News & Updates

A page for your blog posts

During a chilly British Spring you may start dreaming about running your business from a beautiful, sunny location.  If you are considering taking advantage of technology and making a move let’s review what you need to make this a reality.

Hardware

You don’t want to be schlepping around with a weighty laptop around. That suggests something like the Microsoft Surface Pro or Apple Macbook Air. Just avoid getting sand into them! For a more sturdy device, look at the Dell Rugged Extreme range, but check your credit card balance before hitting buy.  They’re on the pricey-side!

You’ll need something that is reliable, that can be repaired in the country you’re staying in, can cope with the sort of work you are doing and the software you’ll need to run. Remote working is likely to mean you’ll be accessing the Cloud extensively, and you may also have several programs running at the same time –choosing something with a decent amount of RAM is important. Also, if you think you’re likely to have to work offline a lot, then a good-sized hard drive, or one that connects to an extra external hard drive is essential.

Without a plug socket handy, you’ll need a powerbank. Here’re a few options . To help you choose the right one, consider:

  • How many devices do you want to be able to charge? Charging your phone once or twice will be possible from most powerbanks, but if you want to keep your laptop charged too, you’ll need a larger capacity device.
  • What devices are you charging? Powerbanks come with a variety of outlet sockets, but they’re not all the same.
  • Are you flying? Many airlines ban the really high capacity powerbanks.

Security

Working in remote locations, particularly if it is only for a short period of time, can increase security concerns. If devices are stolen it can mean a major data security nightmare. Data breaches on devices that contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII) for EU citizens need to be reported to the information Commissioners Office (ICO) within 72 hours. You’ll also need to tell the people affected!

Far better to secure your devices and be able to remotely wipe them, if necessary. Talk to your IT Manager or IT support company about Mobile Device Management (MDM), biometrics or two-factor authentication (2FA) before you go.

Internet Connection

Assuming your business is based in the UK, in your “beach office” you’ll need to internet connectivity. If your accommodation is on the edge of the beach and the WiFi reaches across the sand, then great. If not, you’ll need a 4G connection and be able to tether via your phone.

If our dream beach is in the Caribbean, be prepared to work with fairly slow speeds. The Bahamas appears to have the fastest broadband speeds in the area, at about 9.95Mbps. If you’re happy with the Florida coastline, you can get much faster speeds, at 46.6Mbps. If you want to use 4G, here’s where you can choose your preferred beach.

If you are travelling for a short period, check the price of buying data locally. Sometimes it is cheaper to buy your data in the UK and sometimes it’s cheaper locally.  If your mobile contract comes with plenty of data, check the roaming policies. Outside the EU, most UK operators charge £5 per day to use your contract data.  That may be enough.

A further security warning: Be very wary of local WiFi. It is a common practice for hackers to spoof WiFi connections in order to get access to your data.

Calls

Depending on where most of your clients, staff etc. are, you need to think carefully about how you set up your phones. Your mobile is certainly not your best option, even if it is one of the easiest devices to take to the beach. If you decide on the Bahamas because of the broadband speeds, mobile calls back to the UK could cost over £2 a minute.

A VoIP-based solution with a softphone on your laptop and/or your smartphone handset may be the best solution. SIP trunk connections to other countries where you do a lot of business will mean you’re only ever making local calls, rather than calling at international rates. You can even keep a UK landline number – so clients never need to know you’re on the beach rather than at your UK desk.

Keeping productive

Remote working is nothing new and there are plenty of ways to communicate with a geographically diverse team. The range of tools to help you continues to grow.

Instant messaging tools, such as Slack, Hipchat or Google’s Hangout Chat are all free, or have free versions.

Video-conferencing could be an alternative to using a phone, but the quality of your internet connection may determine whether this is something you use all the time, or just occasionally. Look at Google’s Hangout, Zoom and other options in addition to Skype.

Project management is a key requirement for remote teams. Thankfully there are a range of different tools available to you. Basecamp is one to consider if your projects aren’t particularly complex. Trello that also allows you to manage a number of different projects using a ‘boards’ system.  If you need something that combines chat, meetings, collaborative working, file sharing and project management in one place, something like Microsoft Teams is worth considering.

Trust

This point is last because it should be a given.  If you’re going to run your business from a beach, you need to be able to trust your team back in the office, wherever that may be.  If you don’t, you’ll be spending a lot less time at the beach than you want to.

