Taking the lead from businesses such as Amazon, Apple, Google, JPMorgan, Microsoft, and Twitter, businesses all around the world are allowing, if not mandating, that employees work from home to help limit the spread of and ease concerns about coronavirus (COVID-19).
We expect many others to follow suit – even entire industries—such as education and healthcare—are expected to adopt this method. The situation is prompting companies to get acquainted with the best practices of efficient remote working and telecommuting.
Here’s a look at what you need to consider when supporting remote working:
# 1: Offer the Right Communications and Collaboration Tools
Various Frost & Sullivan surveys show that the primary challenge for adopting remote working strategies is the need to maintain effective communications and collaboration. Therefore, providing individuals with the right software and hardware tools is crucial to enable an efficient remote working environment.
A shift in workplace dynamics and rapid technology evolution has given rise to unified communications as a service (UCaaS) and a variety of cloud-based services. Today, companies have a long list of cloud-based telephony, meetings, and team collaboration services from which to choose from. Free versions of these tools are often available to accommodate businesses without the economic resources to license them or pre-deployment testing requirement the various tools among their employees.
Regarding video collaboration, changing demographics in the workplace, combined with technological advancements in terms of Internet connectivity, portability, and functionality, are making rich video-first interactions with individuals or groups as mainstream and ubiquitous as audio conversations.
Team collaboration services have also seen tremendous growth in recent years, with more users conducting a vast proportion of their teamwork within growing collaboration hubs such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex Teams, Slack, and Workplace by Facebook. While these tools are widely available and proliferating, Frost & Sullivan recommends that companies carefully evaluate them for use in supporting remote working. Factors to consider include:
- Ease of use
- Speed of innovation
Of course, no software-based communications and collaboration service experience is complete without adequate endpoints. Businesses and organizations need to enhance their employees’ communication and collaboration experience by leveraging proper audio and video communications hardware endpoints such as IP desktop phones and PC USB UCC headsets, cameras, and speakers, among others. In this respect, home offices should be on par with or even better than offices to support an efficient and productive off-site working experience.
While the quality of communications and collaboration is paramount, businesses should also carefully evaluate device factors such as:
- Form factor
- Feature set
Built-in product features, such as active noise canceling in UCC headsets or multi-connectivity capabilities in an endpoint, can certainly address various challenges in remote working environments. These include ambient noise control, the need to shift from one device to another, or the ability to enable call management control.
Frost & Sullivan strongly recommends that businesses extending their remote working capabilities to employees carefully select software and hardware communications and collaboration tools based on the different criteria stated above and the various objectives they wish to achieve.
# 2: Ask Workers for Their Opinion and Feedback
Many businesses and organizations that have successfully moved to remote working practices place the worker’s opinion and feedback at the center of the process. Across the years, the role of IT has evolved significantly. What was once the go-to place for any technology decisions has become more about risk, security, and governance. The part IT used to play — deciding and driving tech solutions to business problems — is now shared with line-of-business managers and even end users.
Mimicking the trend of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is the revolution of bring-your-own software or application (BYOS or BYOA). With the rise of innovative cloud-based communications and collaboration services, more software is spreading through companies in bottom-up adoption patterns. An increasing array of user groups is demanding access to software communications and collaboration services that are helping them better perform their jobs.
As more millennials and digital natives start influencing workplace culture, companies are starting to beef up their BYOS and BYOA programs. That is especially true since organizations are now not only competing for business but also to attract and retain talent. Addressing the expectations of the changing demographics of the workforce in terms of work flexibility and tools used for work is key.
With the new ways of work, employees are no longer tied to their desks, judged by their presence in the office, and how late in the day they stay. Employees are working from everywhere, using their personal devices to join meetings, and collaborating on the fly with less structured, less formal meetings.
Newer generations prefer chat tools and video collaboration over voice. Today, cloud-based video and team collaboration services are being recognized as more efficient alternatives to traditional audioconferencing services.
Frost & Sullivan recommends that companies ask their users questions such as:
- What communications and collaboration tools can help you be more efficient?
- Are we offering the right fit for you today?
- How can we improve our business, in general, as well as our communications and collaboration capabilities?
Ultimately, the nature of communications and collaboration is about people and their ability to establish rapport, which then yields higher productivity.
#3: Enhance Your Corporate Information Resources
All companies wishing to extend their telecommuting capabilities should enrich their intranets, central knowledge bases, or wikis to provide individuals access to all materials necessary to perform their job tasks efficiently. Tools such as educational resources, company info, organizational charts, a list of frequently asked questions, company alerts, and other online resources are necessary to help in the daily job of telecommuters.
Remote workers, more than anyone else, want to feel informed. In this respect, companies and organizations need to provide all necessary information and resources, to empower their workers — and allow them to learn about the latest and greatest in the organization —without wasting time searching for information.
Enhancing corporate information resources also involves the practice of conducting continuous online courses and training that improve worker skills and knowledge about the job. Geography and location should never be a boundary when it comes to training and education.
#4: Make Them Feel Included
Because remote workers might feel isolated if not frequently engaging, it’s imperative to establish frequent and fulfilling communications with them. That is why many companies are investing time and resources in developing activities that promote individual/team engagement, individual/team recognition, and team bonding.
Common activities are:
- Periodic physical gatherings (e.g., meeting at events, visiting offices, playing sports, having lunch, in-person team exercises)
- Periodic recognitions based on performance
- Celebrating special dates (birthdays, holidays, key milestones)
- Fun-content communications (magazines, weekly stories, memes, etc.)
The result is a dynamic environment that advances employee engagement to similar or greater levels than in the physical workplace.
#5: Security is Paramount
Security concerns are the primary reason why some companies are still reluctant to adopt a remote working model. But the security solutions market has progressed substantially over the last several years. Advances in virtualized environments, multifactor authentication (MFA), and next-generation encryption have set the conditions required for the security solutions market to flourish. Essential security controls such as firewall/network address translation traversal, encryption, and IP VPN deployment options should be a strategic priority for the entire remote working program. The implementation of behavioral analytics can also help in detecting suspicious activity.
In addition to implementing the right security measures for remote working, deploying technologies that comply with different regulated environments and industries is important. Data sovereignty and privacy concerns have never been stronger. Regional legislation on data and privacy, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), all have different postures on how and what data are stored, as well as which data repositories and systems of record are controlling and transacting the data.
#6: Compliance and Management
Concrete compliance and management practices should also be put in place to set clear expectations for and outline rules governing remote work. Aspects such as setting up hours for employees to connect or be available, communicating clear work objectives, keeping project tracking records — e.g., electronic timekeeping system) — and complying with travel rules and cost requirements are some of the policies that companies and organizations should consider to more efficiently manage their remote office practices.
As the remote working model continues to gain momentum, companies and organizations can efficiently take advantage of remote working strategies to retain talent, access a larger labor pool, and achieve general cost savings, among other objectives. However, if implemented without the proper best practices, remote working could become a double-edged sword. Frost & Sullivan, therefore, highly recommends that companies and organizations seriously consider the above-mentioned best practices for a successful and thriving remote working implementation.