Diana Catton – Can you work from anywhere?

During the current COVID 19 crisis, many companies have shared their knowledge and offered tips and tricks to help other businesses “bounce back” and perhaps change the direction of their company or offer their services in a different way.

Octagon Technology has taken a full part in this by offering free online training on Fridays at 11:00 – sessions which have become known as Free Fridays.

We have yet to repeat a session, as there is always something new to say. However, there has been a recurring theme looking at the different aspects of working remotely from colleagues.

Octagon Technology started working remotely in 2007, when we decided to give up our office in the centre of Lincoln. Our engineers were out on the road all day, and our directors were busy networking or meeting prospective clients or attending conferences. We did not want to pay somebody to be in the office all the time just in case somebody called in, so we bit the bullet, and headed off in separate directions, but not before we had thought through all the issues and set up our policies and procedures, which over the years have become steadily more refined.

The most important thing for the team is to be able to work securely, protecting both our own and our clients’ information, and to be able to collaborate with each other.

So a shared diary was one of the first things to set up, as well as secure access to the software and shared documents. To begin with we used a Google shared diary so that we knew what everybody was doing and where they were. We had to put in place our Lone Workers Policy as well as procedures for completing the diary accurately so that we knew our team members were safe.

As the years went by, we refined all our processes. We have moved everything to Microsoft 365 for Business (formerly Office 365 for Business) and all our data is securely managed and stored in the cloud. Our clients are all asked to phone our office number if they need us, so that we can keep track of what is going on.

Our policies and procedures have become much more refined over the years, in accordance with our high security IT governance stance. They cover things like the use of company equipment, a BYOD policy, secure setup of home routers, working from cafés using their internet connection, and how we share information. We operate “the principle of least privilege”, team members only have access to what they need to do their jobs.

We believe that companies should provide equipment for their staff to work from anywhere, and that team members should understand that only they can use it, not their partners or children, for example. However, if they want to use a personal mobile for business, there are issues with security and training is extremely important. Working from anywhere may also mean no access to power, so it is advisable to carry a power bank to charge phones and tablets.

Being able to work from anywhere can enhance productivity and done in the right way can increase staff members’ engagement and pride in their work as they take responsibility for self-management.

It is not really possible to micro-manage an employee who is thirty miles away, so trust, training and an open atmosphere to ask questions and share problems are essential.

Octagon Technology is a twenty five year old IT support and consultancy company based in and around Lincoln.

We can help other companies to set up a similar way of working, and can be contacted on 01522 797520 for any technology related problem or for any requests to meet – these days over a virtual coffee via video conferencing!