Anyone should be able to work remotely and at a time to suit them. Working from a home office is a necessity and we want you to be a remote working pioneer

You will save £10,000 per employee, increase employee satisfaction, improve mental health and wellbeing and attract and retain the best employees through your remote working policies.

Sound to good to be true?  It isn’t. In our previous post “Flexible and remote working can save you £10,000 per employee” we explained how all of this can be achieved. 

Introduction

Congratulations!  You have made the decision to move permanently to remote working. You recognise your property costs are between 5% and 15% of your total costs base and that is too high. You need to do something about it right now.

You are renegotiating your lease to improve your cash flow and you need to reduce your property footprint immediately.

You have looked at the high-level business case and decided that the benefits of remote working outweigh the initial cost.  If you are still unsure what the benefits are then read our article on the benefits here

But how will you do it? Who needs to be involved? What will it cost and how long will it take?

How to become a remote working and flexible working pioneer Altus Digital

In this article we are going to explain how to move to a permanent remote working model that will allow you to reduce your property overheads by 50%

1.How to engage your team in the decision making process

2.How to ensure employees are safe when working remotely

3.Make sure you have incentives to work remotely

4.What do you need to set up a home office for your teams

5.How to support flexible working teams

We will show you the steps to take for each of these points and provide resources to help you in the journey to permanent home and remote working.

How to engage your team in the decision making making process

No-one can doubt that everyone has been affected by the recent COVID-19 pandemic. For some people it will have been a minor annoyance whilst for others it will have been life changing.  

Each person is different. Some have enjoyed being able to achieve a more harmonious balance with work and family.

Others however have experienced stress and fatigue due to the changes to their daily routine.

A lot of uncertainty remains about whether a second wave of COVID-19 will arise and what steps will need to be taken as a result.

You have chosen that flexible and remote working will now be permanent within your business. Highly social, extroverted people may have a more difficult time working from home without the “water-cooler chat”, says Matthew Davis, associate professor at Leeds University Business School.

Those who rely on their social environment to enjoy their jobs, stave off monotony and keep up motivation may find themselves disadvantaged, he adds. Some literature shows this could make extroverts especially dislike remote work

Introverts, on the other hand are not terribly drivento seek out other people, and if you work in a home office, you are free to indulge–overindulge–your solitary ways4.

There are many tools and assessments you can use to help understand whether employees will enjoy remote working based on their personality including assessments for extroverts and introverts7.

Whether they fall in the extrovert or introvert category (or somewhere between) can have a significant influence on how they respond to your news. This will help you understand the how to tailor your communication based on their career choice, working and home relationships and their overall lifestyle

Understanding how people will react to the news that remote work will undoubtedly be the new policy for your organisation, and you will tailor your support based on individuals or teams needs will transition to the new way of working more effective.

There are generic employee survey and engagement tools such as surveymonkey5 and there are more specific workplace survey tools such as wfh6 which can be tailored to meet your needs.

How to ensure employees can be safe when working remotely

How to become a remote working and flexible working pioneer Altus Digital

Employees have stated that when their basic needs in work were denied from a perceived ineffective leader, occupational stress resulted1.  

Occupational stress has been linked to adverse individual health outcomes at the psychological (poor emotional and mental health) and physiological levels (poor physical health).

Occupational stress also leads to organisational symptoms and costs, causing employee turnover and absenteeism resulting in poor productivity.

How to become a remote working and flexible working pioneer Altus Digital

Before launching a full-scale engagement offensive, you need to consider which roles can and should be moved to remote working.   

Understanding which roles can be permanently moved to remote working will ensure that you are communicating the right message to the right people. 

As an employer, have the you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers.

You will be able to have a clear message for employees about the process used to establish home working, why they are eligible or not for home working and the steps you will take to support them either in the office or at home, more on this later.

Continued communication throughout the process is critical to maintain employee trust and engagement and your communication plan must be tailored for different groups and address each group needs. 

