Working from Home – How Can You Make It Work For You?
As the spread of Covid-19 changes working practices for businesses all over the world, the requirement for staff to be able to work from home effectively is in the spotlight more than ever before. It has been predicted that at its peak, 20% of the UK could be off work.
There can be no doubt that instructing employees in high-risk areas to work from home can be an effective strategy for stopping the spread of the virus, but how can you manage the potential implications for business productivity?
CNN has called the outbreak the ‘biggest work from home experiment in history’ and the changes bought about from it have the potential to permanently change the way that many businesses work in the long term if they prove to be successful.
Microsoft has released some guidance on the issue, and staff at leading companies across the world have already been advised to work from home wherever they can.
Many organisations are facing the prospect of making the transition to a work from home culture almost overnight, with little time to prepare or implement new tools or policies.
At Cloud Direct we already have a distributed workforce, with staff working from home and our offices in various locations.
Our remote working policy is well established and has been refined over time, so what are some of the key factors we have learnt that you could learn from?
Make use of the tools available for working from home
Many businesses already have access to unified communication tools that are not being used to their full potential. One of the most common and effective of these applications is Microsoft Teams. The full Teams solution is included in all Office 365 subscriptions of Business Premium or above, and there are even free tiers you can use to get started with connecting your users.
Microsoft Teams includes a range of features to keep your organisation productive whilst everyone works from home, including:
- Live chat and collaboration features to keep communication lines open
- Video call capabilities built in to keep meetings going ahead
- Connected apps for collaborative work on files
- 3rd party integration for a wide range of apps and plugins
At Cloud Direct, Teams is central to our business, with the majority of meetings both internal and external set up through the application and all files accessible through integration with Sharepoint. Our team members communicate and collaborate easily wherever they happen to be located all through the single application view that Teams provides.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Having staff working remotely makes communication crucial. Even more so than before. It’s easy for team members to quickly feel isolated when they are used to the natural conversations that occur throughout a working day in an office.
Combat this by setting regular catch up calls during the working from home period. Have a set time each day where all members of a team can ‘huddle’ and share their task list, any planned meetings and cover any recent updates or achievements can make a big difference to the morale and spirit of a remote team.
At Cloud Direct each manager runs these regular huddles, ensuring all team members are included and contributing to the shared goals of the business. Supplemented by the chat feature in teams, this regular communication means one of the key blockers to remote and home working is overcome.
Consider how teams work differently
Using technology to work remotely may come as second nature to many, with some of the more tech-savvy departments and staff in businesses potentially already using applications such as Slack or Microsoft Teams to collaborate on tasks and communicate wherever they are.
Others may need a period of adjustment to make working from home effective for them and may require additional support and training to allow them to be productive. It’s important for team members must be provided with the tools they need to feel comfortable in their newly adapted roles, even if the working from home period is a short term enforced one.
Enabling these workers in the short term to adapt to the current situation will pay off further in the long term when they are enabled to work and collaborate in new ways.
Make security your #1 priority
When staff start working remotely, they will be connecting from networks that are not provided or controlled by the company. This can increase the risks associated with their work and you should have the tools and policies in place to guard against this.
Before moving to a work from home policy ensure you’ve got all grounds covered. Make sure you’ve taken the simple steps such as enabling Multi-Factor Authentication for all users. If you are providing laptops and other equipment to staff, ensure that they have up to date firewalls, device encryption, web filtering and other security measures applied. Set clear policies for working on public Wi-Fi networks and add encrypted VPNs where possible so that sensitive information is not being accessed on open networks. Providing a secure workplace, in and out of the office, should be a priority for your business.
These steps should be supported by regular training and security awareness updates for staff. In the case that working from home needs to be enforced at short notice, create a clear one-page document that aligns the key security policies and expectations for your organisation that is accepted by all team members before they start remote working.
Getting started with working from home
Whether widespread working from home will be enforced in the UK over the coming months remains to be seen. However, by implementing effective tools and creating robust policies, you can put your business in a strong position for building a flexible and adaptable modern workforce enabled by technology.