While social distancing continues, mandatory remote working has become an unavoidable reality for organisations. And even after restrictions are eased, a full or partial remote workforce looks set to continue to be the ‘new normal’ for the foreseeable future.
Remote working has already been growing in popularity in recent years, helped by technologies such as videoconferencing and instant messaging. However, many organisations are still lacking many of the tools, infrastructures and skills needed to enable a fully operational, remote workforce.
A common refrain is that ‘every company now needs to be a technology company’, as employers are forced to embrace the realities of operating in an increasingly digital world – which now includes ensuring employees can work within a ‘virtual office’ from any connected location. So, how can employers bring their teams into this new paradigm? Robert Half spoke with digital transformation leader Richard Raj of Knight’s Move Consulting, for his advice on how to get your team working remotely as quickly as possible.
For most employees who work mainly from their computers and devices, Raj says that connecting remotely to the office won’t be anything new. “For example, IT and digital teams routinely work from home or off-site, or are on call after hours, so they’ve had a lot of practice.”
“However, it may not be something more office-bound teams like HR, finance and procurement are as familiar with.” Raj says there can be further hurdles for teams like sales and marketing, where face-to-face interaction is often essential. Therefore, it’s crucial to provide them with remote working tools that are readily accessible and easy for everyone to use.
For company leaders who need to transition their teams quickly, Raj says it’s important to consider:
1. Infrastructure capacity
Can your organisation handle high volumes of staff connecting remotely to its network? If your on-site systems aren’t already designed around remote working, this can be both difficult and risky. “The other option is collaboration via DaaS (desktop as a service) tools where you access everything through the cloud, and only need to be concerned with the capacity your cloud provider can allocate to you.” For SMBs with moderate IT capabilities, this is a much-preferred option as they generally do not have a VPN or another private network to rely on for remote working.
Security needs to be a top priority when staff are working remotely – especially for organisations that are unable to supply every employee with a secured company device or laptop. Raj says that personal mobile devices will be especially popular as a way for staff to connect from home and other locations for staff meetings and chats.
Raj recommends using collaboration software that runs in a secure session in the device, protected by the latest encryption protocols. “It’s also vital that employees are required to log in using multi-factor or two-factor authentication,” says Raj, such as a password along with a one-time PIN or challenge question.
3. Collaboration tools
A key challenge of managing a remote workforce, or even a semi-remote workforce, is being able to continue the different types of conversations that feed into creating a positive and productive workplace. So, it’s essential to create separate channels through which employees can engage and collaborate – including ones specifically for:
- General work tasks
- Project collaborations
- General work and social conversations
- Showing present/away status
- Connecting with customers
While it almost goes without saying, choosing tools that everyone in the team can learn quickly is essential for upholding productivity, and ensuring managers can continue to provide effective team support and leadership. That’s where DaaS products have the advantage over more home-grown solutions, says Raj. “They are almost a turn-key solution, where all the collaboration tools, storage and file sharing are available in one place through a subscription model.”
Working with a cloud-based desktop allows even those departments that have less experience in remote working to get up to speed with the technology quickly, he says. While some training is still needed, employees can get started by working their way through online tutorials, with specialised training also available if needed.
Staying in touch with customers
Staying engaged with customers can be a challenge for organisations in the current climate. “This is something that you will want to give top priority, because you don’t want to have a vacuum in communication with key customers – especially in the current economy, where it’s important to maintain that ‘open for business’ perception.”
Organisations today need to have a clear view and strategy in place about how their teams can engage with customers online when face-to-face communication isn’t possible. That’s where Raj says having alternative channels available, like a call centre, is essential. “Again, a DaaS tool can also be used to run a remote call centre, so sales and support staff can continue to be available to customers while working from home.”
A study by HubSpot found that lack of customer support is one of the five top five reasons customers leave for a competitor. With remote working set to become a ‘new normal’ for many employers even after social distancing has ended, building a strong foundation of remote collaboration and communication within teams will be more important than ever before.
Robert Half has already assisted hundreds of clients source and onboard high-quality talent remotely. Find out how we can help your remote team stay in touch with your customers and with each other.