Engaging with the Homeworking Culture

It appears that the ability to work from home is something that is a growing trend.  The more astute businesses out there realise the value that can be added in giving anyone, whose role allows it, the flexibility to occasionally work at home.  The benefits that can be gained in staff wellbeing, morale and therefore productivity are immense, but the perk of home working does need to be tempered with an understanding that it is just that, a perk. Self discipline is needed to ensure that work is completed.

Crushing pressures of everyday life in the frantic recession fraught world that we live in have created a population of stressed to the eyeballs workers.  The very mobile world that we live in means that an individual is restricted to just the four walls of their home. There are so many environments that are equipped for the use of Wi-Fi even without having your own roaming facilities in place.  Coffee shops, restaurants, libraries, and museums all cater for their customers needing to remain on-line and able to communicate with the big wide world!  Imagine the wellbeing created when an employee can work from their favourite coffee shop or even indeed work from the park on a warm summer’s day!   Fresh surroundings can break routine and stimulate new ideas.

If home working is to become a regular occurrence and built into the working month then it is wise for a more structured approach to be taken, with space for work, ideally a dedicated room.  With the establishment of a home office environment it is easier to have the discipline needed by the employee as well as those they live with.  Staying in touch with the office is easy peasy with those in the communication industry recognising the need to build a home working option into the systems that they sell.  The Aastra 400 is a great example of how technology is providing the means for any employee to not only gain mobility but also the capability of being completely in the loop even when working from home.

A recent TeamViewer poll of 1000 UK office workers found that over 78% would like to have the benefit of more flexible working arrangements to boost their job satisfaction in the absence of any pay increases.

Any business looking to improve employee engagement needs to take a serious look at the benefits of home working and the viability of making it a part of company culture. Can any business affort to dismiss the merits of offering home working as an option?

The Pro’s of homeworking to the individual are that they will enjoy less commuting, with possible cost savings and a better work life balance.  Happy days.  There are only a couple of downsides that I can foresee:

  • No after work drinks with your colleagues, a huge downside for some, but in life there is a trade off with most things!
  • Self discipline: ensuring the job is still done and appropriate dress is still worn if there is ever a need for video conferencing!

Video conferencing could prove problematic if home working becomes too relaxed!

Let me know your perfect office space…..where would you choose to work if you could just once in a while make that choice?

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Health and Safety: How Messy is your Floor Box?

What would prompt any business to decide that a health check or even a simple desk tidy is a good idea?

Just a quick glance around your office may identify tangled wires and cables.  Are your floor boxes looking more like rubbish bins?

With a recent spate of enquires leading us to complete a number of under desk cable management projects for new clients we have been amazed at the contents of the average floor box.  The obvious fire hazards alone have made us shake our heads in amazement, aside from the damage caused to plugs, jacks and cables by stray objects.

But what are the wider implications of neglecting your workstations?  What are the health and safety issues that prompt ACCL to be called in to resolve such issues?

We have identified some areas of concern from the projects that we have recently been involved in but is there any other legislation under health and safety that could be posing potential problems?

Aastra 400 Clever Communication for the Smart SME.

Even though it appears that we might be emerging from depths of this double dip recession increasing cost efficiency will clearly remain an important target for most businesses. Cost cutting and low budgets will continue to be the status quo in order to ensure a complete recovery!  Expenses are frequently reduced or even completely frozen, there are however many solutions out there that still enable any business to communicate effectively across a number of locations.

With the demise of the Aastra Intelligate systems there are a number of small or medium businesses who will be looking for an alternative system that needs to be an affordable solution.  The Aastra 400 system does just that, providing them with full functionality worthy of the 21st century business whilst also giving them future proof development opportunities.  The new Aastra 400 system provides a range of hardware that will be able to provide the appropriate solutions for the differing needs of varying office environments.

Active Communications Co Ltd are delighted to have recently become an accredited partner, allowing them to pass on valuable discounts to their customers when they make the choice to move to the Aastra 400 system.

