Mon | Jun 14, 2021

Working from home: Hardware, software and human imperatives (Pt 1)

Published:Tuesday | May 11, 2021 | 12:07 AM

The ‘new normal’ isn’t so new anymore. Lifestyles and work styles are adapting to COVID-19, and the more flexible and digitalised companies are leading the way in surmounting the challenges and grasping the opportunities arising from the pandemic. Working from home (WFH) has become integral to the new way of doing business because it offers a variety of benefits to remote employees and their employers, not least of which are health related.

Businesses need to plan for this new work arrangement, and ADVANTUM, which provides specialised information and communications technology services for shipping interests in the Caribbean, has been assisting several companies in preparing to work from home. Robert Sinclair, ADVANTUM’s network team lead, has much experience in this area especially with regard to web-based applications that make the transition seamless, coupled with the continuity offered by their support desk. He offers some useful advice related to the hardware, software and human requirements of this new modus operandi in part one of this two-part discussion on WFH.

WFH POLICY GUIDELINES

“To begin with, businesses looking to introduce a work-from-home programme should create specific guidelines to ensure all employees understand what is required from them when they work remotely,” Sinclair said. He added that the key elements of a work-from-home policy, which should be shared with the entire staff, include:

Sourcing appropriate technology: Computer, cell phone, Wi-Fi and access to internal networks are all tools that employees need for WFH.

Using only secure connections: Remote workers should have a secured Wi-Fi network and work with a trusted virtual private network (VPN). The VPN serves as a buffer between the Wi-Fi connection and your mobile device or laptop. Any transmitted data is then encrypted to protect it from tampering and interception.

Implementing a vibrant communications programme: Stay in touch with employees who work from home via Teams, Skype, Zoom, Slack and other messaging services. At times, remote workers can feel isolated from the rest of the team, so it is important to keep in contact with them via phone, email, messaging, or videoconference.

Setting clear objectives in your work-from-home policy: Create a WFH policy with your specific expectations of the programme. The policy should include instructions for an employee’s daily work schedule, your company’s overtime policy, description of a dedicated workspace, instructions for reporting personal injury and damage to company equipment, and protection of proprietary company information.

Evaluating the work-from-home programme: If you are implementing a work-from-home policy, take the time to evaluate its effectiveness after at least two months and adjust the programme based on your findings.

Trusting your employees: One of the most crucial elements of a work-from-home policy is that employers need to have trust in their employees to get their jobs done when they are not working on-site.

In part two of this discussion on working from home, to be published on this Shipping Feature page, we will look at WFH safety risks and ADVANTUM’s WFH experience.