Perhaps your organization once entertained the notion of a remote work environment or even dipped its toe in offering a more flexible work schedule for a few associates. Then COVID-19 hit — and everything changed.
Seemingly overnight, working from home became the new norm as states issued stay-at-home orders and many offices closed. In fact, according to Gallup data, 62 percent of employed adults said they were working from home due to COVID-19, up from 31 percent in mid-March.
However, even prior to COVID-19 remote work was on the rise. Consider this: Flexjobs research found that remote work has grown 44 percent over the last five years, and today accounting, for example, has become one of the most common remote jobs in the Flex jobs database. Separately, a recent survey by human resource consulting firm Robert Half found that more than half of senior managers surveyed said their organization has expanded remote work opportunities for employees in the past three years.
Given advancements in technology like cloud-based solutions and shifts in employee expectations and desires, these findings come as little surprise.
Looking ahead, the reality is that remote work is here to stay. To keep pace, organizations must learn how to make remote work a success for both their associates and their clients. What’s important is having the right tools, resources and mindset in place to succeed in the new norm.
What does this mean? To further explain, this article outlines three keys to successfully working in a remote environment.
Let’s take a closer look.
1. Establish a Strong, Secure Infrastructure
When working from home, it is essential to ensure a strong infrastructure for business continuity and security. This means having the right technology and security measures in place to better protect both your business and your clients.
For starters, it is important that all associates have a quality internet connection and, if not, then upgrading their service package or router for faster speeds may be necessary.
There are even several sites, like SpeedSmart and Xfinity Speed Test to name a few, that can help associates test their home connection.
As noted in a blog post by BroadandSearch.net, potential causes for a slow in-ternet connection include:
• Too much network usage;
• The router is malfunctioning;
• There’s an outage in the area;
• The WiFi signal is being blocked;
• There’s malware or a virus; or
• The ISP is throttling your connection.
It is also essential to ensure that all staff working from home have secure access to core firm applications and up-to-date data.
Enter cloud-based software.
One of the benefits of using cloud-based applications is the ability to store and share data securely between software applications. This helps ensure business continuance — no matter the situation. Therefore, leveraging cloud-based soft-ware that supports strong data integration and implements best practices in data security is critical.
For instance, consider a cloud provider that delivers the following in data security:
• Databases are encrypted at both the field level and database level;
• Data is transmitted by and moved within its system using Transport Layer Se-curity (TLS) protocol and 2048-bit encryption;
• Has strict controls and procedures governing security of data and undergoes an annual extensive SOC 2 Type 2 audit to ensure compliance;
• Systems have 24x7 live monitoring of potential threats and system issues; and
• Uses multi-factor authentication for login security.
2. Focus on Collaboration
Ensuring efficient collaboration among both staff and clients is especially critical when working in a remote environment given the lack of face-to-face interaction. Therefore, it is important to have the right collaboration tools in place such as instant messaging, video conferencing and client portals.
In fact, a recent global survey found that nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of full-time knowledge workers have increased their use of collaboration tools since shifting to remote work due to the pandemic.
To further illustrate, Microsoft’s Modern Workplace Transformation team exam-ined how remote work has changed its own collaboration habits and, in a recent blog post, revealed the following:
• Check-ins and team social meetings, many enabled by video, grew by 10 per-cent;
• The number of instant messages surged 72 percent;
• Shorter meetings (30 minutes or less) increased 22 percent; and
• Weekly meeting time increased 10 percent.
The bottom line: Help ensure that associates feel connected and engaged when working remotely by having the right collaboration tools and resources in place. Furthermore, in today’s “always on” business environment, clients expect the organizations they do business with to provide them with an efficient and secure way to communicate and exchange information, regardless of your staff’s location.
3. Embrace a Positive Work-From-Home Culture
For many organizations one of the biggest challenges can be change manage-ment. To help ensure that working remotely works for your business it is im-portant to foster a positive work-from-home culture.
What does this mean? For starters, it is important to give employees a level of autonomy. Let go of your instincts to micromanage and trust that they will put in the hours to get their work done.
It is also important to be mindful of communication timing (i.e., what time zone are they located? What are the expected working hours?), and to clarify which channels to use for certain communication. For instance, software provider Know Your Team suggests that remote managers clarify the following with their team:
• What’s the default mode of communication? Email? Video call? Chat? Phone call?
• Which channel/tool should be used for which kind of communication?
• Who else should be copied on a message, if anyone?
• When something is urgent, how should it be communicated? What about when it’s not?
• What’s the right cadence for checking in on a certain communication?
Encouraging a healthy work-life balance is also important to help avoid employee burnout, as disconnecting can be especially challenging when working remote.
The bricks-and-mortar office may not be obsolete, but there’s no denying that remote work is here to stay. To underscore this point, a recent PwC survey found that most office workers (83 percent) want to work from home at least one day a week, and half of employers (55 percent) anticipate that most of their workers will do so long after COVID-19 is not a concern.
To remain competitive and ensure business continuity in the event of the unexpected, organizations must have the right tools and resources in place. This means leveraging the efficiencies and security of cloud-based solutions, implementing collaboration tools for staff and clients, and nurturing a positive work-from-home culture.
The new normal is here. Is your organization set up for success?