The content will need to change before, during and after the process and may be tailored based on individuals’ preferences.

As you are adopting a remote and flexible working approach ensure the communication is available offline for everyone to engage with.

What employees need from effective leaders is clear communication about what that means for them.  That means clearly defined steps, timescales and consideration of their individual needs.

When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider:

  • How will you keep in touch with them?
  • What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?
  • Can it be done safely?
  • Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them?

For more detailed information on supporting lone workers you can visit the HSE website2.   

Following HSE guidance will keep you out of jail and knowing your teams, their personalities and their needs is what makes you a great leader.

Make sure people have access to remote work and incentives to work remotely

The first stage of the remote working journey is done. You have analysed

  • Who can work remotely?
  • Who can work flexibly?
  • Understood their individual needs based
  • Developed a communication plan for the business
  • Considered the legal and compliance requirements
  • Tailored your messaging for individuals and groups

And now the hard work starts….

When setting out your communication plan for remote working you should have a baseline. How many people currently dowork remotely?

You should also have a target. How many people will adopt remote and flexible working?

How to become a remote working and flexible working pioneer Altus Digital
Figure 1 – The UK has one of the lowest adoption rates in the world for remote working

In setting these targets you should consider not your own organisations targets but those considered to be best practice. 

The UK currently sits bottom of the remote working league. Only 46% of businesspeople work remotely and most of those are senior executives.

Making remote working a reality to enable you to decrease your property footprint means setting aggressive targets. 92% of employers in Finland were allowing employees to adapt their working schedules 10 years ago.

You should update your home working policies and practices to understand what your baseline is in terms of availability of remote working and flexible working arrangements.

Aggressive, yet achievable, targets for availability of flexible and remote working is a great first step.

Getting your employees to adopt it consistently without creeping back into the office is another thing.  One of the biggest changes you can make is to help your business move away from micromanaging time and setting clear outcomes for teams.

Managing to outcomes is still one of the biggest issues facing UK businesses as the preference is still to manage the time people in an office at a desk.  This is probably why the UK has the lowest rate of remote working in the world!

Employers must let go of that mindset and focus employees on outcomes, and honestly this is probably the greatest challenge highlight throughout this pandemic.

It is pointless have an office full of unproductive employees. It is much more valuable having happier more productive remote employees, employers need to develop the skills to communicate and motivate those employees.

Here are simple steps to follow

  • Clarity around the outcome: The employee should articulate the outcome, not you.
  • Let your teams agree to a date but then hold them to it
  • Make sure you have a list of everything the team needs to deliver the outcome
  • Focus on giving them everything they need
  • Break outcomes in to short manageable chunks that be reported on daily/weekly

Who cares whether they completed it at 6am in their underpants or at 11pm watching Netflix! 

What is important is that the outcome was delivered.  

If you wish to achieve 92% flexible working availability like Finland and 65% remote working adoption (3.25 days working remotely) like other countries, you will need to develop a deep-rooted culture of trust, equality and pragmatism.

What do you need to do to set up a home office for your teams?

One of the biggest issues relating to productivity of employees is distraction and not having a dedicated home office.  

24% of respondents to a recent survey claimed their company did not give them the necessary equipment (link to home office page) to be productive at home.  

But having a home office is only half the problem, connectivity is the other

i. Is it safe?

ii. Is there a signal?

iii. Is it secure?

iv. Is it supported?

Is it safe?

Over 25% of fires are started due to faulty electrical equipment.  If you are implementing a permanent work from home policy, then any equipment you supply or bought by the employee should be PAT tested.  Regular PAT Testing of equipment would ensure that faults are found, and unrepairable items removed from service.

It may be the case that your insurance terms & conditions state that all appliances must be regularly tested. If you cannot see it stated explicitly, look for text such as ‘all reasonable precautions.

In the event of an accident, the insurance company’s legal department may almost certainly argue that PAT testing is a reasonable precaution

This should be included in your working from home working policies and procedures and included as part of your employee home assessments.

