CLARK’s Guide to Working From Home

While current world events has brought the “Work From Home” concept to the forefront of business consciousness in the past few weeks, it is a growing trend that could help small business owners to increase productivity and reduce costs. That sounds great, but there is a lot to consider for everyone involved and CLARK is here to help.

Before we get into the technical aspects of working from home, let’s talk about the preparation.

The Work From Home Attitude

There is a difference between the thought of working from home and the reality of it. That difference is most jarring when it comes time to sit down and get things done. Finding the right Workspace and Mindset are essential if you want to be successful working from home.

Assessing Your Physical Workspace is the First Step
This is where people learn that working from home is not for everyone. Sitting at the kitchen table with a laptop is fine for checking email and playing on social media, but it’s a less than ideal place to try to work. In order to have a productive work environment you need:

  • a consistent and comfortable workspace where you can step away from work and come back to it
  • the privacy to focus on your work and speak professionally with co-workers or customers
  • boundaries to minimize incidental interactions and separate work from home
  • reliable computer hardware and internet connections
  • a dedicated phone line or alternate method of communication for managers, co-workers, and/or customers, i.e. mobile phone, soft phone, skype, etc.
  • office supplies – a printer, paper, pens, paperclips, folders, storage, etc.

Before exploring any further, you must ask yourself if you have the physical space available in your house to meet these needs, and the willingness to make the necessary adjustments.

Next, Determine Your Mental and Emotional Readiness
There’s a lot of appeal to commuting into the home office in your pajamas. No traffic jams. No dress clothes or uniforms. No ultra perky co-workers smiling and bouncing around the office before you’ve managed even a sip of coffee. No one to complain to about the traffic. No one to talk to about the game or weekend BBQ or what happened on TV. Just work.

The sudden loneliness that comes with working from home is not something to be taken lightly.

There are a lot of upsides to working from home, but are you really going to be okay without that social time? Before making this transition do you have:

  • the ability to live and work in the same area without feeling like your always at work
  • support from your family – they’re going to have to be okay with your work boundaries
  • enough motivation to work through the sound of sirens, dogs barking, doorbells ringing, etc.
  • the initiative and drive to do a good job while working towards your ultimate business goals
  • an alternate form of socialization, being an introvert is fine (even preferred for many of us), but you don’t want to become a hermit.

All of these require more than a moments thought. For most people, work-life and home-life are different sides of the same coin. Work has different friends, different conversations, and sometimes different personalities than home. And then there are the professional goals. In some workplaces, work from home won’t have an affect on advancement opportunities, but that is not true for all.

All of these are considerations that should have an impact on determining your viability of working from home.

When reviewing these considerations, it’s important to be honest with yourself. Work from home isn’t for everyone. However, if you feel like you have the Workspace and Mindset needed to be successful working from home, you’re almost there. Before we move onto the next section, let’s talk about one last thing that you absolutely need – A Morning Routine.

Seriously, people talk about the joy of working in their pajamas, but the truth is that no one is ever taken seriously while wearing pajamas. Not even yourself. It’s not a thing. Sorry to burst your bubble but if you’re working from home, do yourself a favor and get into a morning routine.

Get Up, Get Dressed, and Get Ready for Work.

Security Considerations

This is a bigger deal for some people than others, but for every single business owner out there, security is essential. Whether it’s financial information, customer information, product information, or business information, every business owner has something to protect. While having employees work from home can save on office costs and increase productivity, if it’s not done correctly, all of that information is being put at risk.

Working from home requires you to think a little differently about computer use. As important as password protecting your computer is, some people don’t want the hassle of it on their home computers. Imagine the conversation with your boss about how you needed a bathroom break and the five-year-old climbed up and deleted an entire client file.

No one wants to have that conversation.

That is why we strongly recommend that employees NEVER work from personal computers. For the sake of security, anyone working from home must have a computer provided by your company. Regardless of whether or not you regularly work from home, a strong password that is NOT know to family members is vital to network security. Beyond that, it is you’re responsibility to make sure that the computer is locked whenever you walk away from it.

In a lot of ways, working from home requires you to be even more security minded than being in the office.

Technical Considerations

As we’ve seen, working from home isn’t all sunshine and pajamas. There are challenges, physical and mental, not to mention a need for security awareness that is often overlooked…and this is before you get into many of the technical aspects of working from home.

In our Remote Access blog we discussed the various ways to get connected in order to work from home, along with the security issues that come with them. Now we’re going to talk about actually setting you up to work from home. Assuming that you’ve got the Workspace and Mindset covered, the next step is getting connected. For our small business partners, we recommend:

VPN to RDP – For those of you who hate acronyms (which is mostly everyone) this involves running a Virtual Private Network through your Firewall to securely connect through a Remote Desktop Protocol, contact us or your MSP (Managed Services Provider). If you also hate tech speak, well…sorry. In short, this allows you to work from home by using your desktop at work. This is a great choice for those who have an advanced Firewall and need to access programs and data that is stored on work computers.

VPN File Access – Rather than connecting to your desktop computer, this method provides you with access to share drives from the remote computer. It is a great choice for those who just need access to data that is stored on a server and is something that we or your MSP can configure.

Soft Phone – Our business clients know that with Comcast Business Voice Edge we can set their employees up with soft phones on computers and mobile devices so phones calls don’t go unanswered and outgoing calls still look like their coming from the business. Most VOIP providers have this option and in a worst case scenario, phone providers can forward calls to a mobile phone to ensure that nothing gets missed.

LogMeIn – Technically this is one of many Virtual Network Services, it just so happens to be the one we recommend because it’s proven to be reliable, easy to use, quick to configure, and with TFA (Two Factor Authentication) and a few tweaks it’s HIPAA / NIST compliant.

ZOOM – Again, this is technically one of many Video Conferencing options available. With our small business partners, we recommend it for it’s flexibility, reliability, ease of use, and pricing.

Technical Support – This is yet another of those things that most people don’t consider. If you suddenly lose internet connection on your computer, but there is still internet in your home, what do you do? Getting support out to your home may not be easy or quick, so you have to be willing to follow instructions and help figure things out. Patience, paying attention to detail, and providing complete and accurate information will go a long way in getting you up and running again in a timely manner.

When it comes to working from home, balance is important to success – there are Workspace, Mindset, Security, and Technical considerations that need to be worked through. Whether it’s due to world events, health issues, or just exploring new ways to work and be productive, working from home is growing in popularity and proving to be an effective tool for small businesses.

If working from home is something you’re considering an an employee or small business owner, contact us and we’ll make sure you get it right.

BONUS: For couples who suddenly find themselves working from home together, it’s best to agree on an imaginary co-worker to blame for things that go wrong and those little annoyances. “That darn Karen is hogging the bandwidth!” “Why does Karen keep leaving cups and dishes all over the place?” “Karen changed the dang radio station again!”