After seeing what the Aastra 400 has to offer I would recommend that any SME does a double take at all the available functions as there are plenty on offer that will not only make a very slick team effort but also save many a company time and money in respect of quick communication particularly with multi-sited businesses.  Some of the apsects that appeal to me are:

  • You can now not only have conferencing facilities but also the opportunity to collectively work on a single document even though the people involved are at different locations.
  • The ability to move from mobile handsets to desktop and vice-versa without the recipient of the call having any awareness.
  • Intelligent networking means that up to 40 locations can be integrated so that it is seen as a single system, even collegues overseas can be treated as in-house employees!
  • Home office facility gives the benefit of favourable flexibility and provision of care for the home/work lifebalance.

A great system with plenty to offer the SME of today, knocking spots off the now defunct Intelligate system of yesterday!  To quote Aastra “you don’t have to adapt to the telephones as the telephones will adapt to you!”

ROI in a throwaway World?

The Shard in London is a very impressive sight, towering over the landscape of our metropolis it really is an amazing feat of engineering.  It was quite surprising to learn however that the life expectancy of this, the tallest building in Europe, is just 60 years!  The fact that the Shard towers over many historic buildings that have been standing for hundreds of years, Southwark Cathedral standing since 1220, gives some perspective on this expectancy!  It would appear that the throw away mentality is getting very extreme, wouldn’t it? 

Equally interesting to note is the fact that office space is now available with lengths of lease that have significantly reduced over the last 12 years.  The average length of any lease now being 7 to 9 years rather than the 10 to 17 years, as it was then.  With this decrease the evolution of many businesses are impacted by not only changing rates but also the option to move to larger and smaller premises.  The churn of moving people and their equipment from one place to another is becoming more and more evident as is the reshaping of a building layout to suit a particular business need. 

 In many parts of the world there is a driving trend towards renovation and refitting of existing building premises rather than new construction and with such a dramatic decline in the lifespan of new buildings there is little wonder.  Studies in the UK have demonstrated the benefits of office refurbishment when compared to demolition and rebuilding. In addition to the environmental benefits, property values and planning restrictions are combining to make renovation an economically attractive alternative to demolition and rebuild. Even when the same company occupies the same building, office buildings usually require a major refurbishment every 20 to 25 years.  The likelihood of a need to refurbish is increased when occupancy is changed.  Therefore it can be expected that commercial refurbishment activity is likely to be a significant and increasing portion of overall construction activity for the foreseeable future.  

Taking all of these elements into account and combining it with the fact that technology has become an indispensable tool for business, industry, and education, what importance should be given to warranties or guarantees that are placed on the installation of any voice or data cabling solutions?  Whilst a warranty can offer you 15 to 25 years peace of mind,  if you are not planning to occupy the same building why would this particular aspect be of any value to you?  So what is important?

Within the past few years a need has developed to create a new generation of “flexible” buildings and workplace environments, providing adaptable delivery of power, voice, and data.  Buildings that have infrastructures and structures that can fully support change and adopt new technologies. 

Return on any investment is the highest priority for most businesses, so price will always be a factor that will determine who wins a contract.  Price does however need to be tempered with quality of workmanship, and the solution being just that, and fit for purpose. 

A recent debate in a group on linked-in weighed up the merits of dealing with “big names” or small local businesses.  The majority of responses indicated that whilst the preference would be to deal with the local traders, more often than not the larger companies won out purely based on the fact that they were a recognised name.  The irony that was also noted was that the work was then frequently sub-contracted out to the smaller local business! 

My own thoughts on the matter are that I would rather give work to the company that I felt would provide me with good sound advice, warranties and guarantees, should I need them, as well as providing fully trained and qualified engineers.  I would be looking for a company that gave me confidence in their abilities as their background had the evidence to back up their commitments.

