How to thrive working from home

The current pandemic has forced many of us to work from home with varying degrees of success.  Some people really flourish with no strict schedule whereas others struggle to be productive and find it hard to motivate themselves.  Now that businesses have set up their staff with home working it looks like there will be a shift in work patterns.  It may take time to work out how best to organise yourself so you can work effectively and keep your sanity; here are a few tips.

Circadian rhythms work when you work best. If you are most energised in the morning this is when you should do the most important tasks, whereas if you are an owl you may start the day with the menial tasks to ease you gently into the day.

Unique perks – embrace the positive aspects of home working. You may find that you have more time, especially if you save time on commuting each day, so why not use this time to learn something new, spend quality time with your family or cook a tasty lunch.

A good workspace is critical for productivity. Find somewhere with minimal distractions, is comfortable and inspiring with enough natural light. If your phone distracts you put it in another room, and if you have children, and it is possible, work in a different room.

Get creative – if you have a mental block step away from your computer, find somewhere different perhaps with a nice view, and use pen and paper to put down your ideas.

Take breaks – to promote your well-being take time-out for yourself away from work and tech – do something enjoyable whether it is intellectual, creative or physical. Research shows that exercise can help you stay focused, and improve your memory, however do something that you enjoy.

Regular working hours – research shows that keeping routines is important to enhance productivity. It also enables you to leave work at the end of the day and helps you maintain a work life balance.

Get your technology sorted

  1. Internet – connectivity is vital so invest in a high-speed internet connection from a reliable provider.
  2. Router – wifi strength and speed diminishes the further you are from your router so consider repositioning it or using wireless access points. You can also try a homeplug that will provide a fast and stable wired connection. Old routers can affect the speed and range so if it is more than 5 years old consider replacing it.
  3. The right hardware and software – make a budget and invest in a good working computer and any other hardware or software to enable you to carry out your job properly. If you are unsure what products would work best for you seek expert advice so you make cost effective choices.
  4. Be proactive – fixing issues early before they escalate into bigger problems is more cost effective in time and money. If your computer is slow or glitchy get it serviced before something catastrophic happens and you can’t work at all.
  5. Proactive monitoring and maintenance service – this will help ensure your computer runs efficiently, securely and with minimal downtime. Our Bronze Plan costs £10/month per device.
  6. Cybersecure – there is a proliferation of adware, spyware and malware so good quality AV software is essential e.g. ESET. Keep up to date with cyber threats, our online Cyber Security Awareness course makes it easy and is only £2/month.
  7. Passwords – keep them strong and unique and change them regularly. Consider using a two step verification process and if you need multiple logins use a password management system like RoboForm or LastPass.
  8. Collaboration tools– technology that facilitates collaboration is extremely important if you are working from home. Sending around multiple copies of the same document for different amendments is fraught with potential problems, such as, keeping track of changes and the latest version. Fortunately, there are many services to assist with this, from Office 365 to Google Drive.
  9. Shared mailboxes – the advantage of sharing a mailbox rather than forwarding emails to your colleagues is that you know when emails have been read, replied to and dealt with, reducing the risk of emails being ignored or multiple replies being sent.
  10. Shared calendars can help improve communication and efficiency. Calendars in Office 365 are continuously synced so the information is up to date, making it easy to plan projects and schedule meetings, even if all your team are working from home.
  11. Virtual meetings – whether you use Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Skype many people are now adept at using apps for virtual meetings. Find a couple of applications that work for you and have the functions that you need for your meetings e.g. screen share function allowing everyone on the call to make notes on the screen, reducing misinterpretations. Train your staff so that meetings are professional and effective.   
  12. Headphones – when you’re on video chat use headphones with a microphone, especially if your home has a lot of background noise.
  13. Group channel – now that you’re not in the office create a place where you and your colleagues can ask questions and everyone can contribute. Discussing things with your colleagues will minimise misinterpretations and make you more productive.
  14. Video messaging -whether you need to present something, ask for assistance, or share something of interest, you can video message your team and they can view it at a time that is convenient for them.
  15. Shared task lists – this is another feature in Office 365 that enhances collaboration and productivity while everyone is working from home. Information is continuously synced so it makes it easy to coordinate activities, prioritise tasks, and meet deadlines.
  16. Second monitor – if you’re used to working with a bigger screen than your laptop has, or find two screens makes it easier to work get another screen or use your television as your desktop or second monitor by using an HDMI cable.
  17. Online training – budgets are tight but there are many free online courses to enable your professional and career development. The National Careers Service has a number of free courses to help improve your digital skills. 

Working from home can be very rewarding and improve the quality of your work. However to make it work you need good routines, have the right technology in place and robust IT security.

For more information about how we can improve your home working, or help your business get the right technology to thrive please call 01603 451810 or email hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.

Tips to avoid COVID-19 phishing scams

The anxiety around the COVID-19 epidemic is being exploited by cybercriminals who are creating new scams for financial gain. These attackers have been sending out phishing emails pretending to be from legitimate health organisations, charities and government departments.

As the number of cases of the coronavirus have escalated cybercriminals have capitalised on the fear by sending out phishing emails with file downloads promising urgent health and safety advice and infection maps. However, these files contain malware so when they are downloaded your computer will be infected.

