The coronavirus outbreak has triggered a worldwide boom in remote work adoption. In comparison, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2019 only 29% of Americans had been working from home in some capacity. In a bid to stem the pandemic spread through social distancing, however, companies have been forced to roll out digital offices at record speed, deploying virtual collaboration tools such as document management solutions, video conferencing apps, and project management software, while trying to adopt new business and management models.
What advice should businesses follow to facilitate effective remote collaboration? Let’s find out.
Lessons Learned from the New World of Remote Collaboration
From reduced expenses, faster communication, and enhanced employee engagement, the fully remote way of working and collaborating presents enticing opportunities for organizations. However, despite the pressing need to adopt telework, many companies still find the shift to telecommuting challenging.
The work-from-home arrangement raises concerns about the balancing of employee privacy with organizational security and control. Some workers struggle with isolation and distraction, exerting themselves to reach full productivity outside of the formal, supervised office environment. How can companies remedy these concerns and navigate remote collaboration with confidence? Here are some tips that can help them deal with flexible work patterns more efficiently.
1. Instill and cultivate the remote work culture
The entire conversation about embracing remote work tends to focus upon technical capacities, but establishing effective work-from-home programs requires more than just new tech. It is an embedding of the digital-first mindset that many companies which are accustomed to the usual onsite work arrangements are struggling with the most.
For businesses to integrate the new way of operation, it’s essential to reevaluate the current strategy and gear it toward effective communication and nimble decision-making. All workflows should be reviewed and modified to account for the challenges and opportunities created by the new work routine.
Deploying a virtual onboarding process will help all employees get on the same page and will provide them with clear guidance, directions, and recommendations on how to deal with the new situation. Large organizations may benefit from setting up digital workplace teams dedicated to supporting workers in the remote work transition.
2. Get ahead of IT requests
The COVID-19 outbreak has caught a significant portion of businesses unaware, laying bare the weakness of corporate ITC systems and exposing the lack of preparedness for managing teams remotely. Suddenly faced with the crisis, many organizations found out their IT infrastructures were not ready to accommodate long-term digital collaboration on a massive scale.
Now, companies are making amends, rolling out technical infrastructures needed to allow secure access to services and information for teleworkers. They are evaluating storage, bandwidth, and capacity needs and pushing cloud deployments to enable ubiquitous access to information, easy backup, and rapid disaster recovery. Organizations are also expanding VPN connections and switching to remote desktops to establish a safe working environment for all employees, on- and off-site.
3. Implement the right collaborative tools
As the pandemic hit home globally, collaborative solutions have seen a surge in demand. Apart from video conferencing tools, document sharing solutions such as Office 365 play a vital role in enabling remote work. According to Statista, Office 365 is used by over 1 million companies worldwide, including more than 600,000 businesses in the USA.
Document collaboration tools offer value beyond centralized content storage and organization. Integrated with critical business systems, they facilitate and speed up document retrieval and sharing, automate version control, and keep all stakeholders aligned. As a centralized resource, these solutions offer a high level of traceability and transparency, which is essential to maintain close control over files with a large group of editors and contributors. They empower workers to access, manage, and update documentation from any place, replacing interminable email trails, getting rid of clashing file versions, and saving precious storage space.
4. Prioritize security
Security is a crucial consideration when providing employees with remote workstations. We have already mentioned how businesses are upgrading connectivity to mitigate risks on the IT infrastructure end. To build resilience and security required to support a remote workforce, they need to create a sustainable confidentiality and security culture that covers the day-to-day activities and procedures.
Especially in a remote setting where reliability and security of employees’ home Wi-Fi are beyond the control of office IT management, it’s imperative that everyone understands common cyberthreats such as malware and phishing. Companies should continually raise security awareness among teams through training and knowledge-sharing, and limit data access to the need-to-know basis on every level of organization.
5. Embrace a results-oriented approach
The mandatory shift to telework sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic brings us another valuable learning about remote collaboration. Without constant eyesight on employees, it’s impossible to monitor team schedules closely, so the traditional time-focused management becomes pointless. In a remote arrangement where workers enjoy greater freedom, the established system of evaluating teams on the account of how busy they look collapses; the only viable way of measuring employee performance is by adopting a results-oriented approach.
Instead of rewarding people for putting in long hours at work, results-oriented management prioritizes one key factor — work outcomes. By shifting the focus from measuring work time to measuring the actual performance, companies can gain employee trust, drive team engagement, and boost productivity without resorting to digital surveillance.
COVID-19 is seen as a turning point that will forever change the way we work and collaborate. Considering that the flexible style of working, evolving right now, may soon become a permanent setup for many organizations, businesses worldwide are applying the above lessons and turning to collaborative software solutions as the enablers. That’s a long-term investment that not only allows them to mitigate the ongoing crisis but also to get ready to deal with the increased pressure of the work from home, should disaster strike again in the future.