Firms share tips to boost productivity, morale and SECURITY while working from home

Richard and David Graves of GWS Media

A digital marketing agency started by a son and his father have shared their tips for working from home –as more firms prepare for a coronavirus shutdown.

David Graves of GWS Media in Bristol, set up the firm 20 years ago and was later joined by his father, Richard.

Richard and David Graves from GWS Media

Following two office moves, the pair has since returned to working from an office based at their house – because of the benefits of flexibility and reduced carbon footprint.

The firm, which specialises in multi-lingual sites, has made a smooth transition and kept both their team and clients on-board.

David, who has worked in web development for over 20 years, said: “There are many benefits to working from home, particularly as our roads become increasingly congested. It helps to reduce our travel time and carbon footprint. 

“Working from also offers greater flexibility for our all the team. With today’s technology, it’s easier for staff to work remotely. We even work with people in other countries with relative ease.

“But it is advisable for a firm to take some precautions to maintain their security, productivity and morale.”

Social distancing

The team at GWS Media and its associated firm GWS Robotics usually work on site but are geared up to work remotely – recognising the benefits of social distancing at this time.

David, who studied history at Cambridge University and was a digital journalist for Extel Financial, which is part of the Financial Times, said: “In order to work from home, I would suggest a firm considers what computer equipment will be needed, how it will be configured and how security will be protected.

“It may be worth investing in professional help as security breaches could be costly in the long-run.

“It’s also helpful to make sure the management systems and email are in the cloud and accessible.”

He added that aside from the technical and security issues, communication was key.

David, whose clients include MENSA and the University of Bristol, said: “It’s important to stay in regular contact, not just about work related issues but to see how the team are generally getting on and to keep up morale.

“It also helps, where possible, to include some face to face contact. During this time, it may be through the mediums of Skype or Zoom – but it all helps.”

Childcare benefits

Schools may be set to close amid the coronavirus crisis and childcare could be an issue for many.

Business consultant Della Hudson, who set up an accountancy practice from her home when her children were young, said working from home could help save on childcare.

She said: “Working from home saved commuting time and reduced the amount of childcare that I needed during school holidays.

“If I was in the main house with the children I could still be available to my team except on the days which I marked as holidays.

“We kept office hours but it still took self-discipline not to be distracted by household activities when I went through to make a cup of tea in the kitchen.”

Della Hudson from Hudson Business Advice

Della, who has been a chartered accountant for 30 years and is based in Backwell, said it may have potential tax benefits as you can claim part of the running costs of your home as a business expense.

But she warned that if it were done on a long-term basis, it could result in a taxable gain when you sell the property.

She said: “If 90 per cent of your home is private, for example, and 10 per cent is business, and you make a £50,000 profit when you sell your property, then 10 per cent (£5,000) is taxable.”

IT

Martin Vines, of Martin’s Heldesk IT support in Brislington, believes more people working from home should not impact on broadband coverage.

He said: “Remote working does not take up much on broadband spectrum, compared to say You Tube. We should be able to work from home with relatively good internet connection.”

Martin Vines from Martin’s Helpdesk

He advises people to use software which enables remote connection through a person’s home device. Some, such as Teamviewer, are available for free.

But he recommends paying to have decent anti-virus software installed. He said: “A paid for service will warn you of dangerous websites and phishing attempts.

“Also, remember to keep your device in safe, secure place. As a rule of thumb, ask yourself if you would be happy to leave your wallet there.”

Cyber security

Richard Merrygold, who heads iSTORM Solutions, which specialises in cyber, information security and data protection, warned hackers were taking advantage of the crisis.

Richard Merrygold, from iSTORM Solutions

He said: “This crisis has created a unique opportunity for criminals to try and attack organisations, so keep an eye out for any emails that look out of the ordinary or suspicious. Be extra aware of phising emails and scams and, if in doubt, delete them straight away.”

He advised firms to take care when sharing confidential information online and to always password protect sensitive documents – sharing the password through a different medium.

He advised staff members to use their Virtual Private Network code, if given one, or they face putting their organisation’s security at risk.

He said to consider changing wifi passwords at home and to apply any updates when instructed by operating systems.

His team has created a YouTube channel to get a FREE information:

Productivity and layout

Research has found office layout can have a big impact on a team’s productivity and stress levels.

According to a Canada Life survey, homeworkers report being more productive and less stressed than those in open planned offices.

Paul Randall of Rainbow Zebra

Paul Randall, who set up online furniture store Rainbow Zebra from his parent’s bedroom and now makes more than £1 million a year, said: “It’s important to think about the layout wherever you are working and separate your working area from your home life.”

Environmental benefits

Working from home can also make your business more energy and cost efficient.

It can save some staff members having to commute, cut lighting and heating bills and help a team to recycle more easily.

Andy Weeks, sustainable enterprise advisor at Planet Mark Start™ programme, which recognises organisations’ continuous improvement in sustainability, said: “With over 20 per cent of new entrepreneurs stating their top priority is to be environmentally friendly, it is important to remember that working from home can also be good news for the planet.

“We always say when working with businesses that the best way to improve sustainability is to change the behaviour of staff in your working environment.  This can be much easier to encourage by working from home.”