It was March 12 and the economy was humming. Most of us could not even spell COVID-19 and our Governors decreed that a small virus that no one could see was going to shut down business as we knew it. We did not know that come early summer, many of us would be working from home. Working across our entire client base, we helped about 2000 computer users get comfortable working from home for “a few weeks” while the pandemic passed.
Of course, things have worked out slightly differently than that. Many business people are still working at home. The office staff, the sales team, the administrative staff. We are all still operating a large percentage of the time from our houses instead of from the office.
“Knowing” that it was only a temporary move, the solutions we put in place seemed acceptable at the time. Looking back now, however, too many people set up shop on the dining room table with their 5 year old 14” laptop. Too many people made do with a different, less expensive, and less secure setup at home than what they have at the office. We think it is time to make a few adjustments to be more comfortable, more productive, and more secure working from home.
Most of us should already have started planning on working from home for what could be described as an indefinite amount of time. In some states, the transition back to the office will be very slow. In other states, people are starting to filter back into the office, but it means something very different than it meant in late February. This might include rotating days between the office and home, or staffing the office with a skeleton staff, or redesigning the physical layout of the office to provide for more distance between desks. Lest we not forget that many experts are warning that we should brace ourselves for a second wave of this pandemic. The point is, we are going to spend more time working from home, so we might as well consider ways to improve that situation. Here are five tips to consider:
Tip 1. Upgrade Your Chair and Add the Second Monitor
The dining room chair that you started sitting on back in March is not meant for sitting in for 8 hours a day. Same with the tiny screen on your laptop. Stop squinting to see what is on that screen. The dual monitor setup that you had at your office made you more productive, so why not be that productive at home too? Set up a place in your home where you can use two large monitors and sit comfortably all day long.
Tip 2. Get a Quality Headset
A good noise-canceling Bluetooth headset will allow you to walk away from your desk and take conference calls all over the house. Not only can you hear and speak better and clearer, you can leave the Zoom conference and get a snack without having to miss out on what people are saying. Further, the proper headset will cancel out unnecessary house noises that can be a distraction. You will be so happy when you add this component to your home office that you will likely want to use it at work too.
Tip 3. Upgrade Your Image on Zoom
Today, lawyers are working with clients, executives are holding staff meetings, and farmers are working with buyers, investors, and vendors. Most of us need to look more professional on Zoom or GoToMeeting or Teams, especially for those critical meetings. Try to improve the lighting. You need light in front of you, not behind you. If your home office room has a window, face towards the window. Also, raise your camera to be at eye level. No one wants to see your ceiling fan or the inside of your nostrils. Finally, shave and dress for the office. The time for celebrating casualness has passed.
Tip 4. Consider Alternative Business Software Solutions
There is a big difference between Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Teams excels in collaboration features, specifically within your own organization. Zoom excels in user-friendliness for group meetings, but really cannot compete on the internal collaboration side of things. There are also software tools to help manage staff work schedules, online productivity, remote access, etc. The point is that things are different than they were in February. There is a good possibility that your organization will need to consider making permanent changes to the tools you use so that everyone can stay as productive as possible.
Tips 5. Cybersecurity Matters
In March, cybersecurity was not as critical as getting set up to operate from home. But today, it is essential. Cyber thieves have really increased attempts to exploit the weaknesses in home networks, vulnerable remote access solutions, and end user tendencies to contribute to fake COVID-19 charities. With so many people working from home for what will likely turn out to be an extended timeframe, now is the time to harden your home and corporate cybersecurity solutions.
- Secure Your Home Router: Most home routers supplied by a reputable internet provider such as Comcast or Verizon are already configured properly for secure WiFi. However, many people are still using a 5-year-old 3rd party router that they purchased from Staples or Best Buy. Ensure that your WiFi connection requires a lengthy password and is using WPA2 encryption. Failure to meet these requirements could result in a breach of corporate data.
- Get a Professional Consult for Remote Access: Back in March, you might have been unable to plan properly for the entire staff to be remote because everything happened so quickly. Now that we know this might last a while, an IT professional should evaluate your remote access solution and make appropriate recommendations. Are you using a VPN solution? A Remote Desktop solution? A 3rd party solution? You now have an opportunity to plan for and implement a proper remote access solution so you can be secure and productive.
- Avoid Oversharing Your Screen: During online meetings, be cautious when sharing your screen. If possible, do not leave any windows open that you would not want others to see. Accidents happen.
- Audit Your Remote Computers: Require that any device, especially home computers that your team is using, has the latest antivirus and malware protection. If employees are using their personal computers, you want to develop a plan to ensure that their personal computers are protected with a proper endpoint security solution.
- Watch for COVID-19 Scams: Internet criminals have widely exploited the COVID-19 outbreaks. It has been the topic of numerous national and international phishing/scamming campaigns. If you receive emails with any suspicious links or attachments related to COVID-19, do not be tempted to open them. Provide education to your staff members so that they can better understand how to differentiate legitimate from suspicious. Better safe than sorry.
Unfortunately for the people we live with, we are all going to keep working at home a lot longer than we imagined on March 12. We hope you will take a few minutes, spend a little money, and set yourself up to be more productive and secure at home.
At TechSolutions, we want you to expect more from your IT vendor. We think you should expect more from them than simply keeping your internet and your computers working. We would be happy to help you get set up at home so that you can be more productive and more secure. Feel free to reach out with any questions you might have so that we can show you how to “expect more” from your IT firm.