Working from home offers advantages to both employees and employers but, in today’s technology-dependent work culture, any technology problems – encountered away from the organisation’s IT department – can cause anything from worker frustration to serious productivity problems.
With space at a premium in many offices, the opportunity to get some of your employees working from home seems attractive for employers. And, for employees, the opportunity to cut out commuting time and be at home, keeping cool, during the summer weather instead of being in a crowded office is also attractive.
According to David Field, of training solutions provider Training Synergy: “Not only does homeworking offer a financial benefit but it also facilitates the movement for work life balance and improves the potential for staff diversity.
“While the benefits and potential risks are well known and documented, one of the major areas that tends to be overlooked is the need for homeworkers to be as self-sufficient as possible in terms of both applications and basic PC awareness,” Field added. “Being dependent on laptops, PCs and all the other paraphernalia that go with today’s technology-dominated and facilitated workplace means that small technology-related issues can soon render a homeworker helpless and unproductive.”
Investing in training for homeworkers in basic PC skills and networking is one of the best ways to reduce downtime and also take the pressure off technical support.
“Often the most frustrating problems can be simply solved as long as the homeworker knows the basics,” said Field, who explained that there are a number of courses and accreditations available for learning these basic skills.
“There’s the European Computer Driving License (ECDL) and, soon, there will be the ICDL, ITQ - the new NVQ for IT – along with other accreditations,” Field said. “Training Synergy also offers a course for homeworkers which not only delivers PC and networking basic skills but also ties these in with the homeworker’s organisation’s best practice processes and procedures.”
Field endorses Silicon.com’s ‘ten top tips’ on homeworking:
1. If you regularly carry your laptop back and forth from the office, get hold of a spare battery pack and keep it at home so you don't have to remember it every time you plan to work from home.
2. Make sure you have a few ways for people to contact you - such as a mobile, a landline, email and instant messaging. So, if one connectivity mode goes down for a while, your colleagues will still have a way to reach you - and you them.
3. Understand how to structure your working day for the greatest benefit to you and your organisation - whether that means doing a few hours early, taking the kids to school and walking the dog, or logging on late at night to free-up time during the day. If you are able to bring a necessary - or less stressful - degree of flexibility to your working day then you should be more dedicated to your work and feel more energised. Your employer should see that as a definite benefit.
4. Tapping away on a laptop is fine on a plane but, when working from home, make sure you have a full size keyboard and a mouse - and a monitor if possible - as well as a comfortable workspace. Your wrists/neck/eyes/back will thank you in the end.
5. Make sure friends, family and partners understand what working from home is about and that they appreciate it's not an 'available for chores and errands day'. Also, keep your work and home life separate even if the venue is the same. Some people favour a home office which is locked during out-of-office hours and off-limits to others during the working day.
6. Remember to take screen breaks and stretch your legs. Go and make a phone call or a cup of tea – otherwise you'll have been sat staring at the screen for four hours and will have given yourself a headache.
7. Make sure you take a proper lunch hour and finish on time. There's a great temptation to extend your working day at the beginning or end - feeling like it's only time you would spend commuting anyway.
8. Make sure you have phone numbers for your technical support department in case your connection or computer dies - and for your home ISP in case there are other connectivity troubles. Remember, too, to take home or duplicate any files you might need to refer to in case of connectivity crashes. However, when transferring any data from office to home, ensure it is well protected - preferably encrypted.
9. If you've got important calls to make, ensure you're somewhere quiet where you can switch your phone to speakerphone and not be disturbed by roadworks on your street, noise in your home or the sound of your neighbour doing a spot of DIY. And don't always trust voice over internet protocol (VOIP) over your home broadband network - unless you swear by the quality - make sure you have a back-up option.
10. Finally, don't feel guilty. You are probably working harder than you do in the office so don't be made to feel as if you're skiving at home.
About Training Synergy
With over 300 training personnel working on projects across the UK at any one time and a turnover in excess of £10m, Training Synergy (trainingsynergy.com) - part of the Synergy Group, formed in 1997 and now with an annual turnover of some £40m - is one of the UK’s largest training solutions providers. Training Synergy delivers some 40,000 training days a year and has 7,000 trainers on its database.
Training Synergy provides a range of training services to support all types and size of training programme, from initial consulting right through to project-managed implementation. It also provides logistics and logistical services to support clients’ ongoing training needs.
Its clients include IBM, EDS, Getronics, Unisys, Accenture and Atos Origin.
Training Synergy was placed 15th in the 2006 list of the ‘Top 50 IT training companies’, compiled by market analysts IT Skills Research.
Further Information from:
Daniel Hanlon / David Field, Training Synergy, 0800 072 5900 or 020 7556 1140 /1141