Making remote working work

Stuart Pritchard discusses the intricacies of remote work; its transition from a necessity into choice, and the subsequent demands that’s placed on technology in the home.

Back in the early months of 2020, a rumble started in China, a rumble of terrible potentiality that travelled rapidly across the world, changing life as we know it almost immediately and forcing a seismic shift in the way we all work. While still in the air, the threat of Covid may have receded, but the on-going legacy of the pandemic and the lockdowns endured essential to stopping its spread remains as we adapt again to the new ‘new normal’.

I’m talking, of course, about remote working. During the height of Covid, most in society suddenly found themselves either on furlough or having to find a way to continue to do their job their own home, using their own internet connection and the computer tech available to them at the time, while also having to suddenly adapt to seeing their own face glaring back at them on countless video conferences.

Naturally, for many unused to having to manage and maintain their own tech, this was quite the upheaval, and for those painfully clueless in the ways and workings of computers, online security, and all the camera, microphone and headphone peripheral essentials required to successfully work and video conference from the comfort of their kitchen tables.

Fortunately, saving countless companies from collapse and many more individuals from nervous breakdowns, the tech community was instantly on-hand to understand, upgrade and, yes, where possible, upskill, bringing the worldwide office workforce in line with the demands of lockdown.

What’s normal anyway?

While the ‘reopening’ of countries across the globe happened at a different pace, one thing that became immediately apparent was that remote working had been a success, to the extent that many remote workers had adapted to this new way and no longer wished to return to the old ways of the commute and the crowded office. As such, the rules of employment had to be rethought

“Since the pandemic, millions of workers have accepted hybrid or remote working as the new normal. A staggering 80% of all meetings are now either fully virtual or hybrid, Jabra’s research shows,” says Nigel Dunn, Managing Director, EMEA North, Jabra.

“While many employees are now returning to the office, hybrid working is still a dominant work trend. This has led to increased demand for flexible, easy-to-use technology that enables people to work from anywhere.”

Michael Short, Senior Director Residential & Hospitality Marketing at Crestron, adds: “The pandemic has had a lasting impact on people’s home working patterns. With more people spending time at home throughout the day, there is increased interaction with their home experience. Many individuals have invested in creating a home working environment that resembles an office, often spending more money on home renovations. This shift has created opportunities for Crestron to showcase its capabilities in providing technology solutions for clear working spaces.”

So, while many in industry are keen to drive workers back into the on-site 9-5, hybrid working looks set to stay, and the best approach to that is not to try and force employees back, but to embrace the remote labour, improve how the ‘home office’ functions, and reap the rewards.

To Home or Hybrid?

As a freelance journalist, I embrace the life of the remote worker, but then, as I’m self-employed and answer only to myself, I can. But it’s really not so simple for the gainfully employed with superiors dictating how and where the working week should be conducted. Also, very much backing the hybrid approach, there can be no denying that getting out of the house and having physical contact with colleagues can be beneficial to mental health (depending on the colleagues), which is why it’s generally the favoured post-Covid compromise. But that, in of itself, can make the complexity of the tech required for seamless home-and-away operation even more demanding. After all, how can a domestic set-up hope to perform on a par with a professional office?

“Inevitably there has been a shift in working patterns since the pandemic, with more people working from home, but we have seen a big shift on people working back in office spaces again,” says Kieran Purdie, IT & Pro AV Sales Manager at Netgear. “We certainly saw a spike in the beginning of people extending the Wi-Fi coverage in their houses and our mesh systems, extender and powerline adapter sales reflected that.

“A lasting impact of the pandemic is that more people than ever do now work from home, even if only for 1/2/3 days a week, and people are more invested than ever in good quality W-Fi technology to provide for that.”

Crestron was also quick to identify and respond to the extensive needs of the newly homeworking when lockdown came knocking and continues today to develop user-friendly solutions for those still doing their duties domestically or hanging on the hybrid hook. As Michael Short explains:

“Crestron has adapted to help those who may lack tech-savvy skills by providing user-friendly solutions and support. We understand that upskilling and adapting to new technologies can be challenging for some individuals. Therefore, our products and services are designed with intuitive interfaces and easy-to-use functionalities. We offer comprehensive user manuals, online tutorials, and customer support to assist users in navigating and maximising the benefits of our technology for those who may be less tech-savvy.”

Netgear too has the backs of the technologically bemused, delivering kit and customer support that seeks to simplify the work-life of the end-user,

“Netgear has a long pedigree in providing fast, reliable and easy to use connectivity products for the masses,” continues Kieran Purdie. “We have a host of available resources such our active online community sites, online tutorial videos, webinars, support teams and much more to ensure customers can get the best experience possible when using our products.”

