It’s that time of year again! The roads are iced over, power lines are down, streetcars can’t run, and who even knows how you’ll get home tonight. When its this cold, I take the TTC instead of walking or biking, but it’s expensive, and what about people who drive? My street has been an inch deep in ice since before new years, so I can’t even imagine what it might be like in a suburban neighbourhood right now.
It’s not all bad news, though! This might be a good time for companies to consider improving and expanding their capability to have some employees work from home. A lot of my coworkers live in suburbia, or even just further out in Toronto from our offices, and it can be difficult to nigh impossible to get into the city on days like the ones we had last week. Some of my friends in the states or in Western Canada texted me in the morning to ask if we were closed – that’s how bad it was.
The thing is, most of the people I work with aren’t equipped to work from home, and they should be. Most of them don’t have access to their work email on mobile or at home, let alone any of our other files. You don’t need to provide everyone with laptops for this kind of situation, but you do need to set up some basic services over a network. There’s no reason to risk the safety of an employee, or lose a day’s work from them, because of bad weather or driving conditions. So what do employees need, at a minimum, to work from home?
- Access to work email. This is the big one. It’s worth talking to employees to get them to install access to work email on their smart phones or home computers. Even if there isn’t an ice storm or polar cold front moving across the continent, it’s helpful to have email access in case of an emergency, or if someone is sick, etc, etc. Having someone from your IT department hold meetings for groups or send out information about how to set up work email on other devices is a great start, and an inexpensive and time-friendly one at that.
- Access to required files Not all of your employees need the same files, but they all probably need a few specific things. Make sure they have them! If you know someone will need certain templates such as Excel or Word docs, make sure they have a USB back up of them or place them in a cloud drive. If someone needs certain fonts or other design files, they might need a specially loaded laptop or, again, cloud storage or network access.
- A way to share files Having access to files is great, but what if someone needs to send you a large file, or a series of large files? Again, cloud storage is a good fix, or a network that can be accessed remotely.
- Team organization If telecommuting is going to be a long-term solution, not just an occasional fix, you’ll need a way to bring your team together to coordinate on projects and have the odd meeting. Skype or Google Plus work great for online meetings, but you’ll also want to consider team management software. There are a lot of great, free options that operate in the cloud.
Telecommuting can be a scary word for employers, but it’s always better to be prepared for a variety of situations than to scramble at the last minute for a work-around solution. Preparing and implementing these kinds of solutions can show your employees that you’re ready to support them in any situation, resulting in more loyal, engaged workers. It’s hard to argue with that.
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