Display screen equipment (DSE) is another mandatory requirement8 for home workers.  The law applies if users are, for example:

  • at a fixed workstation
  • mobile workers
  • home workers
  • hot-desking (workers should carry out a basic risk assessment if they change desks regularly)
How to become a remote working and flexible working pioneer Altus Digital

Employers must:

Incorrect use of DSE or poorly designed workstations or work environments can lead to pain in necks, shoulders, backs, arms, wrists and hands as well as fatigue and eye strain. The causes may not always be obvious.

Is there a signal?

It is very simple. If your employee does not have good internet access or home network for a home office, they cannot work from home. Often employees are forced from their homes to work on public WIFI hot spots because of poor connectivity at home, more about this later.

How to become a remote working and flexible working pioneer Altus Digital

Your employees should have access to adequate WIFI coverage if you are introducing home working permanently.  If your employees are not served by good broadband connection (the line from the road into the home) then a 4G connection9 will probably be available

If there is good broadband coverage or 4G coverage, then the issue may be the internal home network not providing enough coverage.

This may be caused by high demand on the home network caused by multiple people using the service or children streaming whilst adults are working.  Whatever the reason it is possible to install separate WIFI network for business and one for leisure and entertainment.

For executive teams it is common to have either two networks in the home or have a “fail over” network which is activated when internet speeds drop, or power / connection is lost to the main home router.  These are simple solutions to prevent you or your employees losing connection whilst working remotely.

If you lose connection at home then follow these steps

  • Check your router.  Check if the power light is stable or flashing.  If the light is flashing, then there is an issue with the router. Simply switch it off and on again and check if the service resumes
  • If this does not work or the light is stable on the hub then use a speed test app such google or as ookla8 (note: ookla is our preferred choice as the google data can be inconsistent. As an example, this data was taken 30 seconds apart on the same network which was showing 60Mbps)
  • Check coverage by your router and where you are planning to work.  If the signal from your router does not reach your workspace which is a common problem in terraced and buildings built pre 1980.
  • If you are not getting at least 12 Mbps from your provider, then it may be challenging to work from home, and you should check if faster speeds are available.
How to become a remote working and flexible working pioneer Altus Digital
Speed testing software can be unreliable and provide different results

If there is an issue caused the construction of your property, then you should look at having your home network extended to provide enough coverage for your work area.  Businesses need a service provider who can help their remote teams install a home office, everything from remote working assessments to home network and remote working installation and support.

Is it secure?

Online security is a major concern for most organisations.

Companies view on online security sit on a scale between “it will never happen to me” and “total paranoia”.

 Most employers have allowed their employees either access to their own company virtual private network (VPN) or allowed employees to purchase their own.  But a VPN is only one consideration for online security.  

Fireye recently published a great article on threat response during COVD-1910.  Their assessment shows that remote working exposes an organisation to much more risk.  This may come as no surprise and your reaction will depend upon where you sit on the online security spectrum.

