Globally, businesses are rapidly embracing the flexibility and efficiency of remote working – whether at home, in the lobby of a client’s building or even on the road.
In certain cases, remote working processes and tools were set up quickly in response to COVID-19. On the surface, moving towards a remote workforce might not have seemed like a massive shift but a few months in, you might be finding that some systems are working well, and others may need optimising or replacing. In fact, there are a few things that, if not considered now, could lead to problems and disruptions later.
As your organisation becomes more accustomed to this ‘work from anywhere’ set up, and starts to see the benefits, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your policies, processes and tools to help your teams be even more productive and remove some of the barriers that may have cropped up when they began working remotely. Use these nine tips to assist your team to easily switch between office work and remote working as they need to.
1. Connection speeds
All internet connections are not equal. A mix of technologies, locations, access types and more means that not everyone in the team may be afforded the same connection speeds. This can limit the effectiveness of some data-hungry activities such as video conferencing. So plan your business routine toward the slowest connections on the team, not the fastest.
2. Digital literacy
Some employees may be less familiar or comfortable with the technologies, apps and concepts involved in remote working. Ensure any new policies, instructions and processes are simple, clear and comprehensive. Don’t assume knowledge and do encourage even the most basic of questions. For example, does everyone know what a VPN is, let alone how to use one correctly?
3. Workflow adherence
When people are uncomfortable or unsure about a process, or find it burdensome and unnecessary, they might begin to skip steps, stick with familiar redundant practices, or develop unauthorised shortcuts. Ensure your workflows and processes perform seamlessly, irrespective of where your team members are located. Identify and address any potential points of friction. Encourage adoption of new processes by highlighting how the changes make workers’ jobs easier.
4. Secure remote access
Will your remote workers need to access secure systems or work with sensitive data such as personal customer information? Decide if staff should connect with a virtual private network (VPN) or if another method might be more appropriate, such as a virtual data room (VDR). You may also need to update permissions as duties change, or revoke access when an employee leaves the business. Consider how these changes will be tracked and actioned over time so an ex-staff member doesn’t accidentally retain password access or sensitive information.
5. Content asset management
It can be extremely frustrating to discover the one document you need for the job at hand is in a location you can’t access remotely. To prevent this happening to your team, audit all of the content currently in use – including any sales assets, brochures, forms, templates and so on. If you don’t have one already, consider implementing an online content repository and organise your assets so they aren’t only accessible but also easy to find – even on a much smaller screen.
6. Version control
Sharing documents via email can lead to versioning issues as workers download and edit files locally. Establish a consistent file-naming protocol – such as appending a date or version/edit number to each file – to reduce confusion over which is the correct or most recent version. Better still, a cloud-based content repository can simplify file sharing workflows and may even allow teams to collaborate on the same document in real time.
7. Remote productivity management
Set up clear routines and communications to ensure accountability and monitor progress without eroding anyone’s autonomy. For example, a daily or weekly work-in-progress call and a shared task management tool may be all you need to keep everyone focused on the right priorities and moving in the same direction – even when everyone is working independently.
8. Transition time
Allow time for adjustment; teething issues are inevitable. Workflows may need to be refined, software issues may need resolving and some employees may take a little longer to complete routine tasks as they adjust to new and unfamiliar ways of working.
9. A way to collaborate
Being in different physical locations doesn’t mean that teamwork, brainstorming sessions and meetings can’t take place. By utilising one of the many collaboration tools available; including Microsoft Teams, TIPT virtual meeting rooms and Cisco Webex; your teams will be able to have one-to-one and group audio and video calls. Making use of their laptop’s inbuilt microphone and camera, virtual meetings can become an easily done, and necessary staple to the remote working experience.