WFH best practices for businesses and employees

It’s generally accepted that Henry Ford in the USA in 1926 and John Boot, chairman of the Boots Corporation, here in the UK in 1933, implemented the eight-hour, five-day, working week to help them better plan and produce in what were essentially manufacturing organisations. The working week we all know, then, has been the mainstream for nearly a century. However, the unwelcome arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent global lockdown, meant that remote working rapidly became the new normal for millions of us. As a result, the traditional, 20th century working model now looks woefully out-of-date. Put simply, it lacks flexibility and agility, while ignoring the great benefits technology has delivered in recent years – such as the advent of portable devices and Cloud computing plus reliable and widespread access to Wi-Fi and capable remote IT support providers. Today most of us are able to work just about anywhere, from home and hotel room to co-working space, rail carriage and coffee shop. And as experts believe many of us will continue to work remotely even after Coronavirus is consigned to history, we decided to take a closer look at the working from home (WFH) best practices for businesses and their employees.

So what are the working from home (WFH) best practices and how do they benefit businesses and their employees.

Covid-19 has proven to us beyond doubt that people can work from home successfully and in a variety of ways, thanks to modern technology. But what are the working from home best practices and how do you implement them for the benefit of your business and its employees? Read on and you’ll discover:

  • The WFH best practices for employers
  • Know the different ways your people can WFH
  • Establish a WFH policy
  • Review your IT infrastructure and tools
  • Make IT safety and security a priority
  • Plan for business continuity and disaster recovery
  • The WFH best practices for employees
  • Establish a work schedule or routine for home
  • Create a separate ‘home office’ workspace
  • Make sure everyone knows when someone’s working
  • Work and personal time don’t mix
  • Maintain work relationships
  • WFH and business continuity
  • Making sure WFH works for both employers and employees

The Working from home best practices for employers

As you would with any major change to the way you do business, a working from home policy and process needs thoughtful planning and careful implementation to maximise value and productivity while minimising business risk. Here’s a list of best practices for you to consider for a successful WFH scheme:

Know the different ways your people can WFH

There are a variety of ways your team could work from home and we provided details on each in this recent blog post.

Each WFH model brings its own benefits, risks and costs and whatever route you choose will depend upon your company culture, the nature of your business and sector and the specific job roles included in your scheme.

Establish a WFH policy

There’s no doubt that working from home can be a powerful tool for driving employee productivity, loyalty and improved work/life balance but you have to develop, establish and implement a clear, straightforward policy that’s applied consistently and fairly. If you don’t, you risk creating confusion, frustration and bad feeling. Do it right and WFH becomes part of your company’s DNA.

Review your IT infrastructure and tools

Successful WFH is heavily reliant on you and your team having access to the right, available, robust, reliable and secure Cloud-based technologies in place, as well as the right remote IT support necessary to keep those technologies performing and productive.

Essentially, working from home requires a different set of IT capabilities than working in the office. For starters you’ll need collaboration tools such as chat, voice, meetings and screen-sharing. Plus you’ll need the means to connect your remote workers to the corporate network via virtual private networks (VPN), direct connections or remote access services so they can use email, file sharing and corporate applications.

Make IT safety and security a priority

Carefully review your IT cybersecurity policies for WFH. Once your people work from home with remote access to your IT infrastructure, data, IP and confidential customer information they can become easy prey for hackers. Ensure you have the right cybersecurity policies, best practices and controls in place to mitigate risk so that your people, processes and systems are all set up to be able to identify, stop and eliminate threats.

Plan for business continuity and disaster recovery

If there’s one thing the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us, it’s the need for business continuity and contingency planning. Most organisations will have some kind of disaster recovery plan in place to cover a wide range of risks from natural disasters like flooding and fire to system outages and geopolitical risks. Your work from home regime needs to be added to these plans to offset the risks that could impact your people’s ability, say, to access your network from home.

