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29/03/2020

What does my team need to be able to work from home?

Working from home is of course not possible for every business. If, however, it is a computer workstation, the prerequisites are good that it can be relocated to the home office with little effort. This is of course easiest with a notebook.

You should generally pay attention to the following requirements when relocating the workplace:

Equipment of the home office workplace

Hardware requirements

An up-to-date computer that runs smoothly on the Internet and does not buckle straight away even during video calls such as Skype.

  • If your computer is a little older, you can install Linux as the operating system on it for better performance. By the way, there are still good alternatives Fedora, Linux Mint, Ubuntu or Elementary OS.
  • Many underestimate the importance of having a good camera and microphone. The majority of notebooks already have a mostly good camera integrated. If this is not the case, we recommend an external USB camera with at least HD (720p) resolution and investing a few minutes in an online product comparison. As a microphone alternative, you can also use the headset of your smartphone very well.

A fast internet connection: 16 Mbit / s and more are recommended as a minimum for your own home office. This speed is usually sufficient to take part in video conferences. Of course, the faster the better - because at the latest when other people in the household are also using the Internet, even streaming videos, performance can quickly become tight.

  • Alternatively, employees in areas with too slow internet access may be better connected via cellular network / LTE. Providers like  Telecom, Vodafone and 1 & 1 have different models in their range, it is worth comparing here. TIP: Use a portable WiFi hotspot (such as the one from the 1 & 1 or that of TP Link). It works just like your DSL router, except that it uses LTE instead of DSL to access the Internet. All devices connect to the router via WLAN and use its access to the Internet via LTE.

For many, "classic" telephoning is of course an integral part of everyday business life. For this reason, your employees should at least be equipped with mobile phones to which, in the simplest case, incoming calls to the office phone number are forwarded. Ideally, these are company cell phones so that your team colleagues don't have to give their private numbers to business contacts. Not everyone likes to do this and should therefore be taken into account.

  • It works even better with a modern, cloud-based telephone system such as from Placetel, Siptel, Cloudya or Fonial. With these, complex scenarios including routing, parallel ringing, call groups and much more can be mapped completely independently of the location of your employees. In such environments, your employees either use smartphones, telephone applications or special telephone devices that have been designed for so-called IP telephony.

Software requirements

  • A current operating system (such as at least Windows 8.1 or better Windows 10, Mac OS X, Linux)
  • A modern, secure browser that allows you to work quickly with interactive websites. These include current versions of Firefox, Chrome or Chromium, Brave, Vivaldi, Safari or Microsoft Edge. Our in-house favorites are Firefox, Safari or Chromium.
  • If your company uses software that has to be installed on the employee's computer, it is of course necessary that the employee's computer has the corresponding minimum requirements.

Suitable working environment

So that the team in the home office can work as productively as possible, a separate room should be used for working wherever possible. A closed door to the study distracts from normal house activities and the acoustic backdrop and helps to maintain concentration. Another advantage: after work, the work device is not in the middle of family activities. It is important to mentally create the distance between private and professional life.

This is how collaboration works from the home office

Communication with the team

e-mail

The classic and an indispensable part of everyday business life. As a rule, it is possible to access company emails from the home office without any problems. It is easiest if the company's own e-mail server supports IMAP as the protocol. This means that your employees can access all of their emails from various devices and always see the latest communication status. The e-mails and their status (read, answered, forwarded, etc.) are stored centrally on the e-mail server.

calendar

If your company does not yet use a central calendar solution such as Microsoft Exchange / Office 365 in connection with Outlook, we recommend using online Office alternatives as a short-term solution (see providers in the overview above). In both cases, your employees have their own and shared team calendars.

OUR TIP:

Define from when to when you can generally attend appointments during the day (e.g. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and block your fixed break times in the calendar.

Team chat

This type of team communication is on the advance and is already replacing e-mail as the team internal communication tool of choice in many companies. Most of them are certainly familiar with WhatsApp, Telegram or Threema from their private lives - we have been communicating in groups here for years. It works in a similar way with team chat software for companies. We have put together the most popular alternatives in the overview above.