It won’t matter how good your telecoms or your productivity apps are, if your team aren’t working with you, you cannot work anywhere that isn’t where they are. Most of the apps listed above will track when, and sometimes where, entries are made, so you can see if your team are working. Some will also show when people are logged in or online – just in case you want/need to keep an eye on people.

It’s good to know that the technology to you help you work from anywhere is constantly improving. If you decide to make the move, we hope you have fun and enjoy your new working environment to the full.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Ianiri is Director of independent telecoms brokerage Equinox. Mike works with companies, charities and other organisations to help them choose the right telecoms packages for their needs and thereby reduce their costs. He is particularly knowledgeable on the integration of IT and telecoms in business.  www.equinoxcomms.co.uk

Twitter: @CommsEquinox

The process of setting business goals is so established that it’s taken for granted in most companies. Goals define much of our everyday lives, from the number of leads we’re required to generate per month to the number of to-dos we need to complete by the end of the day.

But what if we’re thinking about targets all wrong? What if setting rigid targets doesn’t actually help growth, development, or the bottom line?

Leading business energy comparison website Love Energy Savings asked the question to business leaders to find out whether targets should be scrapped, or whether there’s still value in them.

The argument for a target-free business

One business that has loudly and proudly ditched business targets is the team project-management company Basecamp.

In their book It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work (HarperCollins, 2018), Jason Fried and David Heinemeier — CEO and CTO of Basecamp respectively — explain why they cut out goals from their company strategy:

“Doing great, creative work is hard enough. So is building a long-lasting sustainable business with happy employees. So why impose some arbitrary number to loom over your job, your salary, bonus, and kid’s college fund?

“Do we want to make things better? All the time. But do we want to maximise “better” through constantly chasing goals? No thanks. That’s why we don’t have goals at Basecamp. We simply do the best work we can on a daily basis.”

Nicola Barrett, Founder of beauty therapy business Prestige Intouch, also believes that businesses should scrap targets. She says that setting tough goals can actually deplete the quality of work that staff produce by putting them under unnecessary pressure. “Targets incentivise staff to rush the completion of their projects in order to meet KPIs,” she says. “When this happens, mistakes are made; things are not done properly and procedures are not adhered to.”

So how can a company without targets ensure that their teams still make progress?

Nicola believes that they should focus on doing less, and doing it to a higher standard. “It’s better to have one job done to perfection without a single complaint than having completed 5 mediocre tasks that inevitably receive criticism due to poor service and quality.”

How targets could still hit the mark

Not everyone believes that business targets are redundant in the modern-day workplace.

Andrew Firth, CEO and Founder of Leeds-based digital agency Ascensor, says that while having a goal-free culture wouldn’t necessarily stop staff from progressing, “they would have a better chance of meeting and exceeding objectives [with targets]. Targets are clear lines that can be measured. Whether they are reached or not, they provide a mechanism by which to review performance and set goals for the next period.”

Nicola Lloyd, Event Marketing Team Leader at Frank Recruitment Group, agrees. “It’s good for staff to have clear targets and a complete vision of what you want them to achieve, regardless of where they fit into a business.”

Nicola also asserts that targets can actually be good for team morale if those objectives are realistic and achievable. “If a team feels like it’s pulling towards a common goal,” she says, “each member of the team will feel a healthy sense of responsibility and accountability, motivating them to produce their best work.”

Taboos or to-dos?

The backlash against goals and targets stems from the problems that arise when a business assumes the importance of targets without considering the ‘why’ behind them.

CEO of Love Energy Savings, Phil Foster, believes that setting the right targets can help a business and its staff fly. “It’s not just a case of whether or not a target is achievable,” says Phil. “Employers and managers should think about whether the target has value, both for the individual and for the business as a whole.

“The best targets are those that you set in collaboration with the individual or team that will be tasked with reaching them. What is it that they want to achieve? How can you tie that in with the direction that the company is going in?

“If you can display that an employee’s actions will contribute to the wider success of the company,” Phil says, “that’s going to be far more motivating than just setting a goal for the sake of it.”

I was a child of the 1950s and have been interested in space exploration for as long as I can remember. My favourite television program as a child was Walt Disney’s Disneyland that featured segments on space travel, then just a dream. The first book I owned was the 1957 Space Pilots by Willy Ley about the future selection of astronauts. I enjoyed science fiction, especially the ‘juvenile’ novels by Robert Heinlein such as Have Space Suit—Will Travel, published in 1958. Continue reading