Why Working from Home Now Is Not What It Was Pre-Covid, Part Two

Why Your Employees Need More Help with Technology Today

Some of us worked from our homes in the old days before the pandemic started. I, for one, remember what a day of working from home was like in those old days. There were a lot of reasons to work at home, including snow days at my daughter’s school, a gas leak in the basement, or a runny nose. In those simpler days, who even thought about pandemics?

As I remember, days working from home went something like this . . .

- I tossed my laptop on the corner of my kitchen table and hoped my daughter would sleep long enough for me to get a few hours of work done. Before that, in the truly ancient days, I was tethered to a huge old desktop computer in my attic office. It connected to a modem via a 50-foot ethernet cable that I threw out the window and plugged into a cable modem downstairs.

- I called into my company’s voicemail and recorded my “out of office” message.

- I exchanged emails madly with my colleagues all day long and talked with them on my phone, because video calls were mostly in the realm of science fiction.

Are You Supporting Your Work-from-Home Employees Now?

Judging from what people tell me today, a lot of employers still treat employees who work from home in about the same way my employers supported me in the world I described just above.

Some employers apparently don’t care where their people work from - or how comfortable they are, or how happy - as long as they get their work done. So-so broadband? Well, that’s the employee’s problem. A squeezebox of an old laptop with a hard drive that sounds like a banjo? Well, they can use it until it dies completely.

But the fact is that every dollar you invest in the technology your employees use remotely will repay you with increased satisfaction, productivity, employee retention, and more - provided you know what you are doing and invest those dollars wisely.

Where and how can you support your remote employees? Here’s a checklist and some suggestions about where those dollars should go.

New, Modern Laptops

Granted, it can cost a lot of money to equip a remote workforce with modern, uniform computers. The first question to ask might be, can you afford to do that at all?

But before you decide you can’t, stop to consider the real costs you incur when employees use computers that slow to a crawl when accessing websites or that spend days in the shop. Plus when you have employees use any old computers they have lying around, or require them to upgrade their computers at their own expense, you send a message that it is okay with you if they are frustrated. So the message is, investing in computers for your team can be wise. And remember that if those employees leave at some point, your company, not they, will own them.

Strong Broadband Service and Wi-Fi

The idea of upgrading the equipment that your employees use in their homes might not make you happy. But doing so can look like a better and better idea when you consider the actual costs of lowered productivity, stodgy communication speeds, employee frustration, and other problems they are living with.

Shared Cloud Storage

There are many ways to have employees share their work on the cloud, including Microsoft OneDrive, Google Docs, and even DropBox. It is essential to use one of these services for many reasons. One is that documents and work that are stored on the cloud cannot be lost when individual laptops fail. Another is that employees can collaborate on documents. Still another is that documents that are stored on the cloud can be behind a protective wall if employees’ laptops are lost or stolen.

A Computer Service Contract

If you have a computer service contract that protects the laptops your employees use, your workforce will experience minimal downtime when laptops fail, need service or are traded in for upgrades. As with the expenses we have outlined above, a service contract is an expenditure that can save you money.

Some Furniture for Employees Who Will Log Lots of Time at Home

You needn’t invest thousands of dollars in desks, chairs, and other furnishings. However, a smart investment of dollars can help your employees work at home more happily, comfortably and productively. An ergonomics expert we know tells us that investing in a good, medium-range office chair (costing in the range of $150-$250), coupled with a computer stand that allows users to type while standing up (costing about $150) can help employees enjoy a better working life at home.

A Green Screen or Screen with Your Company Logo and Other Video Conferencing Enhancements

You might not need to buy this equipment for all your employees, only for those who have video meetings with company outsiders like sales prospects, people who are interviewing for jobs with your company, vendors, or members of the press who are reporting on your company. You will also want to invest in these extras if your employees are using their laptops to record webinars or promotional videos for your company.

Just to review, a green screen is just what its name implies: a green screen that employees can set up behind themselves when they are on video calls. When a green screen is present, any virtual backgrounds (which could be your company logo or a picture of your products or premises) appear crisper. Note that you can buy a green screen for very little money at an office supply store. As an alternative, you can have a screen imprinted with your company logo - or any image you want - and have your employees place it behind themselves when they are video conferencing.

A light ring is another enhancement to consider. It is a circular light which, when used to illuminate your people when they are on video calls, lets them look both well-illuminated and natural. You can spend as little as about $30 for one, or up to several hundred dollars.

Some people who frequently have video conferences also like to use external cameras, which can be placed to the side of a computer or anywhere else. Others say that external microphones improve the audio quality on calls and are worth the investment. In our view, both external cameras and external microphones are not needed for general video conferencing activities.

And to Support Your Employees Even More, Consider Using Hyperlocal Workspaces

Hyperlocal workspaces are office locations near where your employees live. They offer your employees the advantages of working close to home, but not at home.

Some of those advantages to your employees include . . .

- A chance to get some distance from children, while still being able to get home in minutes

- No need to commute by train, bus or car to your company locations

- A contained, clean working environment that minimizes exposure to other people

- Access to Wi-Fi, broadband and other technology at no personal expense ‍

Some of the advantages to your company include . . .

- The ability to invest in technology in just one location instead of in multiple employees’ homes

- Improved worker satisfaction and retention

- Enhanced safety for your workers, due to shorter commutes

- The flexibility to staff up, staff down and make other adjustments as needed to your workforce

- The advantage of reducing the square footage and other costs of a company office ‍

How Can You Do It?

We are here to help when you are ready to explore using hyperlocal workspaces.

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