In January 2020, the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19), a global health emergency. Millions of people around the world have already been told to stay at home to try and slow the spread of Covid-19.
According to the BBC, “Google, Microsoft, Twitter. Hitachi, Apple, Amazon. Chevron, Salesforce, Spotify. From the UK to the US, Japan to South Korea, these are all global companies that have, in the last few days, rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies amid the spread of Covid-19.”
To limit the spread of infection and ensure their business continuity, many UK firms are following suit and are taking steps to ensure employees are able to work productively from home, with minimal impact on business performance.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the systems and tools that can help you enable an effective and reliable remote working strategy and look at the wider benefits and implications of home working.
How remote IT working can help both businesses and employees
You don’t need to leave your customers and colleagues behind when you’re not in the office. Fortunately, there are many services and tools available to ensure employees can work productively from home.
However, some companies have been reluctant to embrace remote working as they fear it will disrupt relationships amongst co-workers, have a negative effect on work ethic and reduce productivity.
In reality, businesses that have implemented remote working policies have reported that they have experienced benefits such as:
- Greater productivity
- Increased employee satisfaction
- Reduced business overheads
- Lower absenteeism
- Created a larger talent pool
- Broader insight into other markets
Remote working isn’t just about increasing productivity. It’s also about giving your people more freedom and flexibility in their working day; helping them achieve a better work-life balance.
Helping staff fit work around childcare or other personal commitments will improve retention and create a positive working environment where staff feel trusted and valued.
By offering flexible working, it can also become easier to recruit and retain staff, cutting recruitment and training costs for your business.
Allowing remote IT working means you can give your customers a better experience too as your staff will be able to work outside of traditional office hours, if required.
Of course, for people to work efficiently from home or on the move, they need to be able to access the systems they need to do their job. You’ll also want to ensure security is maintained and confidential data is protected when devices are being used outside of the office environment.
Tools for better remote working
We’ve put together this helpful list of 10 ways to get the most out of remote working:
1. Keeping in touch
Some employees feel isolated and lonely when working from home. Without the office banter, energy levels can also drop. Keep your teams connected with video conferencing, remote meeting services and collaboration tools.
Online work management platforms are a great way to boost collaboration when your staff are working from home. At Netstar we use Microsoft Teams. Read more here.
2. Educate staff
Working from home is a new experience for your staff too and they will need some time to adapt. Before they start working remotely, brief your team and offer tips that will help them adjust to working from home so they can maintain productivity levels and meet their goals. The key issue will be how they cope with distractions. For more ideas check out this article.
3. Set goals and reward staff
Team managers can expect most of their colleagues to be motivated and industrious. However, it is pertinent to set expectations and deadlines to ensure your staff is hitting the targets you demand.
4. Get the right setup
Make it easy for employees to access everything they need to work effectively from home, by making sure they have the hardware they need and access to work files and software. Cloud access is extremely beneficial in this area, as the minimal setup is required to get staff working effectively from home.
One thing to consider is the security aspect of employees potentially accessing sensitive business data on personal devices. Most cloud technologies are secure by design, but it’s important to understand the risks and educate your employees accordingly.
Read our article on how smartphones can pose a risk to data security.
5. Provide regular feedback by video conference
Studies indicate that some workers feel left out when working at home. This is a basic human need for interaction and engagement. Employees crave regular feedback on their progress.
However, using digital channels to communicate can sometimes feel distant and the message you are trying to convey loses context. Constructive feedback in an email can be taken the wrong way. Team managers have to consider people’s feelings. Therefore, conduct feedback sessions using video chat tools such as Zoom, or Microsoft Teams.
6. Don’t forget about your company values
Make sure your values don’t get lost as a result of your team being spread out. Your company culture and values are interlinked, make sure everyone knows what your values are, and how they can best embody them. You all have a common goal to work towards and this can help remote workers feel part of their wider network. At Netstar our mission is Helping People Succeed Through Technology, this is something we constantly remind ourselves.
7. Utilise “deep work” signals
People operate more efficiently at various times of the day. Some employees will have a productive drive in the morning once the kids are packed off to school, whilst others will perform better after lunch.
Given home workers have targets to meet, encourage your employees to best utilise the times of day when they are most driven and free from distraction. During these times they should also indicate they do not want to be disturbed by colleagues. Creating a “deep work” signal provides an ideal solution. This could be as simple as an automatic response detailing the set hours you process your inbox.
8. Establish rules of communication
When you’re working in a team it is necessary to communicate with colleagues. However, digital chatting can be a distraction, and, as mentioned above, do not disturb signals should be observed.
There will be times, however, when a member of a remote team needs information quickly in order to make progress with their task. There will also be times when messages are time-sensitive or important updates need announcing.
Creating a communication protocol that includes polite approaches to co-workers should be established. Nudging somebody with a brief message saying, “have you got a sec for a quick chat/call” indicates you are contacting for business purposes, not chit-chat.
9. Consider monitoring software
Keeping track of remote workers can be a thorny topic. Monitoring software can be regarded as a surveillance tool but can be used to provide benefits to staff. For example, if you offer overtime on certain projects, recording how much time remote workers spend on certain tasks and the activities they perform can help to calculate wages accurately and address any potential training issues.
10. Choose the right technology
When offering flexible working options, it’s important to review your IT processes and IT security strategy. You need to be confident that when staff are using their own devices either in or outside the office that security is maintained.
You also need to know that staff can access all the information they need to get their job done, wherever they are working from. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to complete a task because you can’t log on to a system remotely or access a key piece of data. But by using technology wisely, you can ensure your teams can work whenever and wherever; while protecting your processes and keeping sensitive data safe.
With cloud-based technologies and platforms like Microsoft Teams, it’s now easier than ever for employees to access the information they need from anywhere.
How is remote working impacting UK businesses?
Even before the unprecedented demand for home working solutions due to the Coronavirus, remote working has been growing across the UK. Research suggests that remote work will equal or surpass on-site office employment by 2025. What’s more, the Office of National Statistics believes that 50% of UK employees will be working remotely by the end of 2020.
As more companies embrace working remotely, the technologies which enable and enhance the remote working experience continue to improve. Without the right technologies, creating flexible working protocols is simply not possible, so before you decide to implement a remote working policy, make sure you have a system in place that supports your team and your business.
We understand that businesses have their unique needs when it comes to IT. Get in touch with us to find out more about how you can get the most out of remote working for your business.