5 IT ‘must-haves’ if you work from home

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The popularity of work from home positions is on the rise – and for good reason. Remove the office and the commute and it seems people across a huge number of industries are more motivated, less likely to be ill, more productive and, believe it or not, collaborating with colleagues more effectively.

That said, this new generation of work from home positions aren’t possible without the right IT. Whether you’re an employee, or a manager looking to expand your workforce with home workers, you’re going to need the right IT equipment to drive this productivity.

So, what exactly will you need?

We haven’t included the most obvious items in this list – as you’re unlikely to even get out of the starting blocks without a laptop, a smartphone and possibly a tablet. Instead, we’ve dug a little deeper – and considered what’s needed to absolutely maximise your work from home experience…

Video calling

To increase the production speed of his new Tesla model, CEO Elon Musk has recently encouraged workers involved in the production of the car to “walk out of unproductive meetings” – a sentiment that will certainly be met with rounds of applause from frustrated workers across the world.

Dodging the unnecessary meetings is a huge benefit of working from home – but what happens when your input is needed? Or there’s a meeting you just can’t miss?

This is when video calling is invaluable. It means you’ve got a presence in the room – without the commute.

It’s not just meetings that benefit from this kind of tech either Being able to video call clients and customers is shown to increase engagement, trust and customer retention levels too.

Some of the big tech players are acknowledging the benefits too with video calling built into Microsoft’s Office 365 products and Meet by Google Hangouts ensuring there’s definitely a place for it in your IT arsenal to be as effective as possible.

4G router

While you might think that your domestic internet connection will provide everything you need to work from home, you might be overlooking a few vital points.

Firstly, your home IT setup is designed for low-scale domestic use – and while that might allow for reasonable speeds, there’s often no way to prioritise work related tasks and applications, so your other connected devices are getting as much priority as that important client video call you’re trying to make.

What’s more, new data protection laws mean that any client or customer data that you hold or have access to should be secured appropriately. The moment you access your work’s network with your domestic equipment, you’re potentially creating a security weak point.

The very best way to get around this issue is to use a 4G router as part of your business’ hybrid network. You have all the perks of enterprise performance with none of the wired hinderance that prevents you getting the hardware into your home. If you’re not certain exactly what you’ll need, this guide will explain 4G routers in more detail.

Group Messaging

Sometimes, a quick question doesn’t warrant opening your email or picking up the phone – so why not send a short message instead? Messaging platforms like Slack and Telegram operate in a similar way to SMS text messages – but they add that little bit more to make them more user friendly in the work place.

First and foremost, they work across multiple devices simultaneously, so you don’t have to keep breaking from your screen/phone/tablet and pick up another device to respond. They also let you send file attachments and, crucially, let you search through sent messages for information that would take you an age to swipe back up to in your normal messaging app.

You might not want to share your contact details with everyone on a work project. But with a dedicated work messaging application, you can collaborate with your whole team using just an email or username.

CRM

A CRM (or customer relationship management) tool in your business is virtually vital if you want to meet the increasingly high expectations of your clients or customers.

It used to be that stepping away from your desk took you away from an order book, spreadsheet or diary – now that just isn’t the case. Most CRM systems are cloud based, meaning that as long as you have an internet connection and your log-in details, you can access the all-important knowledge within.

A CRM system is usually customisable, so it matches your business perfectly. For example, you might have differing statuses for where each customer or prospect is in your process; contacted, quoted, agreed, invoiced – etc.

You’re also likely to need contact details, copies of correspondence, order requirements and a host of other customer specifics. When you’ve set your CRM system up you’ve got everything you need to support that customer, wherever you are.

If you’re working from home, cloud-based CRM is invaluable. It’ll update in real time, so you’ve always got the full complement of information from your offices or colleagues within a few clicks, over any device. Take a look at SalesForce and Zoho as two of the industry leaders.


Project management

If you don’t work in an office space in which people can gather and plan the projects you’re working on – then it makes sense to have a digital space in which you can do the same.

Tools like Basecamp and Trello provide exactly this. Rather than relying on phone calls, emails, notes, attachments, letters and all the other ways of communicating between a team and clients, you’ve got one place that pulls all these things together.

You can break your account down into specific projects and you can invite or exclude people based on whether or not they need input into what it is you’re working on. You can then set tasks, record communications, have conversations within the project and track your progress toward the goal.

Even when you’re working from home, powering up your PC and logging into your project management application will feel like walking into a well-organised office…

 

Chris Price