It has been crazy here at Calibre One over the past month, as it has been for most businesses and organisations across Australia, as we all prepare to tool up for our workforces to work from home. As someone who has worked in the mobile workforce space for 10 years, I have never seen such rapid change in business to enable remote workers.
I took the opportunity to research the forecasted statistics around the mobilisation of the global workforce, Human Resources Online had predicted that by 2022, 42.5% of the workforce would be working at home or remotely.
With the rules our Governments have implemented due to COVID-19, as I write, people working from home could be as high as 60% – 70%. If you take a look at some of Australia’s largest companies, Telstra for example, instructed their 20,000 strong workforce to work from home. There have been similar announcements from banks, law firms, construction companies and others with an aim of reducing the spread of the virus.
Taking this all in to consideration, many companies have had to scramble to deploy solutions for their workforce to enable them to all work remotely. This started with cloud, video and audio conferencing solutions. All of a sudden companies like Zoom & Microsoft Teams have become a global name within weeks, as they offered free access to their platforms enabling businesses and people at home to connect, enabled with video, audio, conferencing and screen sharing capabilities.
Whilst this has enabled millions of people to have a platform with which to connect to each other, there have been some downsides in the enablement of these technologies for the end user that has led to either poor, or substandard experience.
Added to this, many people have taken their laptops home, but find themselves bent over looking at a small screen, with a small keyboard and mouse pad that they use their finger to operate, and likely from the middle of their living room, or kitchen with kids and other household members making noise in the background. All of these distractions can make it difficult to operate at the level that you would like to, or are accustomed to.
So today, I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss how you can improve your working from home environment to get the most out of your technology.
WFH Station Setup
There is no doubt that working on one small screen slows you down, and if not at correct eye level, it can lead to a sore back, eyes, shoulders, neck, traps and more. Getting your station set up correctly is critical, and this starts with the basics of screens, keyboard and mouse.
Many companies are offering employees to either take home the equipment they have in the office, or they may fund some additional equipment for your WFH environment. Check with your manager first. Essentially though, coordinating one or two screens which you can setup is a must. Also, get a separate keyboard and mouse to your laptop.
Find yourself a dedicated space in the house that is the quietest and as out of the way as it can be. If you have a study, perfect, but if not then a corner of the lounge room or even a space out in the shed if it’s not too hot or cold may have to do. Try to find a desk at the appropriate height if you can. I purchased one from Office Works that cost me $24 and is small and compact enough to allow me to have 1 monitor and my Microsoft Surface as well as a keyboard and mouse. It takes up no more than a metre in width, so there are low cost and space saving solutions out there.
Best Audio and Video Tools to Use From Home
Next, the accessories that you use on your computer will make or break the audio or video experience when using applications like Microsoft Teams or Zoom. If you can, spend a little extra money on these, or ask your company for help. Remember, always keep your receipts as everything you now purchase for WFH is tax deductible, speak with your accountant for more information on what you can claim.
Starting with the webcam of choice, we recommend the Microsoft LifeCam Studio 1020P. At RRP the cost is $99.95, which may seem a bit high, but the difference it makes to your video is significant. Having a webcam separate from your laptop also means that you can get your best angle, not a camera which is angled looking up your nose. Let’s face it, no one wants to see that when you’re in a 10 party meeting with your work colleagues.
The next thing to consider is sound, there is nothing more frustrating to both you, or the people on the other side than bad audio quality, background noise, echoing, or someone who sounds like they’re 10 metres away and you can’t understand them. Investing in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones with a microphone built in can make a world of difference. Ensure you get one that is Bluetooth enabled and can connect both to your PC and Mobile phone. It will be likely that you will use both of these devices when working from home. Noise cancelling is important, especially if you have kids and other noises in the background. With noise cancelling headphones, these can be eliminated letting you get on with what you need to do.
We recommend the Poly Focus UC headset, if you’re using Microsoft Teams they have a specific version built to integrate with all of your Microsoft Teams functions for the best Microsoft experience. The charging station is handy because you will find that you will use this device a lot, and with noise cancelling in place it does exactly as it is branded, that is, helps you focus.
Connectivity when Working From Home
Lastly, let’s discuss connectivity. This is a really important one for working from home, if you have poor quality internet then it is likely that your experience is going to be the same. If you’re on NBN it may be worthwhile see if you qualify for a speed boost from your retail service provider like Telstra, Optus, Internode etc. This can make a big difference to the functions you perform, sometimes providers will give you access to a free month, or in some cases even a year, to the speed boost upgrade, so it is worth asking. We recommend Telstra NBN Broadband for any high speed NBN services, you can see more information here.
Hopefully these tips have been useful for you today, sometimes making those little tweaks can bring a breath of fresh air to an at-home operating mode that was going stale.
If you have any questions, or want more advice on any of this, feel free to reach out to our team. If you would like a quote on any of the equipment suggested today, then please let us know and we would be happy to help.