Remote working has quickly gone from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have’. One of the main threads in my recent CIO Watercooler discussion was that of enabling employees with the technology and flexibility they need in order to do their best work.
We communicate and collaborate remotely every day in our personal lives – why should it be different in our professional lives? To paraphrase Harvey Neve, Head of Digital Transformation for Public Health England, in that discussion, remote working is an opportunity for people to embrace the way life is nowadays. There isn’t work and life; there is life, and outcomes you’re on the hook for at work are part of your life.
However, if you’re planning to introduce remote working to your business, a lifetime of sharing cat memes isn’t enough to qualify your employees as ready to embrace the change. Introducing remote working needs to be a managed process that you’re well prepared for. Follow the steps in this guide to give your business the best chance to make a successful switch.
1. Internet Connection
This is a must – there’s no way around it. We’re fortunate in the UK to have a reasonable WiFi network, along with access to 4G and soon 5G. If your employees are working from home, encourage them to invest in stable, high bandwidth, secure internet. If they’re on the road, make sure they have sufficient mobile data. An unlimited data package comes in handy here, and the added expense to your business is well worth the continuity it supports. This is the time to put in place a comprehensive internet reimbursement policy.
If your employees sometimes work without connection, make sure the communications and collaboration tools your business has in place enable offline working and automatically sync when employees do connect to the internet.
2. Critical Tools: Hardware
Make sure your employees are equipped with some basic tools to keep them connected and productive:
- A laptop or tablet: With a good quality webcam for effective video conferencing
- A smartphone: For on-the-go calls and messaging
- A headset with a microphone: For group calls in public or noisy areas
- Some form of data backup: An external hard drive or access to cloud storage
3. Critical Tools: Software
Many businesses now use communications and collaboration tools that are based in the cloud, allowing employees to be agile and responsive in the way they work together. If your business relies on its on-site hardware to manage communications, consider a cloud provider to take this expense and work off your hands.
- Communications tools that offer VoIP, video conferencing, team messaging and, where needed, internet fax. This can keep your team communicating over multiple channels so even though they’re dispersed they’re still connected and ‘present’.
- Collaboration tools that include file sharing, real-time document editing, integration with other business apps such as CRM or project management tools, and calendar sharing.
- Unified communications (UC) solutions include all this functionality on one platform, making communicating and collaborating much simpler for employees. Paying a single provider instead of juggling multiple vendor contracts makes it much easier and cheaper to manage.
- A Virtual Private Network (VPN) providing your employees secure access to files, so they can share and collaborate on your private data and intellectual property safely.
Employees need to adapt their working methods to operate effectively when remote. Managers need to set expectations early, providing structure and etiquette for people to follow to make the transition to remote collaboration as smooth as possible. For some remote workers, self management is the hardest part of the job. Time management, prioritisation and focus play different roles in different environments, and public or home spaces can be more distracting than an office environment.
Employees must take a more proactive approach to communicate, be more active in sharing information and plans, and being present to provide feedback or field queries. Scheduling regular catch-ups and establishing norms early can set the pattern to help make remote working…work. This might be a good time to develop a company-wide ‘remote working policy’.
5. Monitor Performance
One of the major concerns for many people thinking of starting a remote working policy is the level of control they will have over their staff and how productive they will work outside of an office environment.
However, sources have shown that remote working actually increases staff productivity by as much as 40%, with one of the main benefits of providing flexibility enabling home workers to work unusual hours to fit around personal circumstances but still get the job done. Features such as Task Manager and integrations into other cloud services like Trello on RingCentral Glip allow you to set targets, put deadlines in place for each of your employees, and track progress and updates, thus keeping them on track and allowing you to easily monitor their performance.
Tracking performance and seeing weak spots allows you to identify training needs early and plan in time and action to correct problems before they turn into disasters. Keep an eye on your team’s performance and be prepared to support them through the transition to remote working, whether that’s by direct mentoring, virtual training or a peer-to-peer buddy system. Supporting people to adjust will save you headaches further down the line and will make a world-class remote team.
For more information to help you transition your business to remote working while ensuring business continuity, visit our remote working resource library here on the blog.