Collaboration and Meetings
Effectively Working From Home
There’s no question that many of the ways we work are, and will fundamentally change even after the pandemic has passed.
Working remotely, from a home computer or laptop, and attending meetings through videoconference is here to stay. In some cases, permanently; and in others, an occasional work option.
Doing IT support work is inherently a mobile effort with technology. We might provide remote support, access resources while on the road, and attend many educational meetings virtually. Above all, we must do this safely and securely, safeguarding the data and businesses we support.
We’re no stranger to it, and in fact we’ve been doing it a long time. We have a list of things which you might find helpful as you adapt to secure mobile and remote working.
In the recent business past, many workers would occupy an office and work together by speaking with your cube-mate, walk down the hall and talk to a project team, or gather round a small table to share the documents or data you’ve generated, get feedback, and go back and make changes.
Social distancing has made that nearly impossible, but there are collaboration tools that can be used to accomplish the same thing. These tools have one-on-one and group chat features. Group chats can be created for certain customers, teams, or projects, with needed team resources added to the group and the content of the group chat centers on that subject.
Typically, these are called “channels”, so you could have a “Client-ABC Corp” channel to discuss the client issues, a sales team channel, or a “New Website” channel.
Additionally, the one-on-one chats can be helpful to have secure communication with a particular employee or direct report. This could allow staff members more direct access to leadership to more readily share ideas than even a conventional office might allow.
The tool we use for this is Slack, but Microsoft’s Teams product works for many and comes included with some Microsoft 365 subscription products. We’ve assisted our clients with both and several others as well.
“However, as people have moved home to attend meetings, they’re finding some issues. “
Many businesses are realizing some savings against the bottom line with reduced travel costs as we’re forced to hold meetings virtually, through videoconference. Of course, this functionality has been around for years, but the many companies that provide it have been severely taxed. Outages in both Zoom and Microsoft Teams products have shown that nobody could have prepared for such a massive shift. Not to mention it’s nearly impossible to find a video camera for your computer these days.
In the last few years, video technology has surged, bringing high-definition quality video to a very affordable level; the software and services we use allow for screen-sharing so you can offer presentations and documents to meeting attendees.
Typically for business these advances are welcomed. However, as people have moved home to attend meetings, they’re finding some issues. There are three primary issues at play and they’re ones most people wouldn’t think to investigate.
- Bandwidth – HD video uses a lot of bandwidth. The quality of the audio stream also increases the load on your internet traffic. Most businesses buy sufficient bandwidth to handle multiple people using the network for video, file sharing and more, all simultaneously. Home internet is sized for up to 4-6 people using much less bandwidth. Try to attend a videoconference while someone streams video in another room, and you might have people in your meeting saying your video or audio is cutting out.
- Underpowered Computer – In many of the same ways as bandwidth, many home computers aren’t intended for use with business-class software and uses. Processors have fewer cores, computers lack dedicated audio and video components, and there may be storage limitations which prevent adding a cloud file sharing sync tool like Dropbox or OneDrive.
- Security – The most overlooked issue which offers the greatest threat to businesses with remote workforces is maintaining security. Home networks may not be properly firewalled, some have open wireless access points for easy friend and family use, and the computers themselves might lack protection against hacking which could expose the business network to ransomware, wire transfer theft, or worse.
Many businesses we work with have found unique solutions to these problems:
- Providing loaner laptops that have sufficient capacity to do remote work, and have managed security to protect the business.
- Disallow cloud file sharing on home computers, allow web access only which provides less exposure but still enables work to get done.
- Allow remote desktop services, so people working from home remotely control their office computer, maintaining security and reducing the learning curve on how to do remote work.
- Providing a modest raise to allow the key employees or managers to boost internet access at home. This has limited opportunity in expensive or rural areas.
Consult with us, or your tech support team on how you can better enable staff members to be productive at home! This can work out to be a great added benefit to your employees; you might find some actually are more productive remotely than they are in the office (your mileage may vary on that statement – the studies are still out on it, but stay tuned, we’ll share what we know!).
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