Guest Commentator: Shonté Eldridge, PMP, Executive Government Advisor, State and Local Government, Amazon Web Services @awscloud

How can technology be used to create a seamless work-from-home environment?

At the end of March, millions of Pennsylvanians woke-up to the news that Governor Wolf issued a statewide stay-at-home order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Overnight, businesses of all kinds had to transition their workforce to remote operations. Employers scrambled to figure out how to quickly invest in the necessary infrastructure to connect to their staff and customers while employees tried to adapt to working from home (WFH).

If you found yourself in the above scenario and still wondering if you got it right, I understand as I too had to quickly transition to a work-from-home environment for my job at Amazon Web Services (AWS). After 23 years of working in an office environment with state and local government, I relied on three areas of technology to help create a seamless WFH process and improve my productivity; and hopefully they can make your transition just as simple.

(1) Basic Technology

Employees need access to essential hardware and internet architecture to create a functional WFH environment, starting with a high-speed internet connection, a laptop with a camera, and phone (ideally a smartphone). An employer should not assume their employees have these items and must plan to address any gaps among their staff before launching into remote work. However, there are at least two other items I wish someone had told me about on day one: an internet booster such as the eero Pro and a noise-canceling Bluetooth headset with a mouthpiece. Both are considerable investments, but with my entire family now working from home or distance-learning, the existence of a strong WiFi signal in every corner of the house and ability to be heard clearly on virtual conference calls even with the dog barking every time my Amazon package arrives is priceless.

(2) Cloud technology

For some, working from home means a loss of access to crucial documents, limited content sharing capabilities, and difficulty collaborating across the organization. Many organizations have local shared drives that can’t be accessed from home and meetings were all done in-person. Now, staff members are scattered across the region and information needed for day-to-day operations is in paper format and located elsewhere. I was fortunate to work for a company that already implemented cloud solutions to support remote work, so I was able to digitally store and retrieve files, seamlessly communicate with customers, and collaborate with my team using a wide-range of tools. Many businesses were not as fortunate during the start of the pandemic and struggled to establish WFH environments without losing functionality and productivity. If your business had difficultly transitioning, now might be the time to leverage cloud technology. Cloud solutions will not only build resiliency within your organization, but also reduce the risk of disrupted operations in case of a future emergencies, such as a pipe burst or fires which prohibit access to the office.

(3) Productive Technology

Working remotely requires establishing your own daily and weekly productivity checks, which helps you adhere to a schedule and not get stuck feeling like it’s Groundhog Day. One piece of technology that helps me personally stay on track is a cloud-based voice service device. I obviously have an Amazon Echo, but any similar device will work. With just one voice command, I am able to set a reminder to make an important customer phone call, manage my daily to-do list, or even play my favorite music playlists to relax after a large, stressful virtual meeting. All of which have been in heavy rotation over these last few weeks while I try to manage my “new normal” of working from home (in addition to sharing my home office with my husband) and helping my seven-year old learn from home using the school’s distant learning tools.

We are in unprecedented times, so I hope these suggestions make your WFH experience a little easier. Remember we are all in this together — stay safe!

Amazon Web Services is a member of the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth Action Team, a group 110+ Chamber members and partners united to engage with a broad range of civic and neighborhood organizations in the development and execution of policies and initiatives, known as the PHL Neighborhood Growth Project.