The WFH best practices for employees

All the research shows there are many benefits for people who can work from home. These include greater flexibility; avoiding the usual office distractions, reduced commuting with all that means for their stress levels, bank accounts and the planet; an improved work/life balance and the chance to better care for young children or elderly relatives. However, WFH also brings its own challenges. These include accessing tools and information, potential loneliness and isolation and a tendency to lose focus on work tasks. To help your people become and remain more productive and focused while working from home, here’s a shortlist of best practices for your employees:

Establish a work schedule or routine for home

Office work typically involves start and finish times, lunch and other breaks and even personal routines such as that morning ‘wake up’ shower. To work from home successfully and productively, your people should create a new schedule and stick to it. We’re all creatures of habit and routines enable our minds to acclimatise to working from home.

Create a separate ‘home office’ workspace

Our homes are usually where we do family stuff with loved ones and friends – your mind associates your home with those. A ‘home office’ workspace enables people to block out personal issues and focus on work-related tasks. No one is going to achieve peak productivity sitting on the sofa with their feet up. So set up a desk in a spare room or other designated workspace and use it only for that purpose; and avoid bringing personal activities into it.

Make sure everyone knows when someone’s working

Chances are, there will be others at home when your people are trying to work there. They should, therefore, establish a way to to let people around them know when they are working. It also makes sense to set up and agree a protocol for being disturbed and how.

Work and personal time don’t mix

Have your people avoid blending personal and work time – such as sorting the laundry while on a conference call or responding to work emails on the phone during a family dinner. Trying to do both things at once mean neither activity gets the attention it deserves.

Maintain work relationships

Office-based people develop work relationships with their colleagues: chatting before the meeting starts, in the corridor, around the coffee machine or during lunch breaks. These relationships are good for morale, team building, effective working and career development.

When people work from home, it is easy for them to focus on getting the job done then signing off, making business interactions impersonal. To counteract this make sure everyone sets up one-to-one time with co-workers, managers and others in the business with the express purpose of developing relationships. Whether office or home-based, people must feel part of your enterprise together.

WFH and business continuity

Of course – and as the Coronavirus pandemic has proven – your organisation doesn’t have to embrace a full-time remote workforce model; you can simply have it on stand-by as an option in case of an emergency.

However, you’ll still need the plans, policies, processes and tools in place to support working from home in ‘contingency mode’ and to transition back to normal operations once the situation is resolved. In which case, here are some of things you should consider and implement before an emergency strikes:

Have your IT Infrastructure ready to go

Review your remote access capacity including factors like VPN infrastructure, VoIP systems, conferencing systems and remote access to email. You don’t want to be upgrading hardware, software and licenses in crisis mode.

Put remote IT support in place

Organise your remote IT support service provider and have them ready to kick in as soon as you need them. They will help ensure your technology and people remain performing, productive, profitable and secure when working from home. They will give your team a point of contact for any tech problems and help you prioritise tasks and the order in which they should be resolved. Note: IT support providers tend to be highly flexible and scalable to evolve as your needs do.

Establish clear IT security polices and procedures

It’s important to establish remote access security policies and systems before you need them. For example, set up secure access systems, encrypt data on hard drives and mobile devices, implement biometric login to laptops, enable 2-factor authentication and increase security threat monitoring. A crisis is the prime time for cybercriminals to strike while you and your team are distracted.

IT continuity processes

By employing a remote IT support provider you’ll be confident that your technology can be continuously available (thus enabling business continuity) through any emergency that results in your people working from home. You can agree all the deliverables and metrics in your service level agreement (SLA) with your IT support partner in advance.

Making sure WFH works for both employers and employees

For your WFH regime to succeed, your organisation and people need to think and act differently. For your business, that means providing additional policies, processes and IT systems to empower your people to work effectively and efficiently at home. For your people, they need to develop new work habits to be productive in the home environment, including having an appropriate workspace, establishing a routine and putting additional focus on maintaining professional relationships.

With the right planning and preparation in place, WFH can be a powerful tool for success in the post-Covid-19 ‘new normal’ or for the next time a business continuity threat emerges and your disaster recovery kicks in.

Whatever working from home means to your business and your people, our specialist WFH IT Support team can deliver proven remote IT support to all your home working staff using Cloud-based solutions, such as Microsoft 365 or Google Google Workspace, wherever they are in the UK.

This new IT support service is bought to you by the totality services team, who have earned a Feefo Gold Trusted Service Award two years running, Five Star ratings from both Trustpilot and Google and a 98% client retention rate. To find out more simply call WFH IT Support for a confidential, no obligation chat.

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