How to Embrace Remote Work in Your Organisation
The impact of COVID-19 on everyday life has led many organisations to rapidly shift to remote working in order to continue business as usual. For many, this shift has been huge and represented the first time they had to collaborate, operate and communicate completely online. For example, in July 2020, Fujitsu announced that it planned to move 80,000 of its workers primarily to remote working with what it termed an ‘ambitious campaign’.
Termed the ‘new normal’ by many, remote working seems to be here to stay. A global survey from Gartner Inc. reveals that 74% of CFOs and finance leaders plan to permanently shift their employees to remote work even after COVID-19. In May 2020, Twitter told its employees they could work from home ‘forever’ if they wished to do so, following a successful transition to this business model. In the same month, Facebook announced nearly half of its 50,000 employees will be able to work from home by 2030.
This recent transition-en-masse to remote working has certainly laid bare the advantages and disadvantages of this business model. Many businesses – large and small – can learn from this ‘workplace experiment’. In this article, we’ll discuss the challenges and values of remote working, give suggestions on the best way to make the shift to working online, and outline some of the tools you can use for this new business model.
The challenges of remote working
Information technology, customer service, freelance consulting and marketing are among the business models best suited to adopting remote working. That isn’t to say, of course, that the recent transition-en-masse to remote work has been smooth.
For many, the COVID-19-necessitated shift to remote work has coincided with the temporary closure of preschools and schools, complicating working parents’ ability to work from home. Additionally, the abruptness of this shift has meant the setup of many home workspaces is less than ideal.
COVID-19 aside, there are still many hurdles to making remote work a success.
Lack of clear guidelines
Successful transition to remote work isn’t as simple as downloading some remote-working tools. Clear guidelines, leadership and communication is paramount in a company looking to move its operations online. What do you expect of your employees? How are you going to operate going forwards? Will you have a hybrid approach to working from home? You need to make your policy on these issues clear to avoid confusion and delay further down the line. Find more information on how to set up work from home policies via this link.
Security and privacy
Cyberattacks increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before, companies would manage all information centrally, but now have to collate everything remotely, leaving them more vulnerable to attacks from cybercriminals. It is paramount, therefore, that every employee is educated about and committed to keeping the data they handle securely.
An increasing number of cases of burnout is expected following the COVID-19 pandemic as employees struggle to maintain their work/life balance. This blurred work/life balance can also impact employee collaboration and, by extension, productivity.
This article from April 2020 by EY suggests ‘monitoring togetherness’ as a way to help maintain good collaboration between employees. Having an ‘accountability buddy’ at work is another suggestion – the idea being that you’re keeping in touch with colleagues whilst also positively influencing each other to stay happy and healthy at work.
Other suggestions include: setting clear, achievable goals for each day and checking in regularly with colleagues and superiors.
This email from The Bowery Presents lowers the barrier between the customer and the purchase funnel by putting up clear next actions by each show.
The value of remote working
Despite the challenges, remote work is a good opportunity for companies to extend their reach and reap the benefits over the long term.
In an ideal world, remote working means autonomous, punctual employees, as well as offering you, the employer, access to a wider pool of applicants and lowering your business costs.
Remote working can be a great business model for many reasons including:
According to this article by Global Workplace Analytics, 72% of employers experience a high rate of employee retention when they offer a remote work option. In another survey done by Crain’s Future of Work, 78% of respondents agree that flexible work options and telecommuting are the most effective non-monetary ways of retaining employees.
When done right, remote work leads to an increase in productivity and performance. In this survey by Indeed, 57% of respondents said they felt they’re more productive when they work from home. In this FlexJobs survey, even more respondents (65%) felt this way with fewer distractions and fewer interruptions from colleagues being among the most cited reasons for this positive feeling towards remote working.
By no longer needing to rent office space, you can save or redirect those funds to business development or towards employee benefits.
Access to a larger pool of applicants
Remote work allows you to widen your search area and find the most talented individuals regardless of their location. With the whole world as your talent pool, the opportunity to find the best person is limitless.
Tools you need to get started
|Reliable home internet connection & a mobile hotspot|
Aid the smooth running of your day with a fast, reliable internet connection. A mobile hotspot is great for internet access on-the-go that can also save you from a power interruption
Remote desktop software
Easily and securely access your work computer from another location
Team communication app
Any easier way to work together and more casual and engaging than email
Video conferencing app
Achieve effective communication by hearing and seeing each other
File and disk encryption
Prevent cybercriminals from accessing sensitive information
2FA or Two-Factor Authentication
Add a layer of protection to your passwords to help prevent falling victim to cybercrime
VPN (Virtual private network)
Enhance privacy and security and bypass geographic restrictions or censorship.
Cut repetitive tasks and automate tasks like information consolidation in spreadsheets, lead follow-ups, or social media postings
The best practices for shifting to remote work
Efficient communication is the key to successful remote working.
Check-in with your team and make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s also important to make sure you ask for help when you need it.
Make a schedule and prioritise
Remote work means more flexibility but more accountability. Make sure to stick to your regular work schedule and agenda and utilise the company calendar to stay updated and adhere to deadlines.
Create a separate workspace at home
A workspace away from household clutter and the childrens’ noise is an ideal setup. You could even put office hours or a ‘do not disturb sign on your office-space door to help set boundaries with those you live with.
Take scheduled and timed breaks
It’s important to step away from your desk for a while to get some space from your work and stretch your legs. Doing so allows for the necessary mental distance from work that can be so hard to achieve when remote working.
Schedule occasional in-person meetings
Whenever possible, schedule quarterly in-person meetings. This is the best way to ensure everyone’s feeling comfortable with how things are going at work. You’ll pick up on any office politics issues that might be brewing, and engage in a meaningful way with the people you work with.
How can I apply this to my business?
Transitioning to remote working may seem daunting, but with a good plan and effective communication strategies, it can be successful, as we see from Fujitsu’s example. Here we’ve put together some practical ideas for how to apply the remote working model to your business.
Conduct a full audit of your current working model. Decide what remote working model suits you and write down clear guidelines for your employees. It’s important to communicate these guidelines to your employees so everyone knows where they stand. It’s also worth updating these guidelines as time goes on and you see in practice how the new situation is working for your business and employees. For more on setting up remote working policies, Amity [Link here] has some great tips.
The last thing you want at any time for your business is a data breach. Transitioning to a remote working model means acknowledging the increased risk to your business security and doing something about it. Make sure you have robust data security policies in place before making the switch to remote work. Educate your employees about these policies. Make sure your employees are committed to keeping the data they handle securely. Advisera [Link here] has some more great advice on data security policies when remote working.
Working from home can feel isolating which, in turn, can affect an employee’s performance at work. It’s harder to gauge how your employees are doing when you don’t see them in person but by keeping in regular casual contact with your employees through platforms like Slack you may be able to identify any issues at home or work sooner. Asking for suggestions from your employees on how to improve the situation for them can be helpful too. You should even be prepared to buy office equipment to help create a good work-from-home environment as well as investing time/money in training sessions for remote working tools. More great tips on helping your employees work better from home can be found at EY [Link here].
Remote work offers many benefits, from a wider applicant pool to increased employee productivity. However, it has the potential to produce burnt-out, ineffective workers if the conditions aren’t right.
We hope this article has been helpful in pinpointing the pitfalls to avoid when making the switch to digital working, as well as offering some useful information on the tools you can use to make this business model work for you.
Walter Analytics has been remote-work-friendly for a long time. For advice on how to change to a remote working business model, or if you have already shifted to remote work but need automation for your business, please reach out to us via our website www.walteranalytics.com.