If you are not yet using team chat software in your company, we recommend Slack, Zulip or Microsoft Teams as short-term alternatives. Here are our tips for dealing with team chat in the company:

  • Create your own channels (also called groups or channels) for your departments and ongoing projects, in which discussions with those involved can take place.
  • Create common channels where you can post announcements and messages intended for all employees
  • Use @colleaguename to mention specific people in messages (they will receive a direct notification). Use @here in the message to make all channel members aware of your message.
  • Employees can pause the notifications for a certain time. This signals to your colleagues that you are busy with other things and that you will probably react to the message a little later.
  • For personal messages, write to your colleagues in private or direct chat and not via a shared channel.

Video conferencing

I suppose most of us have already tried Skype, Google Hangouts, or another video calling solution. In everyday business, the primary focus of video telephony is holding meetings with several people. These can be your own employees, but also employees of partner companies. It is therefore necessary that the use of video telephony is as easy to use as possible and at the same time open to various technical possibilities, such as how the participants participate in video telephony. Not everyone uses the same operating system, and not everyone can easily install software on their company notebook. A good video conference solution should therefore also include the option of dialing in by phone or just taking part in the conversation using a browser.

If you haven't used anything yet, we recommend zoom. The American company has excellent video and sound quality, dial-in numbers in Germany and is a no-brainer at around € 14 per moderator. The only thing to consider is that the network traffic runs through the servers in the USA. If you want to get a video conference solution up and running quickly on your infrastructure, you should alternatively Jit.si look at. By the way, with Jit.si it is possible to start a free video conference immediately and without registration. Simply via web browser https://meet.jit.si/. That works very well!

OUR TIP:

  • Use the best possible microphone and webcam (see technical requirements above)
  • It's okay if some coworkers don't want to use the webcam - don't force anyone
  • When choosing team chat software, make sure that it works well with your video conference software. Integration is the keyword. For example, you can start video calls from a conversation you are currently having in team chat with just one click. By default, Slack works immediately with Zoom and Zulip with Jit.si. Usually, however, many combinations can be set up quickly and you will quickly appreciate the productivity gains.

File storage

While the common file storage was quite cumbersome to set up and use years ago, this has changed for the better since Dropbox was around. The concept of sharing found a simple implementation and since then the use of file sharing services, for many also a synonym for the cloud, has become part of everyday life for many of us. In the business area, however, the data protection aspect plays a decisive role. Dropbox, Google Drive and other public cloud providers are not an option for all companies. They then decide to set up private cloud structures or they even guarantee IT operations entirely on their own.

If you have to go quickly, any offer from the major American public cloud providers is a good choice. But for all those who want to know files within the company boundaries, Nextcloud is recommended. The current version is well integrated with ONLYOFFICE and Collabora and thus enables the editing of Office documents online in the browser - without having to install additional software on the user's computer. This means that collaboration works smoothly across all operating system versions. Nextcloud will thus become the private cloud alternative to the large public cloud providers.

At a glance: You can use these applications immediately for corporate communication


Online officeTeam chatVideo conferencing
Public cloud
GoogleGoogle G suiteGoogle HangoutsGoogle Hangouts
ZohoZoho OneZoho CliqZoho meeting
MicrosoftMS Office 365Microsoft TeamsMicrosoft Teams


ZulipJitsi


Discordzoom


SlackCisco Webex


Rocket.chatGoToMeeting



Skype
Private cloud / on-premise - for your own server
Open source / free softwareNextcloudZulipJitsi


Rocket.chat


Mattermost




Conclusion

If you have to get started with your team immediately and you don't care who handles the data processing, choose Slack, Zoom and Office 365. These are exclusively American providers who are functional and convincing in the learning curve. Companies of this size that are interested in a private cloud solution instead should check out Zulip, Jit.si and Nextcloud.

As is so often the case, the ideal solution lies in the combination that is best for driving. For example, we constantly use Zoom for video conferences in our day-to-day business, but we host our file storage on our own server using Nextcloud itself, which can now completely replace the Google Docs functionality.

We look forward to your questions!


If you are interested in what a solution could look like for you and your team, contact us. We offer you one non-binding and first direct consultation. Or try out Confluence now, directly and without obligation, with our free one Test account - without automatic renewal.

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