Working from home: Hardware, software, human imperatives (Pt 2)
In part two of this discussion on working from home (WFH), we will look at safety risks and the experience of ADVANTUM, which provides specialised information and communication technology (ICT) services for shipping interests and other businesses and organisations in the Caribbean.
WFH SAFETY RISKS
Robert Sinclair, ADVANTUM’s network team lead, advises that there are safety risks involved in WFH that should never be overlooked. Among these, he highlights cybersecurity, ergonomics and workspace configuration, and offers the following advice:
• Cybersecurity risks: If an employee is not using a secured Wi-Fi or VPN, working from home can pose a cybersecurity risk because their computer could be open to a cyberattack. Employees should also be aware of the physical security of their electronic devices. They should keep their laptops to themselves, utilise passwords, and securely store them when they are not in use.
• Ergonomically unfriendly furniture and work areas: The same chair you sit in to enjoy meals at the dinner table may not be the best for working at the computer, and many WFH spaces are not ergonomically friendly. “Muscular, joint and nerve challenges can start with disregard for ergonomics,” Sinclair warns, adding that awkward home workspaces can also lead to injury risks. He says special care must be taken to ensure that cables, power strips and extension cords are so positioned that they cannot hinder movement of the employee and other family members.
Robert advises that “to maintain efficiency, the WFH employee should find a dedicated workspace where they can focus on their work with minimal distractions”. He recommends that in cases of employees with disabilities, the home workspace should be inspected to make sure it is free from any hazards, including fire and ventilation issues, slipping and falling dangers and other daily risk factors.
ADVANTUM’s WFH EXPERIENCE
Before the pandemic, ADVANTUM had already implemented WFH and Kay Wilson Kelly, the company’s operations manager/project lead, shares their experience as follows:
“As an information technology company, we too work from home. In January 2019, ADVANTUM ventured into this realm with much success in improved productivity from the developers, DevOps and business analysts. In March 2020, when Jamaica announced work from home, ADVANTUM was already there.
“The use of Microsoft Teams has greatly assisted in our collaboration with one another, while being physically distanced. The chat rooms come alive at start of day (literally before the typical 8:30 a.m. hour) with the “Good morning” of the team lead followed by a cascading set of acknowledgements from team members. The chat remains vibrant, sometimes till late at nights. Sessions are in-depth – but with typical developer style, is intermittently infused with a buzz of laughter as a break to the stress of the rigours of software development.
“The Microsoft Teams avenue facilitates knowledge sharing, whiteboard demonstrations, and channels that allows for the dispatch of notifications for different activities. These may include alerts for code deploys and mergers to the main development environment. The team lead and the DevOps team are able to manage workloads by reviewing commit alerts and pull requests.
“Business analysts become intertwined in the process by submitting meeting requests for grooming sessions, in which the team interrogates one another to understand business processes and finally formulate a framework for development. Also, our consultants are not left out of the process and they, too, get included in specific chats tailored for their communication.
“A recent implementation of Azure DevOps, a tool which can be integrated with Microsoft Teams, is used to manage our software development cycle. With the use of Kanban boards and the writing of epics, features and stories, team leads can assign and monitor development tasks. Quality assurance can then be notified to complete testing and approve for deploy to our clients.”
Shipping and logistics companies are on the leading edge of the WFH paradigm, and this way of doing business does not mean loss of efficiency and customer satisfaction. What it does require, however, is systematic planning, thoughtful implementation and constant monitoring.The ADVANTUM team’s suggestions can help us do it right.