Technology of the Remote Worker

The most important thing, for me here, is that the technology needs to be utilised as an enabler.  I know companies that utilise technology to reduce empowerment such as employing keyloggers to check productivity.  The idea that a human can stare at a screen and type non-stop for 8 hours a day is an example of how Frederick Winslow Taylor ideas have had some negative impacts on our modern work behaviours.  His approach was to see the whole process rather than individuals that make it up.  This led, to some degree, to him treating humans like automatons and to dehumanise them by imagining them as cogs in a machine and then focusing on how to make the cogs more productive.  We are still paying for this today.

On the surface his theory sounds great and does have some benefits; his theories were much lauded and even termed scientific management – we still see it broadly used and taught today.  It can become more challenging when analysed though.  The idea that we should punish women’s careers because they take time out to create the human population is outrageously draconian.  The thinking that innovation or artistry can be treated by a focus on production speed makes no sense at all.  People need to be respected as individuals and most of modern society recognises this.  Companies offer free training to their people, they offer holidays, sick leave and so on.  As you may know, when Henry Ford moved to a 5 day work week (from 6) productivity increased.

I implore you please do not use modern technology in a remote working environment to show distrust rather use it as an empowerment tool for your people.  They’ll appreciate the trust and respect, as we all would, and give you more of what you need in return; loyalty and productivity.

With that treatise in mind, let’s move on to the remote working technology list.  I’ve tried to come up with a list of tools that organisations may wish to consider in the remote working world.  It’s not exhaustive and I invite comments on what is missing, but it’s hopefully a good start.  Here we go;

  • Software
    • Chat apps – enable people to stay in touch without needing to schedule meetings. Also very helpful for engagement, mental health and team-building.
      • Skype
      • Join.me
      • Microsoft Teams
      • GoToMeeting
      • TeamViewer
      • WhatsApp
      • Zoom
      • HouseParty, less business-focused, but includes some group games
      • Just a note, do be aware of ‘Zoom fatigue’
        • Lack of synchrony; people can no longer look each other in the eye. Critical form of communication lost.
        • Can be more tiring
        • Loss of body language
    • Collaboration – sharing of documents, useful for auditing, decision-making and problem-solving
      • SharePoint
      • Slack
      • Google Docs
      • Office 365
    • Work Management tools – sharing and tracking progress, allowing for future predictability
      • JIRA
      • Favro
      • Trello
      • Monday.com
    • Security – be sure to enable your remote workers with clear and defined security practices. They have a greater responsibility in this area now.
      • Antivirus
      • Keeping software, such as operating systems, up to date
  • Hardware
    • Webcam
      • Consider one with a zoom/pan option
      • Consider an additional one to the fixed laptop camera so that you have options where the camera isn’t looking up your nose
      • There are even ones with ring lights to give a more flattering look
    • External hard disk drives, flash memory or cloud online services as backups if responsible for work files
    • Internet
      • Check speed at services like speedtest.net (bear in mind family members may be streaming the latest Netflix wonder at the same time you’re trying to have a video conference)
      • Consider faster connection through your provider, from broadband to fibre
      • Consider a WiFi Extender to other parts of the home or even a mesh system
      • Poor broadband options where you are? 4G (soon to be 5G) wireless device is an option
  • Home Working Environment
    • A quiet place with the ability to close a door is advisable. It’s not rare to see semi-naked family members wandering past in the background and that’s far from ideal
    • If a quiet space with few distractions is hard to find, consider noise-cancelling headphones
    • Get a proper chair if you’re going to be working from home a lot; it’s not a sensible choice to go employing a chiropractor because you wanted to save £20…
    • Same goes for the desk, the kitchen table may not be ideal if in frequent use and not providing privacy
    • If using a laptop, consider buying a separate monitor, keyboard and mouse. Ergonomics matter if their use is going to be high
  • Digital etiquette – there will be a new of group of social behaviour laws that we will need to think about and consider
    • How do you interrupt someone who talks too much? Harder than in-person
    • Video on or off during meetings? Beware of multi-tasking, you will be caught out
    • Mute on or off?
    • Consider the context of each conversation; don’t be too quick to judge
    • Update your email signature
      • New ways to reach you; Slack, WhatsApp etc
      • Times you are/aren’t available due to kids etc
    • Understanding the new WFH environment
      • Postman will visit
      • Dogs will bark
      • Kids will run past
      • These are all opportunities to build better relationships with your co-workers
    • Coronavirus terminology – to show you’re hip and up-to-date
      • Covidiots
      • Quarantine and chill
      • Covideo party
      • Virtual happy hour
      • Coronababies
      • WFH and PPE are now known by all
  • Working from home personal etiquette – you will need to decide your own here…good luck!  Consider;
    • Grooming
    • Dress code

Well, this turned into quite the list.  I can only hope it helps, good luck with your remote working adventures.  Let me know how it goes and if I can help.

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