Following our recent articles that have both defined remote working and presented the many benefits of implementing this type of policy, here we look at 5 common challenges businesses will face, and tips for how you can overcome them.
By now, if you have been reading our previous posts, you will hopefully understand the benefits but, to briefly recap, we have found remote working can benefit your business by: Expanding your businesses access to a wider, potentially international, talent pool, decreasing your company’s office space & carbon footprint, reducing costs, providing flexibility to your workforce and, hopefully, increasing productivity – to name a few.
So, what are the key challenges of implementing a remote working policy and how can you overcome them?
A big concern for business leaders considering remote working. Will remote staff will be less productive, given possible external distractions (e.g. young family, daytime TV, etc)? There have been numerous studies that directly oppose this view, showing that staff show considerable improvements in their work output. Reasons for increased productivity include: Not having to do the daily soul destroying and energy sapping commute, less distractions – not interrupted by gossip, chatter and noise, and (for many people most importantly) flexibility to work at times which suit them most.
How to overcome: What are you trying to overcome? The fear of potential lower productivity or, is there an issue of low productivity in the first place? The first is easiest to address – some ideas are: Chat to other business leaders at networking events to see what has worked for them and the types of roles they think work well remotely. Make sure the tools, systems and processes needed to support remote working are in place before rolling out. Carry out a home office/remote worker risk assessment (including connectivity to the workers home is adequate).
Overcoming an existing productivity issue is something else entirely, which needs to be investigated and root cause understood – simply adding remote working in to the mix will almost certainly not fix this!
2. Team Cohesion
Staff that work from home will inevitably have less physical and social interaction with their office-based colleagues. If building a company culture where unity is key amongst your staff, this could be an issue. Additionally, some roles require regular face to face meetings, and others may not work at all (e.g. call centre operators). For roles that should easily work remotely, the simple way to overcome this is to organise regular office based meetings and team activities & socials to keep up the levels of direct interaction amongst team members. If you’re a little nervous about moving to a full remote working policy you could consider a part-time policy, such as, 2 office days/ 3 remote working days, to give you the best of both worlds.
With cyber-attacks, hacking and on-line fraud becoming increasingly common, and some of the world’s largest institutions falling victim to such attacks, the need for businesses to improve their digital security has never been more important. Having your team all based in the office and using the same IT system can seem an easier way to manage cyber security, however, if done correctly you can overcome this and maintain security properly for remote staff (and office staff). For example, by ensuring only approved devices are used for company business, and these devices have the correct security tools installed, you can reduce risk significantly. At the bear minimum, a good standard for companies to follow is that their policies and working practices comply with the government backed Cyber Essentials scheme, or better, Cyber Essentials Plus. IT service providers, like secureVirtual, can help organisations to understand their specific threat landscape and provide recommendations (e.g. which tools to use) to reduce or mitigate risks, and can also provide consultancy help to pass the Cyber Essentials audit process.
We’ve discussed team cohesion, which of course includes elements of communication. However, more instant and day-to-day communication with remote workers can be tricky – staff can’t simply turn to one another at the next desk and ask a quick question (although this can be a good thing to reduce distractions). To help overcome this possible communication disconnection, utilising instant messaging tools such as Skype for Business (SfB) can ensure that simple, quick contact is still possible. Such services can also provide a complete company dashboard for who is available, e.g. who is on vacation, or who is in a meeting. Furthermore, extending your IP phone system (e.g. soft-phones) to the home/remote workers, can further increase the breadth of communication and the same familiar experience of being in the office. Although remote workers often work more varied hours you may wish to set some defined or core hours where they must be available to contact. Should you have any remote staff working internationally you’ll also need to take time differences into account. This is normally a simple case of being aware of the difference and synchronising your working hours as best as possible. The key to successful communication is, ironically, successful communication, of your policies, expectations and procedures for remote working…
Without the right tools in place before launching a remote working policy you’re likely to encounter problems. Working away from the office removes a lot of the simplicity and familiarity that your staff will have become accustomed to when working from the office. Tools such as the communication apps mentioned above plus, document sharing solutions, and project/task management software are all key to remote working success. So how do you overcome this challenge and put in place a suite of standardised tools which will enable and empower your staff? Remote Desktops are a great way to implement centralised control and deploy tools for use across the staff base, both remote and office staff. In addition, and often in combination with remote hosted desktops, the use of virtual application delivery or applications packaged as a SaaS (Software as a Service) product, can offer remote and office workers a shared, familiar experience.
These are 5 common challenges secureVirtual have identified when considering facilitating remote working within your business. If you have any other concerns or want to find out more please do contact us on 020 8099 1502.