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Overcome the work from home challenges all professionals are facing right now

Nothing pushes the digital transformation of a business, big or small, like a worldwide pandemic. Responding to the virus, humans are now living in increasingly isolated conditions to keep the infection from spreading. This has an adverse effect on businesses, especially small-to-medium businesses combating a struggling economy and trying to manage a newly remote workforce.

Industries are changing

Industries across a variety of disciplines have transformed out of need. Maybe it's just the evolutionary pressure businesses needed to adapt, but that doesn't make this forced transformation any easier. What's worse, no-one expects the hidden costs that come with managing a remote team, regardless of its size. With a new age of digital connectivity comes an altering of business models to match. It's easy on paper, until it's time to implement new practices. Here's how people and industries are changing, internationally and right here in South Africa.

Remember when working from home was an occasion? One you looked forward to for days, maybe weeks, just to head back to the office because you forgot to print those important spreadsheets. That was if your job supported it and your boss allowed it -- but it's not quite so optional anymore. Corporates big and small are adapting to the new normal. Some find it harder than others to keep managerial processes running smoothly from afar, but it's by no means impossible. That's thanks to digital technologies available to just about anyone.

You may argue that it's far easier for large corporates to implement a work-from-home strategy seamlessly, and that's completely true. Twitter recently announced that it is shifting its workforce to work from home indefinitely -- a great step for Twitter, a company that has the monetary, economic and political means to implement a digital-revolution-led strategy. SME's on the other hand, have a rocky road ahead if they plan to support employees in remote positions. This is where the hidden costs of working from home come into play.

Find the hidden costs

As with any business, with change comes the realisation that there are (expensive) challenges to overcome. This includes things like having a proper at-home setup with the equivalent tech that you would have at an office -- a proper desktop/laptop, a printer, a VOIP phone if you handle customer calls, non-interrupted uptime using generators in the case of a blackout and, of course, a stable and reliable internet connection. Not to mention the personal time cost of having home management compete for your attention to work duties.

A home network, if there is one in place, relies on a variety of connection principles, including network reliability, costs and home network security. Running a business remotely also requires remote team management -- a skill team-leads and managers must learn and apply effectively to attain the output expected from a remote team. This includes the use of online aids, namely a variety of communications apps that primarily make use of the internet. Which brings us to the largest contributor to hidden costs: a decent mobile internet connection for video conferencing and daily work functions.

Stay connected

The professional nature of an office offers a variety of wireless communications channels because the needed infrastructure is available. This isn't necessarily true of a home setup, which requires more personal knowledge of networks, as well as the funds to install and support the infrastructure. You'll quickly realise that your mobile network is charging a lot for those lengthy Zoom strategy session, which will automatically drive you to find alternatives that suit your needs.

This applies to different business needs too. It's essential to have a clear understanding of your role in a business and how to make use of your home network. A designer, for example, would need a large data cap and upload speed, to transfer large files and keep vital software updated, while analysts and researchers may only need enough data for basic browsing and the odd conference call. Your network needs are directly linked to your business needs, and this should be clear from the get-go.

There are a few options to establish a wireless network at a residence, some of which suit professional needs better than others. LTE technology, for example, is more durable and reliable than fixed-line options like fibre or LTE. This is especially true if blackouts occur during business hours, as many wireless modems can be kept running after the lights go out. Fibre offers far greater speeds at up to 1Gbps, ideal for power-users that frequently need to download and send large files.

A sales rep conducting back-to-back pitches using video-conferencing software like Zoom may not need the fastest internet connection available, but it needs to be powerful enough to remain stable throughout the day, regardless of external influences. That while a call centre agent can't have their VOIP connection terminated at any time, as calls may not be routed to another line. Regardless of the business, a real network need is a stable, reliable connection. In that case, LTE is ideal, considering its versatile, cordless nature that'll keep you connected during an all-too-frequent Eskom-related blackout. LTE modems work with just about any mobile SIM from a major mobile network, like those of FNB Connect, Vodacom and Rain. Below is a comparison of mobile data prices from the major South African mobile service providers.

Data cap Vodacom Rain FNB Connect

1GB

R99

R50

R59

5GB

R349

R250

R249

10GB

R469

R500

R469 + 10 GB FREE

20GB

R699

R1,000

R939 + 20 GB FREE

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