Heigh-Ho, it’s off to work we go.

Heigh-Ho, it’s off to work we go.

By John Preisig

There has been a lot written over that last few months about working from home. Many people enjoyed the experience of working from home,  no long commutes in traffic, more time with the kids, more flexible hours, being more relaxed and, of course, closer to the fridge. In principal, getting from your kitchen at home to your first cup of coffee at your desk at the “office” on the dining room table in under 10 seconds sounds excellent. Is it an option long term?

So what next, with the move to level 2. How many of us will go back to the office full time? Things changed within a 48 hour period when people were forced to work from home for the last six weeks. Now that the infrastructure is all set up, will we all rush back to the office?

Has your home office infrastructure been set up to work from the home long term? We are working from home, but there is a lot more to just setting up your computer on the dining room table and logging into work. Is working from the dining table a perfect option? Many families don’t have a room they can convert to an office, and in many cases, two office spaces are required. My wife was quick to grab our home office; to support her working from home at the same time. Short term, we were all happy to work from home, it was a sacrifice we all were prepared to make, due to the circumstances, and despite some of the initial frustrations we all worked through them. With level 2, if given the option, would we prefer to continue working from home?

I believe the future of work will be a combination of both. For years, in the IT industry, we have been told that everything is moving to the cloud and not hosting equipment in the office. However, in reality, this hasn’t been the case for most organisations IT departments who have adopted a hybrid model, partly in house and partly in the cloud. I believe we should be taking a similar approach with employees. A term I like to call a “hybrid worker.”  A hybrid worker will spend some days in the office and the remainder of the week working from home. One thing that quickly became apparent during isolation was the lack of face to face interaction with other team members. Some people spend more time with colleagues than they do with their family. Humans, by nature, are a social species, no matter how good video calls are the body language and chemistry is missing, video can’t replace the face to face interactions.

Not all roles are suited to a hybrid working model, however for those that can, and you have the facility to create the infrastructure to work from home based on an office model, it would have some great benefits for both you and your management team. However, we need to consider some long term issues, if you are working from home several days a week technology-wise.

I realise this first one isn’t technology based, but was a big one to help me work productively from home.  A proper office chair to replace the dining chair I learnt this after the first two days of lockdown, as pillows did not help as the dining room chair wasn’t doing anything for my back.  I missed the second display, keyboard, mouse, headset, and a stapler.  To be productive from home, you need to be disciplined and also need to apply the same health and safety rules around the work environment, i.e., chair, display setup, and keyboard/mouse.

If you are hybrid working, you will need a second set of peripherals at home. The only thing you want to be taking home is your laptop. A must-have is a second power adaptor for your laptop. Nothing more frustrating than only being able to work for a few hours, and the battery runs out.

Get the fastest internet plan that is available at your home and make sure you have an unlimiteddata plan. There are a large number of plans available from most ISPs; however, they come down to three basic types in order of speed. ADSL -> VDSL ->  Fibre

Have you checked you’re on the fastest possible connection for your area?

If you only have ADSL available in your area, you will struggle to be productive, especially, if there are more than one working at home at the same time and if you have lots of video meetings, and logging into remote services via VPN. If it’s just logging into a remote desktop session or Citrix connection, you will cope, OK. My recommendation is an absolute minimum of VDSL. Slow internet connections will only cause frustrations.

Use products like Microsoft Teams to collaborate, it’s included in most Office 365 subscriptions, It’s great for sharing files, chats, video calls, message board etc. It’s also a useful tool for letting people know when you are available. Make a schedule of all your team members work hours especially in today’s environment most businesses have reduced the hours staff work.

One interesting aspect that has appeared during remote meetings is the amount of background noise from family During the forced lockdown period, this was acceptable; however, long term this will need to change. As schools will reopen in level 2, I recommend the best times for meetings is between 9:00am and 3:00pm, as it will avoid distractions from children. Be aware microphones pick up a lot of unintended sounds, which can make meetings and calls very disruptive and hard to understand. Investing in a good headset with active noise cancelling is very beneficial, particularly in these situations, as their electronics make your voice the dominant sound and minimise background noise upto 75% in some cases.

In summary, there has been a significant shift in the way we work that was forced upon us, and I can’t see us going back to where and how we worked in the past, even if a vaccine were to be discovered. We will have a hybrid workforce where we will have people working from home and at the traditional office, which, if done properly, can be beneficial for both the employer and employee.