This year has finally normalised working from home. Prior to 2020, many companies treated remote work cautiously. There remained a belief that it led to decreased productivity, with many businesses struggling to trust their employees. Then, with the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, their hands were forced. For several months’ associates have been working remotely. Despite the apparent circumstances, it can be viewed as something of a success. Indeed, many associates are asking about continuing working from home, at least on a part-time basis.
However, there is still one unresolved problem: equipment. With the global economy stalling, purchasing vast amounts of expensive equipment is the last thing most companies desire. Yet, for their remote associates to succeed, millions of businesses will need to do just that.
How then can it be done efficiently and cost-effectively? To help, we’ve compiled a few essential tips and tools to remember, in this step-by-step guide. So, if you’re in the process of equipping remote associates, read on.
Step 1: Take an inventory
Before purchasing any equipment, it is sensible to ask employees to list any kit they currently possess. It can include items such as printers, desks, monitors, ergonomic chairs and more. For companies struggling financially, it makes no sense to double-up on items. Instead, ask your employees to use the equipment they already own, and compensate them for any additional costs they might incur (e.g. for printer ink).
In time, you may well be able to purchase new equipment for your employees. However, when first acquiring equipment, it’s essential to start with needs.
Step 2: Evaluate needs
After you’ve compiled your inventory, next assess the needs of your employees. You could complete this at the same time as the questionnaire about inventory. Or you evaluate the job descriptions of employees. Work out what essential pieces of equipment are required for associates to complete their jobs. For most people, this will include laptops, mouse, keyboard, and a monitor.
However, several jobs will require additional pieces of kit, depending on their responsibility. A graphic designer or programmer may need multiple monitors to function as a high level of efficiency and productivity. Meanwhile, someone involved in secretarial or financial work may require a lockable filing cabinet or shredder, to safely store and dispose of confidential information.
Furthermore, some employees will have specific health needs. Back pain is a common cause of workplace sickness and decreases productivity. More often than not, it is caused by poor quality lumbar support. Therefore, investing in ergonomic chairs or back support aids may be deemed a necessity. Additionally, desks and other essential items may be required by some employees, who are currently working from kitchen counters or children’s bedrooms.
Step 3: Consider software
So far, we’ve only considered hardware and solid equipment. However, the modern economy revolves as much around software as the computers on which it runs. There are two fundamental systems you will need to acquire: cloud storage and virtual conferencing.
Cloud storage services such as Google Docs, GitHub, and Dropbox allow remote associates to send files and documents to one another with ease. There is no need for cumbersome emails or convoluted systems for data distribution. Each service has a range of unique features. Therefore, research each to decide which is suited to your business.
Meanwhile, virtual conferencing will handle day-to-day communication. People will be able to liaise with their fellow employees and with clients: no matter where they find themselves. Plus, with features such as virtual whiteboards, screen sharing, and recording meetings, the possibilities are immense.
Remote associates are even able to disguise their background, using green-screen technology. These zoom backgrounds can replace any backdrop with any one of the hundreds of HD photos and videos available. Options range from tropical scenes to stylish offices. So, no matter the occasion, your employees can always present the right image.
Step 4: Decide on the funding model
Finally, you will need to decide how to fund the equipment.
Some companies place the burden on the employee. They reason that by working from home, remote associates save a substantial amount of money in commuting and other expenses. However, forcing the financial burden onto employees is likely to cause resentment. Additionally, once they own their equipment, employees are incentivised to switch jobs or go freelance.
Understandably, other companies have restricted themselves to the basics. If employees want any extras, they must be purchased by themselves. Such models are likely to be the most popular. However, some businesses have set out to buy everything in-house. There are two models: give the employee a lump-sum or purchase the equipment in bulk and then distribute to employees. The former is less cost-effective but removes the need for distribution and vice versa.
However the equipment is funded, and has a clear set of rules. Future employees will want to know the expectations when they join. Therefore, create a guide and stick to it.