How to get your team working from home quickly and productively

Has the current crisis forced you to send employees home? Are you looking for systems that can help you lead an effective team, even though everyone has to work remotely? Here is your complete guide to enabling your team to work from home quickly and affordably.

With the current situation, we and most of our clients have had to send employees home. Many are working from makeshift home offices with many distractions in their environment. In most of the world, businesses have been forced to change their daily operations and working practices. Luckily though, there are tools available to help us keep up our collaboration at safe distances.

You may have already spent many hours searching for and testing applications for team chat, video meetings and much more. The good news in this gloomy situation is that you have access to a range of secure, effective, easy-to-implement solutions like Microsoft Teams (part of Office 365 or Microsoft 365) and Windows Virtual Desktop in Azure.

Let’s take a look at the main concerns you’re likely to have when considering remote working solutions, as well as how Microsoft Teams can help address them.

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Transitioning from on site to remote working

Assuming that your team has the basics covered – desk, chair, computer and a decent internet connection – these are the next details you should work out …

Which systems or applications does your team need access to?

This could be your company finance system, customer relationship management (CRM), segmentation tools and so on. Your concern could be securing a safe connection between multiple team members and the company.

If the applications are cloud-based, then the remote access itself will not be an issue. But if they run via on-premise infrastructure and aren’t published to the web, then your team could still access them via a Point to Site VPN connection to your office network. This can be done from their own PC or company owned laptop, and you will need a suitable firewall or router to configure it.

Which data do they need to be able to access?

This could be documents and spreadsheets, databases and files on the company server, some confidential and some not. The more that’s stored in the cloud – for instance with SharePoint, OneDrive or Dropbox – the less issues you should have connecting to them.

The biggest issue right now might be that you have a large team currently working via VPN to reach and process on-premise data. Several secure connections handling big data files will slow down your employees and your business as a whole, so transitioning more to the cloud could help with speed issues.

Which communication tools do they need?

Most employees already access their company email remotely, so this is probably the least of your concerns right now. But what about the company phone lines? Most employees have a mobile phone (either their own or a company phone), so it doesn’t need to be a complicated task to forward calls to company landline numbers to their mobiles, and stay in touch with each other and your customers this way.

If you’re unable to forward calls to mobile phones, then you might want to take advantage of the full telephony system available in Microsoft Teams. Look for the add-on M365 Business Voice Phone system to secure your customers the same quality phone experience that you could give them from the office.

Your team may already be familiar with connectivity tools like Slack or WhatsApp. This should make the transition to Microsoft Teams easy, as the chat works in a similar faction – but you get more features with your 365 plan. 

How will they collaborate when they’re not together in the office?

With more distractions present than usual – from homeschooling children to dealing with housework to caring for family members – it’s important to enable collaboration as much as possible. Without the right tools in place, it’s much harder to work together on a project or ask each other questions. That’s why the right technology solutions are so important during this time.

Microsoft Teams makes it easy for you to collaborate on shared files and data. No matter where your users are, they can access and edit files simultaneously, storing revisions and allowing for in-edit communications. In some ways, the remote collaboration experience can be even more seamless than in-person discussion, because interactions revolve around the deliverables.

Remote working with Microsoft Teams

Cloud based collaboration solutions like Microsoft Teams allow your teams to collaborate remotely via online video meetings, one to one video calls, screen sharing, persistent chat and integrated document storage for the documents your team is working on.

The great news is that this is more affordable than you might expect. Right now it even comes without a cost, as Microsoft is offering up a free 6 month trial so you can have your team up and running within a morning. Microsoft Teams is a cloud service, allowing your team to use the Microsoft Teams app on their PCs, Macs or mobile devices with iOS or Android.

Watch the 2 minute intro to Microsoft Teams

If you are using either Office 365 or Microsoft 365, then you already have Microsoft Teams and can get started using it right now. If you don’t, then you just need to sign up for an online tenant, buy the needed licenses and get to work. Different license options are available starting at £3.60 per user per month, but as mentioned above you can get the first 6 months as a free trial if all you want is Teams.

Now your staff is ready for easy, swift and secure collaboration. You can use Microsoft Teams for online meetings with your entire team and customers, and you don’t even need to invite your customers into Teams first. You can launch video calls with anyone and show a presentation from your screen, record the call or share links in the chat.

If you need help optimising your collaboration via cloud services like Microsoft Teams, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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If you are already using cloud based applications like Office 365 or Microsoft 365 for productivity workloads, you already know that your team can work from anywhere without major impact. If your business has not yet moved to cloud based applications, however, this is undoubtedly the right time to make the move. 

You can start off with an online tenant just for Microsoft Teams to solve the immediate collaboration problem. Later you can migrate your email to Office 365 and replace your file server with SharePoint Online, which is a part of Office 365. All these services operate in the same online tenant and are covered by a single license. If you opt for the most basic license, that includes Microsoft Teams – Office 365 Business Essentials – and you also get email and SharePoint at no additional cost.

Azure services that may be helpful

If all your staff have company laptops which you are already managing and securing, then when you send them to work from home with these you are in good shape. But if your staff will be using their own PCs or Macs at home to access company information and systems, you need to ensure that this is adequately secured. If this is a concern, or if your team don’t have sufficiently up to date or powerful PCs at home to run your business applications, then you could provide them with a Virtual Desktop solution like Azure Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). This is a company desktop with all your applications etc running on a virtual server in Azure which your staff can securely access from whatever device they are using at home.

Perhaps your business is already running systems or services in Azure. If this is the case, and they are now used more heavily by your remote working team, then it is a very simple matter to increase the capacity.

With all the changes going on these days, you might also want to consider optimising other aspects of your business in the cloud. You could be running a number of business systems via on-premise servers, which probably seem slow and vulnerable right now. You can use Azure to move them to the cloud and add a new level of security to your business.

Please let us know if you would like to discuss how your business can get the most of working from home using Microsoft Teams, Office 365, Microsoft 365 and Azure.

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