Safe as Houses

So, as the principle goes, when it comes to general home-worker solutions, just ‘keep it simple, stupid’. One thing that should never be simplified is security. Home networks are ill-equipped to deal with the kind of cyber threats that remote working may invite from unscrupulous hackers, so when enforced remote working first came into play, this was the principal concern of many companies. Fortunately, post-pandemic panic, home workers have an array of options open to them when it comes to securing data from prying eyes.

Netgear, for instance, has some very smart software designed specifically to protect devices, as Kieran Purdie explains: “More than ever we have to be conscious of risks to our private information, emails and banking details. Netgear has taken steps to help with products like Netgear Armor powered by BitDefender, which provides real-time protection against hackers to secure devices like laptops, phones, security cameras, and door locks, sends alerts when sensitive data may be stolen, protects and blocks malicious content on websites, and goes as far as being able to track stolen devices and remotely wipe them.”

Which sees to the individual devices used across the home network nicely, but what of the home network itself? Device security is vital, but what’s the first line of defence when it comes to stopping an attempted cyber attack dead in its malicious cyber tracks?

“Security is a crucial consideration for remote work, especially when home networks are not originally designed for such purposes,” says Crestron’s Michael Short. “Crestron recognises the importance of ensuring proper security measures for remote work setups. Custom installers (CIs) can support their customers by implementing robust security protocols and solutions. This includes setting up secure network connections, implementing firewalls, and utilising encryption technologies to protect sensitive data. By working with professional installers, homeowners can benefit from their expertise in designing secure and reliable remote work setups.”

Two separate means to a vitally important end there, and while both protect from different areas in equal measure, when it comes to that perfect combination of personal and professional security, why not double-down and choose both?

Get all the gear!

With a stable, secure network in place and all devices protected by strong software, now would be a good time to make that home working life infinitely easier. How? Peripherals, of course. 

“To deliver a better home working experience, Crestron recommends incorporating certain peripherals into the setup,” recommends Michael Short. “These peripherals can enhance productivity, comfort, and overall user experience. Some recommended peripherals include ergonomic keyboards and mice, high-quality webcams for video conferencing, noise-cancelling headphones for improved audio quality, and adjustable monitor stands for optimal viewing angles.

“By providing a one-stop-shop for all the necessary peripherals, CIs can ensure that homeowners have access to the best tools for an efficient and comfortable remote work environment.”

Or, if professional custom installation is not within budget, Jabra is on-hand with a whole raft of headphones, speakerphones, video conferencing and business solutions that the home worker can setup themselves.

“Jabra specialises in technology that elevates the home working experience,” adds Nigel Dunn. “Professional headsets, such as the Evolve2 65 Flex, deliver exceptional sound quality and noise-cancelling technology for crystal-clear calls, ensuring unwavering focus during virtual meetings. 

“Jabra's Speak series of speakerphones also offer an alternative option to wearing a headset. With high-quality audio for conference calls and beamforming noise-cancelling microphones with innovative background noise reduction technology, Jabra’s speakerphones transform any home office or space into a productive and professional meeting room.

“Also, the Jabra PanaCast 20 personal video conferencing camera fits into any home working environment. It slots over any screen for meetings in 4K Ultra HD quality and offers secure video conferencing.”

With an investment in quality peripherals, home workers will always look and sound professional, and with no more shouting “CAN YOU HEAR ME?!” at the start of every video call.

Pro or good to go

Finally, as explored in part here by some of our experts already, should a home worker seeking the dream home setup seek the help of a CI, or install alone? Naturally, there is more than one school of thought…

Michael Short, Crestron: “The benefit of buying through a professional installer is the expertise and personalised service they provide. Professional installers have in-depth knowledge of the products and technologies they offer. They can assess the specific needs and requirements of homeowners and provide tailored solutions.”

But as custom installation can cost: “It can very much depend on the type of environment, house, size and type of solution you want to achieve,” advises Netgear’s Kieran Purdie. “There is the ability for people to upgrade things like routers and Wi-Fi within their own homes. I recommend to always ask questions and reach out for help when unsure and we provide a host of support for people when they need it. 

“The whole home Wi-Fi systems under our Orbi banner create the same network across multiple nodes in the house, they are quick and easy to install via our Orbi app and they allow near plug and play installation of up to over a 1G of Wi-Fi across thousands of square feet. Orbi is a real game changer.”

And, finally, straddling both camps, Kieran Purdie: “Netgear has solutions across the board so that users who wish to install themselves have available products that fit their requirements all the way up to prosumer and professional solutions such as Pro Wi-Fi access points and Pro Routers that we would recommend be installed by professionals. We recognise no two people or requirements are the same and will continue to provide products and services to address both sides of the coin.”

Whether home or hybrid, the days of being in an office Monday to Friday are gone, and for all the horrors of Covid, it took a pandemic to prove remote working was, well, workable. With a sensible approach to secure networks, shielding software and, of course, ample home office tech tools to ease the effort, congestion can be unclogged, travel time and costs cut, and a better work/life balance struck. Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home…


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