utilise Google Drive.
Google Drive is a cloud storage service, and like any cloud storage service, it’s main purpose is to expand your ability to store files beyond the limits of your hard drive. Cloud storage is sometimes confused with online backup, which achieves a very different purpose using similar infrastructure. It allows you to create and share spreadsheets, word style documents, presentations, forms, drawing, pdf and photos that are cloud based. You can share documents with any person via email. Google will give you 15GB of free cloud storage just for signing up. However, it’s important to realize that all of that free space is shared between Google Drive, Google Photos and Gmail.
Google Drive can be accessed through the major browsers by going to drive.google.com and logging in using your Google account credentials. That includes Chrome, of course, in addition to Firefox, Microsoft Edge (Windows only) and Safari (Mac only).
Maintain team morale
Maintaining team morale is integral for any business to ensure your company achieves its objectives and goals. Indeed, a business is nothing without it’s employees’ hard work and dedication! And given the current climate, these are unsettling times for business owners and employees alike, so maintaining positivity throughout the lockdown period is essential for the safety and survival of your company and its people!
In addition to holding regular meetings, at Click Convert we believe it is important to bring some normality to home-working life. This means getting dressed, meeting at 9am and maintaining the same patterns exercised on a normal day in the office. You can be creative with this and do a “dress up friday” as opposed to your casual end of week days that were put in place pre-isolation!
It may be a rewarding and kind gesture during these confusing times to reward your staff with mini trophies, to tangibly inform them that they are “champions”. A trophy has the positive sentiment of acknowledging a person’s productive achievement – whether this is in the form of effort, success rates or an overall positive attitude within your business. In turn, this acknowledgement can translate into fruitful workflow, helping you maintain a positive workforce mentality within your business! You can also invent creative ways to cultivate healthy competition by awarding trophies to staff who have hit targets or managed upsells. Alternatively, you can make light of the situation by sending office superlative awards i.e., “most likely to” trophies, sending a slice of humour to your employees when most needed! These are all ways that you can stay connected and unified when away from your usual office environment.
As an endnote, it is also extremely important for managers and business owners alike to be mindful of their staff’s current situation and adapt their typical policies and targets to the nature of the employees work environment. Screaming children on the end of the phone line – something that may be frowned upon in the corporate world under normal circumstances – is going to be something everyone has to become accustomed to. And likewise, staff should not be embarrassed by this. It’s important to be empathetic with staff members and aware of the fact they may be struggling with this transition. This Coronavirus situation is affecting people in different ways. Remaining positive is key to successful remote working!
At Click Convert, we want to help customers in any way we possibly can to fight this virus together. If you need marketing advice or services for your business, then contact us today! We hope you all stay happy, healthy and most importantly, safe!
In the next blog I will discuss managing cash flow in a crisis – something I wish I knew nothing about but starting a business in the 2008 recession really did teach me how to survive. Never though I need those skills again!