How to work from home effectively
As the summer slowly creeps in, dragging yourself to a stuffy office every day seems less and less like a good idea. But how else are you going to get access to all the files and documents stored on your computer at work?
Geek Squad are here to tell you it doesn't need to be this way. We can show you all the tools you need to work on your next presentation, board paper or team project from the comfort of your own home (in your slippers).
To work from home you may need:
- A stable, secure internet connection
- An internet-connected laptop or desktop computer
- Secure access to your company server, via the internet (does your company allow you to use remote login services like LogMeIn Ignition, or is there an internally-approved solution, like a WebRas token? Ask your manager for advice on what is appropriate)
- Access to your email, either via Outlook if this is possible, or via webmail. If using webmail, you will need your company's webmail address, your username and password (ask your IT manager for assistance on this, it is usually similar to: webmail.yourcompanyname.com or .co.uk)
- Access to an internet conference calling facility, like Skype, so that you can chat with your team
- Online document collaboration tools, like Google Drive
- An online time management tool that you and your colleagues can update and feed into, like Basecamp
How to access your company server
If you have shared files stored on an internal network drive, and you need these files to do your job, chances are you'll require access to your company server when working from home. Many companies use respected services like LogMeIn Ignition to allow employees access to internal files, however some workplaces may have specific programs in place for server access, such as WebRas tokens and Citrix. If your company is happy for you to use LogMeIn to access your files, it is quick and easy to get to grips with.
LogMeIn Ignition allows you to access your computer as if you were sitting in front of it anywhere in the world. As long as your work machine is turned on and running, you can open up LogMeIn and see your work desktop in its own window. From there you have complete control and access to everything. So much so that anyone still at work will be able to watch the mouse moving around as if your machine was possessed! There are also apps available for iOS and Android devices, so you can have access on the go.
LogMeIn Ignition is not a free service. Although it's not too prohibitively expensive at £23 a year, you may want to ask your IT team if the program is compatible with your computer system before jumping in. Because LogMeIn takes control of your PC, some firewall systems may see this as a virus attack and block the program before it can get started. However, it is certainly possible for firewalls to be trained to give you access, and once you are up and running, Logmein Ignition can be one of the most secure and safe methods for transferring and editing your work documents remotely.
How to make conference calls over the internet
Free VOIP clients like Skype and Viber allow you to make calls and send messages over the internet, using a secure wireless network. Skype is particularly useful because it allows you to create conference calls or video chats in just a few easy steps, and add all the participants by name. We have successfully used Skype to run team meetings via headset and Wi-Fi, without the need for everyone to be in the same place.
Download Skype to your home desktop or PC and create a free account - make your username something easy to remember and non-embarrasing, as you'll be sharing it with work contacts. Once the Skype client is installed on your computer, launch it and add your contacts, you can either search for them by Skype name, or link your Skype account to your email and Facebook to find them that way. If you link Skype to Facebook you'll see your contacts' status update in your Skype feed and be given the option to update your status on both services in one go.
You don't need to add calling credit to call another Skype account, as long as you are connected to a secure Wi-Fi network there is no time limit on calling a colleague's computer and chatting over the internet. If you are calling their mobile phone from your Skype account however, you will need to top up your Skype credit. Whenever possible we would recommend using Wi-Fi to make free Skype-to-Skype calls.
To begin a conference call, double click on a contact to open their profile box. Select the plus button to add more people to the conversation, then, when you've added all participants, select the 'call group' option. When you're done with the call, click the red button to hang up.
You can type messages in the IM box during the call, and share files with the call group by clicking the plus button and bringing up more call options. You can even share your screen to show your colleagues what you're looking at!
How to access and share files outside of the office
When you're working on a team project or collaborating on a document, it's a good idea to take advantage of the free cloud storage options available. Cloud storage is a method of storing documents and photos on the internet, and making them accessible to selected people. We recommend that you check out our guide on how to use cloud storage, and pick the service that will work best for you and your team.
How to use online time management tools
When you and your team are working remotely, it's important to stay on top of each others' schedules and how shared tasks are coming along. This is where free online time management tools come in - you can choose a tool that suits your collective needs, from something as simple as a to-do list, to a full shared team schedule with landmark dates and completion targets.
The tool we are most familiar with and would heartily recommend in this area, is Basecamp. It's free to use on a starter account basis, and if you need to manage multiple projects and schedules there are affordable subscription options available.
With the right tools and computer/network set up, working from home can be very productive and a great solution to summer public transport blues. We've taken you through using just a few of the available programs and methods for effective home working. If you need help with getting set up to work at home, or you'd like more advice on customising your computer, pop into your nearest Carphone Warehouse store and ask to speak to your local Geek Squad Agent.