Essential technology tools for enhanced home working

Harnessing the power of home working to deliver business continuity in the face of the long term after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is something all businesses need to swiftly address. We take a look at three key areas that affect home workers during these unprecedented times with the help of our Group Technical Director, Colin Etchells CTS, CIPS

With almost every organisation having to embrace home working, its’ vitally important that employees are provided with the right tools to help foster their productivity.

When home working became the “new normal” at the end of March, many organisations had little time to prepare or equip their staff to work from home. During this time, many individuals have had to ‘make do’ with whatever they could lay their hands on – much to the delight of online retailers! From consumer headsets and webcams to free video conferencing app’s, people found a way to muddle through. In the short term this has been a viable solution, but with long term restrictions looking to continue, now is the time for businesses to develop a strategic plan to address these issues.

The core premise is quite simple - to enable prolonged, effective home working, employees need to have the right business grade tools at their disposal. So let’s take a look at three key areas that affect home workers during these unprecedented times.

  • 76% of people use video when working remotely and 75% of these reported increased productivity and better mental wellbeing.

Video conferencing tools

There are a myriad of free apps and services available and despite the reports of security breaches, hacking incidents and services failures, many have helped people bridge the gap – both socially and in the workplace. The fact that many users are unaware of the difference between the suitability of some for the chosen use, has probably helped create many of the reported incidents. For businesses, now is the time to ask, “is the service I hastily signed up to the right service for my business needs and does it offer the flexibility and more importantly the security my organisation demands?” In business, security is paramount and not all platforms are equal when it comes to keeping the undesirables and competitors at bay.

The core element to any remote working solution of course has to be the video platform and to help cut through the noise we’ve reviewed three of the major players for comparison.

Convene from Visavvi, a UK subscription-based video conferencing service offering both individual and group licences

Convene (OK we’re biased) is a secure, scalable and highly flexible hosted video conferencing subscription service. Launched in 2011 by Visavvi, Convene enables participants to join meetings using laptop, tablet, smartphone, video conferencing unit or even telephone. Using virtual meeting rooms, participants can see and hear each other in high definition and share screen content. Direct integration with Microsoft Outlook means users can schedule meetings easily. A unique differentiator is that the service is completely UK-only based and features a completely free, fully functioning trial for 14 days.

Zoom has become synonymous with video calling since COVID-19 stopped the world in its tracks. Founded in 2011, it now has hosting servers located in almost every country in the world. Offering paid for and free personal user subscriptions, Zoom seemed the obvious choice for many businesses who needed urgent and quick access to video enable their teams.

Teams from Microsoft is an obvious choice for those organisations whose ICT infrastructure is based on Office 365. Offering scheduled and ad hoc meetings all seamlessly delivered through active directory and with native integration across Office apps, Teams is well equipped to deliver a robust communications platform within the corporate enterprise. Video calling on Teams however is very bandwidth hungry which for remote workers can mean the calls need to be audio only, thereby degrading the experience.

  • 21% of people share content in over 50% of their video calls and 82% of video callers are less likely to multi-task than when on voice calls alone.

Hardware

Do your employees have access to the correct devices that will enable them to maximise the benefits brought to them by video meetings? Webcams and headsets are key components and have a major influence on the effectiveness and ultimately the productivity of every video call. Whilst poor video and audio are understandable and accepted in the short term, many are quickly realising the negative impact they can have as the situation continues. Misunderstandings, poor quality and “call fatigue” are just three aspects – there are many more. And don’t forget, the call quality is a reflection on the perception of your business even when working from home. There are many professional and cost effective business grade solutions available to ensure there is no need to compromise the image of your organisation.

Visavvi have partnered with Microsoft, Poly, Logitech and Quadra to offer a range of professional-grade technology packs. Designed to seamlessly interface with existing infrastructure and available 'as a service', these packs can be rapidly deployed direct to home workers.

Business-grade equipment is critical to reducing 'call-fatigue' and maintaining a professional image whilst working remotely

Ergonomics

Are you sitting comfortably? Possibly not, as many of the countless examples of people representing their organisation in video calls from their living room couch, kitchen table and even the odd few sat on their bed show. Let’s be honest; very few people were fortunate enough to have a study or home office at the beginning of this crisis and have managed to get through day by day in the hope this would all be over soon. People can cope with back and neck aches for a few days, but restrictions could potentially last months which could create long term health implications. Employers have a moral and statutory obligation for the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees even whilst working from home, so they must plan for the environment their teams are working in.

  • Back pain is the largest single cause of disability in the UK, with lower back pain alone accounting for 11% of the total disability of the UK population

The indications are, that despite positive signs of a “flattening of the curve”, this current situation most likely isn’t going to ease anytime soon and most certainly have lingering implications that will affect the way we all work. Now is definitely the time to seriously reflect, review and invest for a longer period of home working. Even when workplaces start to open up again, this is most likely to be done in a restricted and phased manner with home working still being a major element of the “new normal”.

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