In our previous post we looked at what remote working is and how it can benefit your business, we now explore the various methods you can use to deploy this type of working policy. With more and more staff requesting a level of flexibility from their employer, it’s becoming increasingly important for businesses to accommodate such work practices to ensure you can attract and retain the best talent.
Having said that, offering remote working isn’t something to take lightly. There are many factors to consider and elements you should have in place before taking the plunge. Here are some areas to consider when thinking about implementing remote working within your business.
Essential to any remote working policy – what tools will you need? Video Conferencing, Screen Sharing, Instant Messaging, Unified Communication systems, Conference Call Services, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and all manner of collaboration tools…the list is almost endless!
All can help to improve communication and productivity within your business without your employees having to be in the office; but they need to be thought through and put in place carefully, since rushed or badly implemented systems can provide the exact opposite – i.e. loss of productivity and negative employees forced to use systems which aren’t fit for purpose. What you need, of course, will depend on the type and size of your business.
At the very least, the ability to share screens and hold conference calls will enable collaboration with your remote/diverse teams. Video takes things a step further – body language, for example, and just the simple fact someone can be seen, makes the experience more human – i.e. people are not just ‘that voice’ at the end of the phone, allowing for more effective communication and inclusion. With screen sharing software, such as Skype for Business or TeamViewer, you can easily share documents, presentations and imagery. In addition, collaboration tools such as Microsoft OneNote can be edited by multiple people at the same time and it also offers an inbuilt filing and organisation structure that can offer real productivity benefits.
Even when employees are working in the office it’s important for many businesses to have some sort of project or task management system in place, but this can be even more vital when the team member is working remotely. The benefits of such software can be huge – helping with scheduling, assigning tasks within individual projects, and mapping all projects or sub-projects so that team members know what is coming up and how their part will play out and affect other projects (Program Management).
There are all sorts of tools which can be used to help manage a project and keep teams up to date. E.g. Microsoft Project (including Project Pro 365), Microsoft Teams, Slack, Flock, Salesforce, Dynamics, etc, etc. Which tool you chose, depends on the requirement and budget.
It may sound a bit ‘Big Brother’ but when staff are working remotely it isn’t easy for managers to know whether their teams are working to their maximum potential. Although studies suggest remote workers are generally more productive, you need to be certain that this is the case for your team/business.
Regular feedback and reviews will help with this and for many businesses this trust based approach is all that is needed. For those environments needing a little more granularity there are software solutions that can be used to track user behaviour, such as how often their mouse has moved or number of keystrokes. As a secondary benefit if employees are aware that their activities are being monitored they are much more likely to spend their time on task!
One major benefit to the employer, of using behavioural analysis software, is security. A recent IBM study says that 60% of all malicious cyber-attacks on businesses are propagated from within! Tracking behaviours will alert you to events like, an employee decided to download or copy a whole bunch of your data to a USB device. Whilst this may be perfectly innocent; it could also be a cause for concern. Armed with the data, this can be addressed and dealt with properly.
One of the most useful things to have in place is a common file sharing system. I’m sure you’ve experienced the inefficiency of sending emails back and forth with attachments to update a document. Much easier to use a file sharing system, or application such as Microsoft OneNote. Remote Desktops offer a traditional Windows file system with a flexibility that VPN solutions cannot, and are more secure and reliable. However, there are other systems which may work for your business, for example, SharePoint, or CRM tools.
Using all the tools available on the planet won’t make remote working a success for your business if the staff aren’t happy. Be open, and welcome feedback from both your remote staff and office based staff on how they feel the organisations working practices, equipment, systems and policies are working for them. It is essential, to have regular face-to-face meetings with your remote workers, and hold team events, to ensure inclusion with your business and your brand.
The above are some of our generic thoughts to launching a remote working policy, but of course there will be specific needs for your business to consider. However, by adopting remote working practices, and offering flexibility, you are offering choice and in this current market, we believe that the additional flexibility will help you stand out from your competition who do not, to help attract and retain the best talent in your industry. For free no obligation advice, give us call on 020 8099 1502.