Alternatively, the phishing scams will attempt to gain personal information. They may ask you for confidential information to give you personal health advice, or link you to a document asking you to sign in with your email in order to harvest your password.

Examples of COVID-19 phishing emails:

Tax refund
An email claiming to be from the government about a COVID-19 tax refund.  It will redirect you to a phishing page that will attempt to harvest your personal details such as login and password details with the false reward of a tax refund.  In reality there’s no tax relief but you have handed over your personal data to a cyber criminal.

Health and safety information
This phishing scam claims to provide specialist health advice, but when you download the safety measures.pdf it contains a malware-infected file.

COVID-19 Company Policy
This phishing email claims to be from your company and contains information about your company’s policies and response to the pandemic. You will be led to a link in the email, this leads to a fake phishing site with a fake log-in page that will attempt to harvest your email password.

World Health Organisation
This Coronavirus phishing email claims to be from the World Health Organisation, and tries to dupe you into downloading a malware-infected file.

How to stay safe from coronavirus phishing attempts:

  • Unless you have signed up for email alerts from the organisation, it is unlikely that they would send you a direct email
  • If you receive an email claiming to contain important information check that the domain name of the email matches that of the organisation exactly. (e.g. nhsuk.com instead of the correct nhs.uk)
  • Watch out for generic greetings (such as Dear Sir/Madam) and spelling errors
  • Don’t download any file in unexpected emails
  • Avoid clicking links in any unexpected emails
  • Have a suspicious mind – think twice about downloading an attachment, following a link or responding to an unexpected email
  • For up-to-date details about the coronavirus outbreak go directly to the organisation’s website:
  • UK Government Coronavirus Information
  • NHS Covid-19 Information 
  • WHO Coronavirus Information

With our huge reliance on technology, keeping yourself and your employees up-to-date on the latest cyber threats is vital to protect your business. 

Our monthly bite-sized training cost £2 per month. We offer a free two week trial and phishing simulations to demonstrate how your business can benefit.  For more information please get in contact 01603 451810/hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.

How agile working can benefit small and growing businesses

agile working

The traditional 9 to 5 working week and communal office is giving way to agile working as more businesses look at new ways to work more effectively. Advances in technology have helped many organisations provide a flexible working environment that enables them to react quickly to change, become more productive and attract the right staff. It is also enabling many organisations to carry on working through the current coronavirus pandemic.

What is agile working?

Agile working empowers people to work where, how and when they want, providing they meet their responsibilities. It’s success relies on businesses trusting their workforce as well as ensuring they have the right technology and processes in place.

When adopting agile working practices it is important to maximise flexibility and minimise constraints, and ensuring that IT systems used are reliable and secure. With all these elements in place, and an internet connection, employees can work on a report or presentation just as easily in the office as they can from home, in a café or on a train.

What are the benefits

Agile working enables employees to work in the way that suits them.  Research has shown that people work more effectively in the right environment and flexible working improves happiness and well-being. Staff are more motivated and work more efficiently, which makes them more productive. It can also help reduce costs in terms of reduced office space and utility costs.

Flexible working can also help retain employees as well as attract the right calibre of staff. You will be opening up jobs to a more diverse range of people who couldn’t have otherwise taken these jobs.

Technology that can help create an agile workplace

Creating a secure and truly agile workplace involves leveraging technology to better collaborate, communicate and track projects. It requires strong and reliable technology that enables your employees to work at different times and from various locations. You can select IT solutions to meet the needs of your business, many are inexpensive and will help increase efficiency. Here are some popular solutions that will enhance agile working and create the flexibility your business needs to thrive.

Office 365 for Business

Office 365 allows you to work on any computer, tablet or mobile phone with an internet connection allowing you to access any file, email or contact whenever and wherever you need it. 

Data is continuously synchronised with Office 365, so everyone is working on the most up to date version of a file or folder, enhancing collaboration across the whole business.

There are many tools in Office 365 to enhance flexible and collaborative working such as shared files, mailboxes and calendars, Microsoft Teams for easy real-time communication, Planner to manage projects, and many more.

LogMeIn

Adept IT Solutions IT contracts include a LogMeIn subscription that enables you to log in to your computer from wherever you are, making it easy to work from home and access all your files from any internet enabled device, if you can’t get into the office.

VoIP

VoIP is a cloud-based phone system that provides a secure and professional telephone service at a fraction of the cost of traditional services.  It also provides huge flexibility as calls can easily be transferred to different locations without extra cost, making it easy to work from any location with an internet connection.

Digital structure

With the help of your IT support provider put together a digital framework so that communication across the business is strong, information is searchable, no-one is isolated, and work can be prioritised and goals met.  

Security and reliability

Every business needs their IT to be secure and reliable in and away from the office. Managed IT Services, such as our Bronze Plan, will monitor your systems to ensure your IT systems run efficiently, securely and with minimal downtime.

Agile working requires a balance of people, process and technology. It is important that your IT is aligned to your business objectives and you have the right technology in place so your employees can carry out their jobs to their best ability, wherever, whenever and however. Introducing more people is not always the answer, allowing your employees to work flexibly can have huge benefits to your business in terms of being able to react to change and operating more cost effectively and efficiently.

If you need help making your business more agile and flexible we would be very happy to discuss your needs, please get in contact: 01603 451810 / hello@adept-it-solutions.co.uk.