The Nett Sales guide to safe home working

We’ve been working remotely for decades and have picked up some useful tools and tips along the way.  We’ve made every mistake in the book and learned a lot of things that work too.

Given where we all are today, I thought that some of our learning may be useful to you.

Telephone

Suggested: Mobile; VoIP; Landline

Not much to say here other than to check your mobile contract to see that you have sufficient minutes to carry on working. 

If you need a landline number rather than a mobile, then using VoIP is a good option as the “client” – the bit you use to dial the number, etc can be on your computer or phone.

There are hundreds of VoIP providers out there.  Many are good.  One we know that has worked for us over the last 10 years is Gradwell in Bath (www.gradwell.com) and for “soft phones” (software apps that act like a phone) they suggest using the free version of Zoiper which works well with their system.  I’ve used this on my Android phone for the last year to make and take calls without issue on both WiFi and 4G connections.

Landlines.  If you have one, use it if you want to, but don’t bother getting one installed.  Call charges are a LOT higher than the same call using VoIP.

WiFi and Broadband

This is the first time that many parts of the UK will have has its broadband infrastructure tested to any great extent.

I’ve already seen my connection at home drop in speed by at least half with so many others now working from home during the day.  With the schools closed and the UK on lockdown, I can only imagine what all that online gameplaying and homeworking is going to do to daytime broadband speeds.

WiFi speed is often a fraction of the connection speed of your Broadband connection.  Consider replacing your home broadband router with a better one.  I’ve found the Draytec Vigor products work well.  There are plenty of options but make sure you are getting something that gives you great WiFi.  Or run ethernet cables from the router to your laptop or desktop for best speed.

If Broadband is going to give poor speeds, consider using a 4G hub.  You can set up a personal hotspot on your phone or buy a dedicated solution such as the Vodafone GigaCube.  I recently bought a GigaCube on eBay for less than £100, put in a SIM and I had working WiFi in any 4G area with much less interference from others working from home.

Email

Products suggested: Outlook; Gmail; Loom

You’re going to be fine carrying on using your existing email client.  The only thing you may want to consider is setting email up on your phone, if you haven’t already.

Don’t like typing?  You can try voice recognition but I’ve never got on with it.

However I do like Loom.  You can record a short video, insert the link into an email and send it.  You may find that you can communicate an idea more effectively talking to a camera or sharing your screen than by grabbing screenshots and typing.  Loom.com is well worth a look.

Conference Call

Zoom

Before the start of March 2020 I only knew one other person with a corporate Zoom account, now I barely know anyone without one.  (should have bought shares…)

So what does zoom do so well?  It’s simple to use and integrates well with outlook.  Schedule a meeting in outlook, hit one button and you have inserted into the meeting all the Zoom details for your call.

If you have a Pro account in Zoom, you get 1Gb of storage to record conference calls.  You can send links to meeting participants and others that missed the meeting to review it.  Please do remember to tell everyone the meeting is being recorded.

There are alternatives and a few downsides to Zoom.  The primary downside is that it seems to use a lot of system resources so if you are showing software on a Zoom call, the software tends to run slowly.

One alternative if you struggle with Zoom is Microsoft Teams, which does not seem to slow down other software.

Team working

Teams & Google Docs

I mentioned Teams for conference calls.  The distinction I make here is that I would schedule an hour with a client on Zoom but chat with colleagues as needed on Teams.  This suits my way of working.  You may find other ways to work that suit you.

If you are collaborating with someone on a document where both of you are contributing, the best solution I have found for this is Google Docs.  The user interface is horrible but the ability to see what the other person is doing and for there to be one central version of a doc that you are both updating is fantastic.

Document Sharing

Sharepoint / Onedrive; Dropbox; Google Drive

Storing your work somewhere other than on your home laptop is vital!  If you have a company Sharepoint to store and access documents, great, otherwise you will need your own.  If you have the correct Microsoft licence, Onedrive is great and Dropbox is also OK.  There has always been concern online about the security of Dropbox and it does tend to chew through your Broadband speed.

The other option is Google Drive that also works well and is brilliant if you are working with others on docs or spreadsheets.

Backup

Just do it!  Regardless of whether your email and docs are stored safely elsewhere, backup your laptop.  Backblaze is my recommendation.  You don’t have to restore the whole laptop, you can restore an individual file that you accidentally deleted too.

Workspace

Try and find a dedicated place at home where you can work and get a decent office chair.  Then follow all the good guidelines:

  1. Take regular breaks. Us the 20:20:20 rule.  Every 20 minutes pause to look at something over 20 yards away for 20 seconds.  The change of focus is really helpful.
  2. Drink Lots of Water. I was given a Chilly bottle for Christmas and use it the whole time to keep chilled water on my desk.  You lose 20% mental capacity if you are 10% dehydrated.
  3. Don’t eat lunch at your desk. Take a break, go for your one walk a day, etc, etc.
  4. Sit up straight. Laptops tend to force you to hunch forwards, so lean back in our chair and consider putting a separate keyboard and mouse on your laptop.  If possible, raise the screen so that the top of the screen is at eye level.
  5. Get a monitor or two. You can extend your laptop screen to an external monitor.  The extra screen space makes you much more productive – and less eye strain.
  6. Regular exercise. No need to visit the Gym! A simple (and gentle!) set of stretches, bit of Yoga or similar will allow you to return to your desk refreshed.  You’ll also be amazed to find the answers to tough problems you were pondering before the exercise often appear as you return to your work…
  7. Over communicate. When writing emails or talking on the phone a large part of your communication is lost as it can be difficult to convey emotion correctly.  So use more words and longer explanations to make sure you are fully understood.

What else?

What have you found works well, or should be avoided?  Add your comments below…

 

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