Weatherproofing Your Business
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With forecasters predicting a return to freezing temperatures and snow showers, now is the perfect time to be asking “Is your business weatherproof?” With further snowfalls and icy roads ahead, could you still carry out your work as normal or would your business grind to a halt?
This can have disastrous consequences if you work for yourself. If you don’t do the work, you don’t get paid! If you are an employee it means that your company suffers, with colleagues living closer to their place of work having to pick up the slack. Either way it is not good news for productivity, but technology is our friend and can really help us out this winter if we are marooned at home and unable to travel.
Now obviously there are plenty of jobs where you actually need to physically be there to perform your duties, and unfortunately I can’t help you with that. However a large part of the work force is now made up of knowledge workers, people who use the knowledge in their head, rather than physically producing something. These people can theoretically work anywhere they can get an internet connection and plug in a laptop.
So what do you need to do to allow you to carry on your job from home (or anywhere else for that matter)? If you don’t currently work from home, you are going to need access to your work computer so you can access your files. You can use remote access services for this such as Log Me In. This service allows you to not only remotely access computers, files and emails from anywhere in the world as if you were actually sitting at your desk, but you can also transfer files, print documents to a local printer and watch HD videos or listen to remote audio. Log Me In also offer a free trial, so you can try it out for yourself before spending any of your budget.
The next thing you will need is a way to communicate with your clients, suppliers and colleagues by phone. The most seamless solution uses a technology called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). VoIp is actually the name given to a collection of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multi-media sessions delivered via the internet, rather than using traditional phone lines.
This technology does require a significant up-front investment in telephone infrastructure, but the advantages are huge and stretch way beyond allowing employees to work remotely. Because phone calls are routed via the internet there are no call charges, so significant cost savings are possible too. If you are interested in exploring these technologies further, there are many companies out there offering this service, but I would highly recommend speaking to Gordon from Global Coms.
If you don’t have the budget to upgrade your telephone system or you need to set something up in a hurry, the free Skype service for voice-only or video chats is excellent, but unlike the VoIP solution mentioned above, calls can’t be transferred through a main switchboard.
Whether you normally work at home or in an office, you will need to find a way to work collaboratively with colleagues and communicate with customers on a more practical footing. This might be advancing a joint project with other members of your team or actually delivering your service to customers.
Creating a closed Facebook group is a very quick way to set up an internal communications system. Team members can be added to the group as appropriate and be able to keep up-to-date with progress updates from fellow contributors. A neat little feature is that you can see who in your team has viewed each update. Documents can be uploaded for joint viewing and even created within the group, which can then be edited by individual team members. The great thing about using a Facebook group to communicate with your colleagues is that it is free, quick to set up and requires no training to use. Great in an emergency!
An alternative to Facebook groups is to use a collaboration and project management tool like Basecamp, which is more robust and offers additional features. Basecamp are currently offering a month’s free trial, but beyond that there is a monthly fee depending on how many projects and storage space you need. Although easy to use and offering more project management features than a Facebook group, it does require a little bit of time to become familiar with all the features, so there is a short learning curve before staff can use it effectively. You should also check out Slack, which has similar features to Basecamp but is more like a messaging app.
If you are marooned at home for any length of time it is likely that you will also need a way to have face-to-face conversations with colleagues and clients. Again Skype can be useful with this but you would need to upgrade to a premium account to allow group chats. Skype also allows screen-share, so that others on the call can see what you are doing on your computer. GotoMeeting from Citrix Online is a premium tool, which is ideal for client-facing delivery and also allows sessions to be recorded. Citrix are currently offering a free 30-day trial, so you can try it first to see if it could work within your organisation.
Although GoToMeeting is a great tool, it is not free if you need to connect with more than 3 users at the one time, or you want to be able to record your sessions. A fantastic free alternative that’s well worth checking out is called Zoom.
And lastly, if you are not used to working remotely, there can be plenty of distractions in the home environment, which if not managed properly can severely impact on your productivity. A great tool to ensure that you keep on track is the awesome Wunderlist app. “Wunderlist” is a free To-Do list tool that can be used to help you become more organised in your personal life as well as at work. You can install the app on all your computer devices and mobile phones, which then sync to each other so you always know what you have to do, regardless of where you are and what device you are using.
With technology on our side we don’t need to lose out this winter. It is just a matter of adapting. Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change”. You never know, you might even like working at home and decide to incorporate remote working into the way you carry out your business in future!
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