More businesses are starting to talk about remote working. Call it working from home, call it being switched on all the time it’s becoming a more attractive possibility for companies and workers thanks to Cloud Computing. It might mean having staff log-in from a home office, switching on and feeding into a report or conversation from a coffee shop or hotel or being able to work with a team or on a project in another city or country. There are real benefits in terms of helping employees create a better work/life balance, helping to increase productivity (no more long chats about telly at the water-cooler) as well as reducing costs.
It is a big step, though, and it promotes a fundamental shift in how we do business as well as how we view working. Gone are the days when “being at work” meant sitting in-front of a computer beavering away from 9 am to 5pm. For many it does still mean this but for others it can include using a smartphone, working flexible hours or checking in via Skype.
So why is it possible? Instead of having data stored in a hardware server in the office that everyone needs to be logged in and connected to the Cloud is removing this geographical tether. Storing business information in the Cloud means you don’t have to be sitting at your desk to work. Instead you can access reports, spreadsheets, documents or images from anywhere using any device. That same information is stored in a server off-site. Whether you opt for a Cloud Server, Virtual or Dedicated Server it means you can access the same information using a laptop, smartphone or even a tablet, potentially.
If remote working using Cloud Computing is something you want to think about, here are Intrahost’s top tips:
1. The keyword for remote working is flexibility and that’s at the heart of the approach. When you’re looking into the deal you need to think about the kind of connection you’re looking for and what will suit your business best. There might be a lot of documents and data that each staff member needs to access, or it might just need to be communication that you need to consider. Hosted Exchange means you can access email, shared contacts, calendars and tasks with up to ten aliases per mailbox. It’s a simple solution to helping to keep every member of the team connected wherever they are. There is also ‘push’ mobile technology meaning with it can work on smartphones.
2. Don’t feel you have to invest in a whole new kit for every member of the team. If you’re asking staff to work from home then there may need to be a reasonable investment in technology but there’s no need to write a blank cheque. One of the most attractive features of migrating to Cloud Computing is saving money. You don’t have to pay for the upkeep of a vast and bulky server in your office, you don’t need the staff to monitor and maintain it and you don’t need to invest in regular updates. There’s little point spending all of the saved cash on expensive kit for your team to enable them to work from home. Only spend what you really need. Does everyone need a new Blackberry, really?
3. Security is a big issue for those looking into remote working and understandably so. They want to make sure that, while staff can access business data from wherever they are simultaneously there can be no unauthorised network access. Many believe that the Cloud will prompt businesses to think more carefully about how they store their data. Cloud Computing is just as secure as having a hardware based option. Providers like Intrahost employ techniques to ensure both physical and network security. The building where the servers are kept has a range of features like key fob access and CCTV to make sure there are no unauthorised attempts to access data. On the network firewalls are used along with multi-layered authentication to prevent spam, threats and viruses from damaging or accessing information.
4. If you’re a business looking into the possibility of remote working for your staff then you need to think about how you’re going to manage it. It has real benefits for employees in terms of childcare solutions and getting a better balance but you have to think about it from a company perspective. Does every member of staff need to work remotely? It might not suit everyone and there could be individuals who know they won’t be as productive working from home as they would be in an office. Flexibility is about choice. Similarly it may feed in to how you hire new members of staff. Trust is important and you’ll need to think of how you’ll monitor hours and activity. Understanding the difference it will make along with the benefits will help you shape the impact it will have on you and your company. If you’re the kind of manager that simply doesn’t think staff will work out of the office then possibly it’s not for you. But if you do then work out who needs access to what and how it might be implemented.
5. If you’re an individual, say a web designer or a graphic designer then remote working allows you to set-up your own business without the risk of start-up costs. You get low overheads and can work for clients anywhere in the world from your home office or the local coffee shop. It makes it easier for you to collaborate on projects, to grow your business without being limited by geography. Yet you do have things to think about; branding and consistency for one is important, as well as how you manage and report your won hours and when you’re online. Remote working is a relatively new phenomenon so it’s important to manage the process carefully and be able to communicate clearly and effectively to alleviate any concerns.
6. Reporting becomes more important when employees are working remotely. You don’t have the benefit of being able to catch up with colleagues over the top of your computer. You’ll need to set-up a series of communication tools, whether it’s weekly reporting or daily. You need to keep track of where everyone is up to and how a particular project is progressing. There are various applications you can use for this and Hosted SharePoint is just one.
7. Don’t get sold on having every application for your business. The real strength of Cloud Computing is that you pick and choose what you need and the service that suits your business. If remote working allows you to be more flexible and streamlined then don’t be taken in by someone selling you tools that aren’t in your to-do list. It should be an add-on, not completely re-inventing the nuts and bolts of the work you do day to day.
8. Does remote working mean that you don’t need an office? We’ve already discussed that it might not be for everyone. The idea of flexibility could be doing a range of different hours, rather than everyone working from home all the time. Many companies find that they still like having a business address and you might still need a space for meetings or client presentations.
9. Embrace the idea of innovation. Remote working is all about freeing up time so you have to think about how that extra time could benefit your business. How about having an ideas exchange? Staff can use an extra hour that’s not being spent in the commute to think about different ways to expand, diversify or develop their work and the business.
10. Know when to switch off. Working from home is great in terms of improving a work/life balance but it does mean your office is in your home. Also if you can access all your business information on a smartphone or laptop then it can be easy to start checking emails or finishing reports in the evening or over the weekend. Inevitably there will always be projects that need a bit of overtime but don’t run the risk of working long hours consistently. Know when to turn it off and take some time off.