We discuss remote working and network management with Paul Routledge, country manager of D-Link UK and Ireland

What are the biggest changes businesses are facing as they look at adopting a permanent home working culture? 

I don't think many people would dispute that 2020 has been a year of fundamental change and flux for businesses. Some have flourished, more have struggled, but all have seen massive change and upheaval to the way they work and do business.

Working from home has been a hot topic since March, and whilst back then a lot of people were happy with temporary set-ups, a more permanent solution is now needed, as many roles will be more flexible in terms of their location moving forwards.

There are a large number of benefits for small businesses - saving money on large offices, a wider talent pool, as now the whole nation/world is open to you for employment. You have the option of giving your team a more flexible schedule, and no need for three hour commutes - that has to be good for morale!

The biggest challenge for a business is to ensure that employees who are used to an office environment, can adapt to a home working one, without impacting their productivity motivation and well-being.

Understandably, one of the main concerns for those working from home is that Wi-Fi or internet connectivity won't be able to cope and will impact their ability to work?

Related to productivity, internet speeds and coverage can have a massive impact, particularly for those job roles that require constant internet connection, access to large video or design files and video conferencing. This can be down to many issues - old tech, congested networks and poor wireless coverage etc.

Whether your plan is to work from home full or just part time, having a look at your home network setup will be vital. If you are still using a router that you got from your ISP 10 years ago, your wireless signal is possibly two generations out of date.

What advice would you give to someone trying to upgrade their home network?

The router is king! Whether you have a separate router/modem or a combined unit, upgrading your router will have a big impact on the speed and coverage of your network. Wi-Fi 6 is a big leap forward in terms of speed and coverage and can really help clear up a lot of network congestion and offer a fast secure solution. D-Link routers all come with a VPN solution, which allows the user to access their work network at home, so you can still grab important files stored on secure work servers.

Use a wire if you can! Wireless is great and allows the freedom to move around the house, but a wired connection is more stable and offers better speed and security. Understanding that we don't want to run 17m cables across our living rooms, if you can't wire, try to either work within a close proximity of your router, or look at a range extender/mesh solution if your home office is on the 3rd floor of your house.

If you work with a shared fixed line connection, which is strained, consider a separate connection with 4G - 4G can provide a superfast separate network from your fixed line broadband and allows more security by keeping your work network and home network completely separate.

What other tech should every SME business manager and staff consider to create a more seamless working from home environment?

Outside of the other advice from experts on daylight, permanent working spaces and sticking to a schedule, the best advice from D-Link would be to increase your connectivity.

Very often the first thing we do in the office, (after grabbing a coffee) is plug in our mobile phones to a USB hub. One of the things you miss most at home (especially mac users) is that connectivity piece, plugging in a mouse, phone etc. will use up all the spare USB ports, leaving no port for that USB drive and in some cases the port is missing all together, such as one for an Ethernet cable or a HDMI output. So look for a simple USB hub to suit your connectivity needs.

If using the home network just isn't allowing good seamless connectivity, what can managers do to bring business level networking easily and simply into their home?

Cloud managed access points are the most effective way we would recommend, the scalability of cloud has enabled a cost effective business solution at home.

Sometimes we forget the mission critical details on our laptops, personnel details, external client databases or financial records. Business grade solutions will provide extra reliability and enhanced security, so you can be safe in the knowledge that your business data is safe while you work at home.

The beauty of the cloud is that this can all be managed from a central point.

What are the most common mistakes SMEs make when it comes to setting up their network?

Setting up a network without planning for scalability in the future, so when their business grows it can lead to bottle necks and the network needs replacing rather than adding too. Whilst WFH and less people in the office looks like it will cause less pressure on the internet, the increased need for bandwidth with most meetings being on a video platform has replaced this traffic. D-Link's networking equipment can be purchased as a TAAS solution (Tech as a service) so people no longer have to make a large outlay in one go and can pay monthly instead. This allows companies to keep up with the latest technology, which we do as a matter of course with our phones and laptops.

We all know that a happy working environment leads to better business productivity. What can business managers do to create a good working culture when teams are working remotely?

This is a good question, we have regular meetings to stay in touch and a weekly quiz to bring people together and have a laugh. Keeping an eye out for people who are struggling with the whole ‘WFH' piece is essential, so many are used to bustling environments and the noise of an office, even a small adjustment, like leaving the radio on could help. Of course we'd recommend buying people newer tech! But for the fact that it is an investment in people and will ultimately help with productivity, so a win-win for both sides.

Download the D-Link remote working guide here