Top 8 facts about cyber security

  • Phishing attacks on bring your own devices (BYOD).  For employees being asked to use their own devices for remote working pose a higher risk as they are using personal email accounts and files on the same device used for business activity 32% of all successful access to corporate networks came through phishing attacks11.
  • 40% of employees fail to spot phishing attacks.  Does your organisation have online security training and phishing threat response training?  Software from the major vendors is available for as little as £5/month per employee that provider phishing threat training, simulated phishing attacks and phishing threat response training.  If you don’t already do this, you should.
  • 90% of all successful phishing attacks had found their way through secure email gateways.  Nine out of 10 verified phishing emails analysed for customers found their ways past perimeter defences indicating a review of security policy and practice is needed.
  • £23.6 billion (with a b) is lost each year by corporations due to phishing and other attacks on corporate networks.  50% of these attacks were caused by human error and inadequate employee training.
  • 88% of organisations surveyed had reported spear fishing attacks.  Spear fishing unlike phishing is a targeted attempt to steal sensitive information such as account credentials or financial information from a specific victim for malicious reasons. Phishing attacks are on the decline and spear fishing attacks are on the increase. If you don’t already provide online security training to your employees, then you should do this now
  • 94% of malware found on corporate systems was delivered via their secure email gateway. 48% of malware is delivered in Office products and office 365 attachments.   As good as Microsoft 365 is there are still security risks in relying on a single cyber security solution for a single application or device.     Products such as SOPHOS offer a full end to end threat detection and response solution for corporate and remote workers alike
  • There are more than 18 million attacks issued every day and on average targeted spear fishing attacks are launched every 20 seconds. Cybercriminals are deploying new tactics to old phishing scams. In this case, they’re using COVID-19 concerns to exploit individuals who are seeking information relating to the pandemic. On April 16, Google reported that they blocked this many phishing emails each day the previous week 
  • Cybercriminals aren’t giving up — they’re simply trying new tactics. Phishers and other threat actors are focusing more on the quality and effectiveness of their attacks than simply blasting out numerous phishing messages with the hope that one will stick

 Home workers knowledge of the enhanced risk to their online experience is critical to keeping your corporate networks secure.  Whether you are a “it will never happen to me” person or not, you should ensure that all employees who are working both in the office and remotely have access to and are completing online cyber security training.

What else can you do?  You could offer remote workers training on how to keep their home network safe by offering this advice to employees.

  • Change the name and password of the home network12.
  • Switch on network encryption to stop broadcasting your network name
  • Change the home network password
  • Regularly check your network for unwanted access IP’s
  • Change your default IP address to prevent unauthorised access

There are other ways to prevent access via the home network and if you are on the “totally paranoid” end of the spectrum then these are all suggestions and training and support you could offer to your remote workers.

A more robust solution would be to extend your corporate cyber security to your employee and their family. By extending your online security solution you will mitigate threats from entering your network that may have been passed on from family and friends of your employees.

We have seen that 31% of employees working remotely had concerns that employers had not provided enough online security to them.  There are no figures for how many had received online cyber security training.

If you do not help your employees with ensuring they have the right network connectivity to work, then two things will happen. Productivity will be lost because of poor connection or the employee will be forced to work on mobile hotspots which will increase the risk to your organisation of a cyber security breach.  In a worst-case scenario, both could happen.

Is it supported?

The biggest concern about remote working as stated by employees is that they have not been supported by their organisation.   It is understandable that in the short period companies had to organise remote working that IT teams were hard pressed to both organise and support remote working.

But now with many companies organising for teams to move back to the office that support is still lacking. You have decided to make remote working permanent. You are a remote working pioneer who will reduce costs and improve employee satisfaction and retention. 

How to support flexible working teams

Can you IT infrastructure cope or is it time to consider using a managed service provider model or outsourced IT service often called a managed service provider (MSP) to manage your remote working model.

There are pro’s and cons for both

Pros

1. Pro-active v reactive

If a managed service provider operates effectively, it should prevent technical issues from occurring. It does this by constantly monitoring aspects of IT such as hardware, applications, security and internet to notify you when there is an issue or abnormality. Ultimately, what you are paying for is someone to keep your business from having issues rather than to fix them. 

2. Tech provided

With certain plans, the MSP company provides all the technology for your business, such as workstations, servers and software. All you do is use them and pay for them. While expensive, this means no capital expenditures for the tech, allowing your business to focus its capital in other areas, which is always beneficial.  In the post COVID-19 world, OPEX models will help improve cash flow to support your corporate objectives.

3. Expertise

If a business is using a local one-man band then there are already business risks. Internal teams generally struggle to cope with dealing with new applications and managing upgrades and staying ahead of the latest technology. Internal teams are good at troubleshooting known issues but often have little time to future proof and plan for architecture upgrades.  They may be good at troubleshooting Microsoft Word, but what happens when your router stops functioning? Managed Service Providers, on the other hand, usually have skilled personnel dedicated to each function of IT. They are familiar with both commercial and home applications which means they are better equipped all around to support your local and remote teams.

