remote working

Remote working in 2020

Continuously advancing modern technology means that, for many professionals, working remotely can be just as effective as working in the office. With lockdown taking place in March 2020, thousands of UK businesses were forced to rely on technology so that entire workforces could work from home.

Such a widespread shift in working practices acted almost as a large-scale case study into the effectiveness of remote working. This, in turn, prompted discussions about the way we work and what it would look like in the future. Prior to the pandemic, many business owners feared that regular remote working would lead to productivity loss and inefficiency. However, now that most office-based businesses have experienced mass remote working first-hand, many are declaring that it’s been surprisingly successful, with reports of increased productivity and staff satisfaction.

Such a positive result suggests that remote working will become increasingly common in the modern workplace. In fact, we predict that most businesses will adopt a ‘working from anywhere’ policy which you can read more about here.

Such a significant increase in remote working means that businesses need to adapt in order to keep up with competitors, keep staff happy and continue growing. Whilst many companies report improved staff satisfaction since the onset of remote working, this must be reviewed regularly to gauge whether it’s still the case long term. Not only do you need your staff to be happy at work, you need them to be consistently engaged, to the same level that they would be in the office.

Studies show that engaged employees tend to be 15% more productive with up to 30% greater customer satisfaction levels. Whilst disengaged employees search for new job opportunities more often, take more sick days, and make more mistakes. Which is why it’s so important to prioritise the engagement of your employees, especially as working practices have changed so significantly and under such unprecedented circumstances.

We’ve put together 7 quick, easy tips on how to keep your remote workforce engaged, therefore ensuring that remote working continues to be a success for your business.

1. Ensure data is easily accessible and secure

Nothing is more frustrating than being unable to complete a task because you simply can’t access the right files, documents or resources. When you’re working remotely this frustration is amplified; you can’t just lean across to ask someone for help, you’re left trying to figure it out for yourself or contacting someone else and waiting for them to send you what you need. The days of having to email yourself documents or carry information on a USB stick are over, along with the days of lost data, unorganised files and frantic searching for that one spreadsheet you desperately need!

All of this frustration can be eliminated with effective cloud computing. Cloud-based file sync and share systems like Datto Workplace allow you to store, organise and access files securely via the internet. What’s so beneficial about Datto is that it enables users to access data from anywhere, at any time, using any device – provided they can authenticate their identity and have a strong internet connection. As such, employees can continue to work on documents effectively, whether they’re on the go, in the office or working from home. Colleagues can also collaborate on projects together, as they will be able to conveniently access the same files via the cloud. Moreover, if a device breaks or is lost or stolen, all important data will remain safe and accessible on the cloud, meaning employees won’t ever have to panic about lost data. Cloud computing, therefore, removes a lot of the stress that traditionally comes with remote working, meaning your employees can focus on the tasks at hand and remain engaged.

2. Provide employees with the right tools for effective communication

When working remotely, employees don’t ever want to feel as though they’re ‘on their own’. The transition from working in a busy, sociable office to sitting alone in a room at home can be extremely daunting. Employees need to be reassured that company culture and communication will persist so that productivity and positive individual wellbeing is preserved.

Communication with colleagues needs to be consistent and regular. At Netstar we have a ‘daily huddle’; a companywide video call each morning where employees discuss their plans for the day and any queries they may have. Employees also have regular one-to-ones with their managers and department meetings via video call, meaning that staff consistently stay connected and informed.

Microsoft Teams is an excellent tool for effective communication. It allows employees to communicate via chat, audio and video functions – meaning that communication can be consistent throughout the day. You can attend a meeting via the video function for more in-depth discussions or simply pop your colleague a chat message to ask a quick question. Employees that are constantly engaging with each other and working collaboratively are far more likely to stay engaged and happy at work, helping to boost work rate and staff satisfaction.

3. Make sure employees have the technology they need and that it’s secure

When working remotely, employees need to have the right IT set up in order to work effectively. Not having access to the same technology they do in the office could pose serious problems for employees, restricting them in what they’re able to do and increasing stress and frustration.

Instead, they should have access to all relevant devices. This may include providing a monitor, laptop, pc, keyboard, speakers, webcam, microphone, mouse etc. The specifics of what each employee will need will vary dependent on job role and industry. Ensure you communicate with employees regularly to check they have all the tools and technology they need to work effectively. Additionally, we’ve compiled an article on 5 things you may have overlooked when it comes to a successful IT set up, you can find out what they are here.

