Setting up a business is hard work, but there is an old adage about not having to work quite so hard if you can work smart. When it was first coined, the phrase probably had little to do with the notion of building a workforce which can operate primarily from home, but nevertheless encouraging home working on as wide a scale as possible is undoubtedly a very smart thing to do – especially given businesses reliance on home-working during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Of course, there is no reason why you shouldn’t work both hard and smart. Deploying your maximum potential on both the intellectual and the physical side is probably the smartest way of all to ensure that your business lifts off in good time. So before you do much else you might benefit from taking stock of just how much of your operation needs to be amassed at one singular, central location and how much of it can be devolved to the homes of employees.
Here are just a few of the considerations that you will need to factor in:
1. Finding the ideal location for your IT
In today’s working environment IT is always going to be central to more or less everything you do. Where it is located is therefore going to be an important consideration. But the nature of IT itself brings opportunities to decentralise the operation, taking advantage of its inherent interconnectivity.
Of course it is important that your employees are able to operate your systems effectively, and that any malfunctions can be dealt with expeditiously. In practice this means either embracing a system that can be monitored and repaired remotely, or ensuring that you have the provision to attend to any issues swiftly at their homes. Having a properly integrated system will inevitably minimise disruptive downtime.
2. Installing 4G/5G routers
Most private dwellings will only have an internet connection that is suitable for domestic use. To run business applications safely and effectively it is usually necessary to select and install the right 4G or 5G router.
An efficient router will bond the connections from a disparate series of SIM cards to create one dependable connection. Being cellular, it will also be portable, allowing for the easy transportation of your secure, business-grade internet connection wherever you go.
As well as portability, this router will also give you the business-grade security that you will need to protect your data.
3. Utilising Bluetooth connectivity
Bluetooth headsets are still de rigueur for employees who want to be able operate hands-free whilst listening to information and taking calls.
Productive time adds up, and an ability to multi-task is an essential prerequisite for any efficient employee. By providing your home workers with Bluetooth headphones you will make their job easier, and increase their work rate.
4. Embracing video conferencing technology
If there’s one thing COVID-19 has taught us it is the benefit of including video conferencing capability in your industrial portfolio. Hitherto huge amounts of valuable, and quite irretrievable time has been squandered flying people over huge distances to get together in a room and discuss matters that can just as easy be communicated remotely.
Applications such as Zoom and Skype have fast revolutionised the way in which we interact with one another during working time. What is more the expense saved is very considerable. As well as these tried and trusted technologies business owners now have Microsoft Teams and Google Meets as options for conferencing too.
Changing the meetings culture has been a long time in coming, but the environmental benefits as well as the savings to you in both time and cost are immeasurable.
5. Incorporating project management software into your operation
As work schedules become more complex and technology-dependent, there has been an increasing movement away from the more traditional and basic forms of recording information and towards far more integrated systems.
Computer systems have for many years incorporated such things as a notepad, some form of calendar and a means of filing and indexing e-mails. However that is unlikely to be sufficient to meet modern operational demands. Instead we have seen the emergence of more immersive applications such as Plutio and Basecamp, which offer what has become known as a “digital workspace” – a completely inclusive system of information storage.
These also enable the setting of tasks, group chats, controlled interaction with subcontractors and agencies, logging reminders and systematic storage. Effectively its aim is to circumvent the need for time-consuming searches through back records and e-mails to locate relevant information which might be needed in the field.
6. Customer relationship management
Having an all singing and dancing integrated system is not much use however without a proper understanding of your customer base. This is where a customer relationship management, or CRM, system comes into its own, facilitating the storage of all the pertinent information about your customers which can be interrogated at will and extrapolated in formats which make for the forensic analysis of trends and other relevant data.
Real-time reports enable you to make accurate forecasts about customer needs and requirements, enabling you to pre-empt expectations and provide a good proactive service based upon sound knowledge and information. This makes for critical decision-making and the more seamless realisation of targets.
Quite often a CRM system can be bespoke, responding to your own specific needs and demands. It can be synchronised with your accounting and project management software for the ultimate integrated experience. Most systems are cloud-based, meaning that the most up to date information will at all times be available to you to inform your decision and strategy making.
Getting the most from your home working employees
What you manage to get from your staff base will depend very much upon the tools and systems with which you are able to equip them. Ideally you should seek to localise your set-up as much as you are able without compromising time, speed or efficiency. Technology needs to be integrated at source if it is to be decentralised, to ensure that there are no hiccups along the way.