Top 10 tips to make home workers more productive

Your home workers need to be able to access and utilise the same resources as they would within the office so their day to day processes aren't disturbed. We look at the points needed for consideration to make your home workers more productive.

1. Identify the right people for home working

Home workers need to be able to work alone without having physical support and service. Voice and e-mail interaction need to be sufficient for home workers. They need to have broadband access to have office-style service at home. Most job functions can be done from home with the right systems in place; and with IP telephony systems even the receptionist could be at home!

2. Offer your staff flexible working hours

You can use home working to your advantage to fill in at peak times. Some staff may find it useful to work split shifts, e.g. a day time one between 10 and 3 and then a couple of hours in the evening. Offering part time working for home workers may be useful if the alternative is a long commute to work for 2-4 hours in the office.

3. Select the right technology

Support for the IT systems will not easily extend to the home worker, which is why systems must be simple to use for the home worker, with minimal installations and maintenance. The key technologies are hosted telephony with a corporate telephone in the home office, web based applications like customer relationship management (CRM), accounting software etc and reliable data connections. This will enable office-like use of IT systems and telephony at home.

4. Provide seamless access to the company's data

There should be no obstacles to prevent the home worker from accessing internal IT systems. Common applications might be CRM, file servers, Exchange and accounting systems. The most common solution is to offer VPN access over broadband. A managed broadband connection and router should be considered to help reduce management issues.

5. Manage people properly

Don't assume that a home worker is not doing anything because they are out of sight. Take advantage of technology solutions to help manage and monitor performance. Home workers in a contact centre can be monitored in exactly the same way as they can in the office. Metrics on accesses to the web pages and applications can be useful to monitor performance.

6. Include the home worker

In order to make the home worker feel part of the team you should run regular conference calls or web casts. This enables intra-team communication, ensuring team objectives can be achieved, even with a distributed work force.

7. Ensure professional appearance to customers when working from home

The home worker should have the same external appearance as the office worker, and the customer should get the same service no matter where the worker is located. The main areas that need attention are the telephony and data systems. Deploying a hosted telephony system will allow home workers to have the same functionality as office-based workers. When making calls the number presented will be the same for all workers, wherever they are located. Additionally, all calls between home workers and the office are free. As for remote access to data, both Exchange and file servers can be provided using VPN access across the broadband connection.

8. Protect the home worker's data

Home workers store data locally on their desktop or laptop. This data needs to be protected from data loss, system outages, theft, fire etc. To keep your corporate data safe, you either need to enforce policies that business-critical data is only stored on central systems or that "remote" data is protected by an automated online backup solution that regularly backs up user data and requires no end user knowledge or intervention.

In the case of data loss, individual files or e-mails can be recovered quickly. If a desktop / laptop needs to be rebuilt all data can be recovered from the online storage solution.

9. Ensure that legacy data is accessible

By implementing an industry-leading archiving solution inactive yet important files and emails that have previously been archived can be accessed remotely and even be made available by offline access, which is synchronised with the central archive when the home worker is (back) online. This ensures that home worker has access to live and archive data when working remotely.

10. Comply with the law

Employees have the right to ask for flexible working but they don't have the right to receive it. If remote working is offered employers have the corporate responsibility to protect workers. Providing remote workers with GPS location mobile devices employers know where remote workers are and remote workers have the ability to communicate and even alert employers in emergency situations.