How IT teams can help telecommuters: 5 tips

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To enable cloud collaboration and remote working, corporate IT teams can help employees improve home network setup.

Image: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

Many IT managers need to dramatically increase the type of support provided to employees who work from home. Too often, organizations hire people, hand them a laptop, accounts, and password information, and then complete the onboarding process. When people work in an organization-controlled office, that’s fine, since the IT team oversees the on-site network, but IT managers don’t have to assume that every employee’s home network is adequate.

If you’ve used Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can probably identify at least a few colleagues whose home network setup is, out of charity, less than optimal.

Organizations that take remote work support and work scenarios where you live seriously should provide people with home networking advice and support, as detailed below. This relatively minor investment of time and expertise on the part of the IT team can help minimize network issues when many people are working from home.

SEE: COVID-19 Workplace Policy (TechRepublic Premium)

1. Help employees select an ISP and plan

With less than an hour of work, a knowledgeable IT professional can often identify reasonable vendors and plans for most sites. Expect to spend a few minutes gathering basic information (e.g. number of people in the house, general expected needs), about half an hour sorting out vendors and plans, and then a few more minutes passing on. these alternatives to the employee.

Different providers and plans may be the best in different places. In some urban areas of the United States, a symmetrical 300 Mbps connection makes sense in an apartment building wired for AT&T Fiber, while in other places an upstream plan of 1000 Mbps downstream / 35 Mbps upstream might be a good option for Comcast / Xfinity Internet. Support from your team can help steer people away from plans that lack sufficient upstream speeds (eg, inexpensive wired connections) or older connection methods (eg, DSL). For estimation purposes, allow around $ 100 per month for an internet connection.

2. Suggest equipment improvements

In addition to the service itself, key equipment usually includes a modem and Wi-Fi equipment. Again, this is where the knowledge of your IT team can come in handy: rather than taking the standard equipment provided by a cable company, for example, your team can guide people to upgrades to help reduce latency, improve throughput, or increase Wi-Fi coverage. For example, an upgrade from a standard modem to a device high performance (for example, to an Arris SURFboard SB8200 or Motorola MB8600) or a low cost Wi-Fi router to a mesh configuration (for example, to eero 6, eero Pro 6 or NetGear Orbi AX6000).

Your team can make sure that any equipment you suggest works well with any other equipment you supply (e.g. laptop, tablet, or phone) and supports modern network standards (e.g. Wi-Fi 6 and mesh). For cost estimation purposes, a high performance cable modem costs around $ 200, while Wi-Fi routers and mesh networking equipment can cost around $ 200 (for a basic mesh router and / or device) and extend up to around $ 700 for a higher device Configuration of three 6 mesh Wi-Fi devices.

3. Provide remote assistance to optimize the performance of the home network

While many people may prefer to manage their own home network setup, some may benefit from support and assistance. Again, your IT team likely has the skills to remotely help people with tasks like upgrading firmware on network equipment or adjusting DNS settings to improve reliability or responsiveness. This type of remote assistance from your team can be particularly beneficial, as it is not the kind of task typically handled by ISP support staff, but can make a significant difference in the performance of a home network. . Again, for cost estimation purposes, allow about an hour for this remote assistance task for an employee.

4. Consider covering the costs

Consider a stipend to cover work-related home networking costs. Some companies provide people with a prepaid card to use for purchases, while others issue direct payment to employees. Check with your finance and human resources team to make sure you understand any potential tax implications for the organization and employees and clearly communicate this information.

5. Identify alternative connection options

Your IT team may also be ready to direct people to alternatives to a conventional home broadband connection. Other options could include a dedicated 5G or LTE modem, a phone with an access point option, some sort of fixed wireless service, or even a satellite connection. You may also want to consider upgrading to laptops and / or tablets with built-in 5G / LTE support.

Additionally, in some cases, you may want to create a list of places that can be an alternative to working from home, such as short-term rental workplaces or even an office that your employees can use in locations. offices of a partner company. If you are concerned about safety, provide these options to prevent people from working in cafes or other public places.

How does your IT department support work-from-home connections?

How does the organization you work for help employees provide reliable and fast internet connection for people who work from home? If you work in corporate IT, how have your policies and practices changed to meet people’s remote working needs? Let me know which (if any) of the above steps your organization has implemented, either with a comment below or on Twitter (@awolber).

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