Preparing your business for a remote future

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the move towards remote and home working dramatically. It now makes sense for every business to prepare for a future in which working away from the office or primary business location is the norm.

That will mean making sure that employees have the appropriate equipment, access to software and services, security, and connectivity. It will also mean changing the way that you operate and interact with staff and how they are managed. This will include dealing with human resources issues and ensuring that you can keep a watch on their mental health and well-being.

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The need for remote work

It has long been recognised for some time that commuting to work every day and travelling long distances for business meetings is often at best unnecessary and at worst, counter-productive. Yet somehow, we were unable to break old habits.

Even so, the trend had been inexorably towards home and remote working long before coronavirus forced every organisation to embrace the practice. Indeed, this is perhaps one of the silver linings to come out of this unprecedented and unfortunate situation. Even those business-owners and managers and who were most vehemently opposed to the idea have been forced to acknowledge that it works and must now be a part of the future.

Many employees have been asking to work at home more often and they can now expect that to be the norm.

Home working has been proven to deliver higher levels of productivity, flexibility, and job satisfaction. By reducing the need to commute to work and travel for business purposes, it reduces both cost and reduces stress for employees. As a result, they are happier, more motivated and produce better work.

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The challenges of remote work

Remote and home working does present some new challenges to organisations. First of all, there is the problem of ensuring that everyone can stay connected at speeds that will allow them to work efficiently and effectively. Those connections must be secure, so that the data that flows across them is secure. This is good business practice and it’s also necessary to ensure compliance with GDPR and other regulations.

In addition, there is the need to keep employees connected and engaged with the business and its goals and ethos, and to ensure that they are happy, healthy, and motivated in their roles. It is relatively easy to bring teams of people together and keep an eye on individuals or have a quiet chat with them when everyone gathers in the workplace every day. Doing that over a video conferencing platform is a much greater challenge.

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Focus on communication (Teams, Slack, etc)

Just about everyone who works in an office-based role, will have been using video-conferencing and / or collaboration tools extensively over the past few months – and that’s going to continue as home and remote working becomes part of our every-day working lives. Indeed, most workers are now familiar and entirely comfortable using tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Slack. There has been a phenomenal increase in use of all these platforms and others.

But they are not all the same. It is important to make sure that the communications tools being used are suitable for your organisation’s needs. You can only do this by identifying those requirements and then selecting which platform to standardise upon. This will ensure that you maintain consistent communications, that staff can be properly trained, and supported, and that you can properly monitor and manage activity and contacts.

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Ease remote work into daily life

Managing employees working remotely is an entirely different challenge to managing them when they are in the office. Different processes and procedures are needed. Rather than gathering in a vacant meeting room, you now need to of bring people together – as teams and for one-to-one meetings – virtually.

While this has some advantages in that everyone can see and hear what’s happening and should be fully-focused on the discussion or briefing. It also presents some challenges. People who are on the periphery of a meeting, may not always be paying close attention to it – and you won’t be able to see what else is going on in their location at that time. The interaction between teams and individuals is not the same either.

You may need to develop different ways of managing meetings to deal with these challenges. But whatever you do, you should introduce the changes steadily and ease them into the daily routine. For many people, working from home has been a massive change – and it’s not necessarily one that every individual would have wished for and further changes may not be welcomed by these individuals.

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Choose the right broadband as an employee

Both businesses and employees need to make the right choice when it comes to broadband. Organisations will need to have enough capacity to cope with the increased traffic that will be generated by remote workers connecting to the network using VPNs or other point-to-point connections.

Equally, employees need to ensure that they have a broadband service that will be sufficient for their home working needs. While a standard, ADSL2+ connection may be enough for everyday email and web browsing, it might not be sufficient for good quality video conferencing and sharing screens through collaboration tools. For this kind of connectivity, they may need superfast (FTTC) or ultrafast (FTTC) broadband services.

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Stabilise the workforce – employees who do well thrive, employees who don’t may not be the right fit

Remote and home working is going to be a way of life in the future. It will be here to stay long after we have found ways to minimise or irradicate the coronavirus. Some people will take to it very well indeed and feel entirely comfortable working is isolation day after day. But not everyone will find it easy and the changes that may need to be made to working practices may unsettle them even more.

While it is important to recognise this – and to remember that people may be facing other challenges in their own lives. Specialist training or mentoring may be needed to help some individuals. Whether they are working in the office or remotely from it. ensuring that you have a stable team in place that is going to thrive and build and grow when working remotely will continue to be vitally important.

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