Remote working poses numerous additional problems when it comes to cyber security; you can download your free, in-depth guide on the risks of remote working here for more information on this. In fact, most security breaches occur because of human error (e.g. clicking a malicious link or navigating a dangerous webpage). Which it’s why it’s so crucial that employees are thoroughly educated on how to spot and deal with potential malicious activity. If employees aren’t educated, they may feel worried about potential security breaches and as though they are solely responsible if one does occur. This is especially relevant if employees are working remotely as they can no longer lean across and ask a colleague if they’re unsure whether an email, website or attachment is legitimate. Instead, they need the confidence and knowledge to avoid cyber security threats independently, which can be done by implementing effective cyber security awareness training. Having this training will reassure employees and reduce stress, keeping them happy and engaged, as well as minimising risk for your business. Click here to find out more about cyber security awareness training and how to book yours today.

4. Engage your employees with team building activities

As mentioned, preserving company culture, team spirit, and morale is key to keeping your employees engaged. Employees don’t want to feel as though they’re a solo worker, just because they’re now working from home. Part of the reason people enjoy their work so much is because of the people that surround and support them, so this needs to be maintained.

At Netstar, we regularly have Friday socials remotely via video chat, where everyone can catch up in a chilled out and social environment. Additionally, a few weeks ago all employees were awarded a JustEat voucher and, those that could make it, enjoyed a delicious takeaway lunch together on Zoom one Friday afternoon. Eating lunch together used to be a big part of our company culture, so this was a great way to replicate it. Now in September, Netstar are extending the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme for all our employees, whereby they can enjoy dinner together on us!

Whilst socialising is important, it’s also crucial to provide your employees with the tools they need to be happy when working remotely. During the pandemic, the number of people experiencing mental health issues increased significantly. At Netstar, we held a webinar with health and wellbeing expert Rachel McGuiness who advised all of our team on tips to maintain positive mental wellbeing when working from home. You can read more about what we learned here.

5. Give clear advice and outline expectations

Clear communication is key, not only between colleagues, but also from senior management teams. When working in the office, expectations for employees were likely very clear. But with more people now working remotely, these expectations need to be readdressed and adapted to a remote working environment.

No employee should be confused about how to navigate the day when working remotely. Confused expectations could pose serious problems for employees, including increased stress, decreased work rate and output, and disengagement.

Instead, set out clear guidelines for all employees and review these regularly. For example, some employers may be happy for employees to work more flexibly by starting and finishing work an hour earlier. Whilst others may require employees to work to the same hours that they did in the office. Expectations like these need to be addressed and communicated clearly to avoid confusion and disengagement. You can find out more about what to include in a work from anywhere policy here.

6. Encourage employees to take advantage of the benefits of remote working

When lockdown was first introduced, it was easier to notice the silver linings to remote working. Time spent commuting could be replaced with time spent with family, exercising, cooking or other recreational activities. But as remote working persists long term, it’s likely that people will have begun to forget about these advantages, appreciating them less as time goes on and ultimately becoming less engaged, in both their working and personal lives.

It’s, therefore, important to remind employees of the benefits of remote working and encourage them to take advantage of them. This ties into effective communication and team building; having common goals to work towards, extra-curricular activities and a healthy work-life balance is key for keeping employees engaged.

Here are some examples of ways you can encourage employees to take advantage of the benefits of remote working:

  • Organise a companywide initiative to raise money for charity. Many businesses have partaken in sponsored physical events where employees run, cycle or swim a certain distance to raise money for charity. Having a common goal to work towards will encourage people to spend their extra time doing something charitable and active.
  • Arrange a companywide ‘Great British Bake Off’ style event, where employees each bake cakes and send in photos in a bid to win a prize. The element of competition will encourage employees to partake and may spark a new interest in baking to replace time spent commuting.
  • Ask for input from your employees – get one person each week to send in their suggestions for keeping healthy and happy whilst working remotely, encouraging their colleagues to do the same. You might find that some of your employees have come up with some very creative responses!

7. Define goals for employees

As remote working persists, some employees may become unmotivated. Working hard and feeling a sense of accomplishment is a major motivator for most professionals, so not having this when working remotely is likely to lead to disengagement. Which is why it’s so important not to overlook employee development. Ensure that managers are having regular one-to-one meetings with employees whereby goals are outlined and areas for improvement are discussed. Having clear goals to work towards and rewards for reaching them will act as a powerful motivator and prevent employees from becoming disengaged.

If you’re passionate about engaging your remote workforce, we can help. For more information on any of the tech outlined in this article, including:

Please get in touch today.