4. Business continuity

As a business owner, do you ponder how you would go about restoring all your systems and data in the event of a disaster? If not, you should13. This is an area where an MSP can help you tremendously. A good MSP can create an efficient disaster recovery plan that will help you sleep at night, knowing that if disaster does strike, your business can endure it. 

5.Flexible working support

Your managed service provider must operate a 24/7 support model compared to most organisations 9-5 and 5 days a week support model.  MSPs can provide expertise on both home technology (router, cabling, access points) and cyber security. They can provide flexible support hours to suit your organisations flexible working patterns so there is no overtime to pay when deadlines need to be met.

Cons

1. Physical presence

This was previously a downside to signing up with a managed service provider.  MSPs may not be local to the office but if you are implementing a remote working policy this matters less. For those who will still have 40% of staff in an office this may be a downside.  If you need a physical presence to fix issues on site such as a printer malfunction comes up, as MSPs manage your technology remotely, you may need someone to help occasionally. A good MSP will provide a call service, with the savings from reducing your property footprint this should still be an affordable solution.

2. They don’t install

Many managed service providers will not supply or install remote working solutions for your employees, they are 100% remote support. What companies need is their managed service provider to design and install their home office and then offer the support to ensure employees can work remotely and flexibly to adopt to a work life balance that suits them.

3. Cost

You will pay an upfront fee to onboard each employee and between £99 and £399 per employee per month for the support depending on the size of your business and your technical needs. A good MSP will work through a business case with you to evaluate whether the outsource model will work and establish an ROI and payback period.   Costs as always need to be balanced against the cost savings being made and the value that the expertise and expanded support will provide.

4. Scope

A responsive and reputable MSP will work with you to define what the business needs and the right costing model to accommodate call out charges or supporting third-party software that’s either not supported or is due to be replaced.

Conclusion

You have made the decision to move permanently to remote working. You recognise your property costs are between 5% and 15% of your total costs base and that is too high. You need to do something about it right now.

We have reviewed five areas to consider in implementing your remote working strategy and offered steps and guidance to be followed to execute the strategy. These areas were

  • How to engage your team in the decision-making process
  • How to ensure employees can be safe when working remotely
  • How to support flexible working teams
  • Make sure people have access to and incentives to work remotely
  • What do you need to do to set up a home office for your teams?

Engaging teams needs to be as much about understanding their emotional health and wellbeing and how they will respond to different lifestyle offered by remote and flexible working and suggested some tools which may help you with that.

Extending your health and safety policies to remote working is compliance requirement for any organisation.  Ensuring employees feel connected and engaged whilst remaining safe to ensure your insurance and legal obligations are satisfied. We provided information from both the Health and Safety Executive along with some practical guidance on working from home considerations.

The third point we explored was how to change the dynamics and culture of a business that focusses on managing time to one that empowers employees and supports them to achieve outcomes that drive the business forward.  Delivering a cultural change within your organisation whilst implementing a permanent remote working policy is challenging but essential is you are to succeed.

Managing the challenges employees face when working from home involves helping them with their home technology and supporting them with their home network, connectivity and keeping them safe online to protect your corporate assets. Extending your corporate solutions to a home environment and potentially to the family of your employees will improve employee morals and help with retention whilst reducing your risk exposure.

Finally, we explored whether your corporate IT teams can continue to support the business when you implement the remote working policies on a permanent basis.   We explored the pro’s and cons of keeping IT in house versus outsourcing to a company that specialises in both home and corporate support.  A good outsourced provider will not only offer extended support hours to accommodate your flexible working needs, but they will develop a maintenance, management and monitoring strategy for your business whilst delivering in cash flow by taking away CAPEX burdens and in-house IT costs.  

About Us

Altus Digital Services is digital consultancy and solutions provider who specialise in solving commercial and residential technology issues. We design and install corporate and residential home working solutions.   If you would like to discuss anything within this article, please contact us