Installing Laser Links above the roof tops of Central London

One of our clients, having outgrown their current office space, is moving a department into a new office location around 800 metres away from their main site….across boroughs in fact, from Camden to Islington 🙂 After having contacted their service provider to obtain a lease line they were told that due to a back log the lead time for the installation they required was around six months…not good enough if you’re trying to run a business! We provided the solution in the form of free space optics, or laser links as they are otherwise known, the latest technology in the world of wireless communication –  where the signal is transmitted through air (free space….hence the name 🙂 ) 

The concept of free space optic is similar to fibre optic in that it uses a light source to transmit data instead of cable….We carried out an initial survey to see if this was a viable solution, which included checking with the local authorities to ensure no planning permissions had been granted for a skyscraper inbetween the 2 buildings…. which may have caused problems to the signal, no planning permissions were pending and so all systems go….. 🙂

The benefits of this system, in addition to it being wireless, are that it doesn’t take long to install, less than a day! It’s also cost effective…just a one off payment, unlike leased lines where in addition to an installation cost, you are usually tied into a contract with a monthly charge….  

We installed a 1 Gigabyte free space laser optic point to point link between the buildings.

arrow highlights where the laser is being transmitted….

This has enabled the client to move the department into the new offices without having to wait for the lease line to be installed…. another satisfied customer 🙂

For more information on Free Space Optics, check out our website or give us a call, one of our experienced team will be more than happy to help!

Network Health Check….helping you avoid unnecessary downtime

Following the launch of ACCL’s new Network Health Check service we were asked to attend a site in London to resolve some ongoing network issues.

On arrival we were escorted to the Comm’s Room where the client explained he was having intermittent faults on his network…annoying things such as losing connectivity and crackly phone lines…

We initially carried out a visual inspection, which hi-lighted the problem instantly, see evidence below….!

We explained that the way in which the patch panel had been terminated did not conform to UK or European standards….not a good start 🙂

We also discovered that the cable which had been used was CCA grade cable (copper clad aluminium) which is also non-compliant with either UK or European standards. It can appear under the guise of Cat 5e, but is inferior to solid copper for a number of reasons. The obvious question to the client was who carried out the installation and whether any test certificates existed….

The client informed us that the install was carried out on his behalf by the main contractor who, in turn, asked his non-English speaking European electrician to install it…a challenge in itself as there were some communication issues (lots of gesticulation and arm waving!)

We carried out some tests, using Fluke testers to analyse the links aannnddd…..surprise, surprise, they failed! On a positive note these issues are generally easy and inexpensive to remedy.

The client then asked how the issues could be resolved and we have sent a proposal back which they have accepted, works are to commence shortly and we will update you once it has been successfully completed!

The moral of the story is that you should always bring in the correct team with the relevent expertise and experience when installing or updating your network to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment but fear not! our health check can easily identify and remedy any issues you may have with regards to your network, why not give us a call today?

Network Cabling…..Prevention really is better than costly cure……

Whatever aspect of life you look at, it’s a well known fact that prevention is better than cure. The danger is always that we sit back and do nothing, why fix it if it ain’t broke?! Invariably something goes wrong and murphys law says its going to happen at the wrong time, when we least need it!  This means that everything then becomes a rush and mistakes can be made, quick fixes can be put in place which can end up costing more money and a whole lot of inconvenience!

Preventative maintenance is proven to save you money – a simple network health check can help you avoid problems and costly repairs to your network before the need arises by identifying any potential problems using the latest diagnostic equipment. In business, systems rarely stay the same, continuously being altered or expanded, over time this can gradually decrease the performance of your networks. Our Company will fit in around you, scheduling a time that is convenient for you and your business, with little or no downtime to the network infrastructure

Opt for our FREE 120 minute health check and we will provide you with a comprehensive visual health check which will tell you whether your network is running as it should be.

Our recent cable tidy at Southampton Football Club was captured in video by Data-Cabling-Expert-TV and shows how much work can be created if your network cabling is neglected. Check out the “quick” version of our weekend in Southampton http://goo.gl/188vn and let us know if you would like help with your cables before they become a real cause of concern, costing you time and money which with a little bit of maintenance could be well avoided.