Remote work is here to stay, and there are several tools and processes businesses can implement to ensure employees who work from home full or part time can work efficiently. Even team members who work full-time in the office can benefit from many of these.
- Create a detailed onboarding plan specifically for remote workers.
- Use a unified system with SSO for access to all applications and platforms.
- Document which communication technologies should be used in different scenarios.
- Take a second look at whether certain meetings are necessary.
- Use collaborative software for teams to work together seamlessly.
- Think about using a virtual office platform to foster a sense of presence.
- Offer easily accessible remote IT support and security training.
- Leverage data visualization technology to communicate complex information.
Since the pandemic upended office life, there’s been a lot of discussion and analysis about the impact of remote work. With research showing that remote employees are up to 40% more productive, more businesses are allowing team members to work from home all or part of the time. One recent report found that about two-thirds of employers around the world have plans to adapt their offices for hybrid work arrangements.
Still, some business leaders are wary about what a permanent shift to remote work means for workforce output overall, especially when it comes to collaboration, innovation, and team spirit. One thing is for sure: simply giving employees laptops and expecting them to adapt on their own to this new paradigm isn’t a strategy for success.
These are steps employers can take and tools they can implement to make sure that their teams can complete their tasks efficiently, work smoothly with colleagues, and feel like a part of the team.
Effective onboarding is crucial, and more so when employees aren’t going to have someone next to them showing them how to navigate through systems or making sure they have the right software installed. Employers should account for the unique challenges of remote work: ensuring they choose appropriate hardware and software, arranging for secure access, and setting up appointments to walk new employees through everything they need to know, including what to do when they run into a problem.
Employees should be able to sign into a central location where they can access all the applications they need for work as well as for their benefits—from the project management platform to their retirement plan. This prevents workers from having to create and track a series of usernames and passwords, forgetting how to access applications they might use infrequently, etc. While the time required to manage separate applications might seem minimal on the surface, it can quickly add up day after day—and that doesn’t include the frustration and annoyance employee may feel when faced with managing disparate systems, which can further impede their productivity. For employers, a unified system with SSO also offers the chance to implement more robust security, simplifies onboarding, and makes it easier to completely deactivate access to systems when employees leave.
Communication is a huge part of efficiency and productivity, but now that team members have a variety of platforms to use, they may not always know which one is appropriate in different situations. Certain information may be best communicated over email, while more complicated issues may require a phone call or a Zoom. Keep in mind that instant messaging, while convenient, can be incredibly harmful to concentration—it can take more than 20 minutes to get back to a task after an interruption. Presence technology, which signals when someone is available (think of the “active” and “away” buttons on platforms like Slack and Skype) can mitigate some of this, but being proactive about expectations can build the foundation for improved productivity.
It’s a common complaint: There are so many meetings that there’s no time in the day left to work. Consider changing an informative meeting to an email or recording a video, which recipients can speed up if they wish. If employees have questions or concerns, set up a dedicated forum for them.
Widely available solutions like Google Suite allow users to work together on documents and spreadsheets asynchronously and in real time, as well as see changes on previous versions. Project management platforms serve as a central, organized, and easily accessible repository for documentation and provide transparency and accountability across the team for tasks, progress, and deadlines.
This software translates the physical framework of an office into the virtual realm to foster a sense of presence as well as cultivate organic communication and a sense of connection. Users can see if others are busy in a meeting or working on a task, meet up in breakout rooms, “chat” in common areas, and use app integrations to present and share information.
It seems obvious, but ensuring that remote employees have access to IT help when they need it will go a long way toward preventing confusion during setup or problems with software bugs. Employees should know where and how to access and request IT support, while the IT department should be able to securely diagnose and address problems by seeing the employee’s screen and taking control of their computer if necessary. In addition, remote employees are more susceptible to phishing and other security threats, which can lock up computers and networks. Ongoing security training can help them recognize attempts at infiltration.
Spreadsheets are not the most digestible way to display business metrics and other indicators. Presenting them in charts, graphs, or infographics helps employees quickly grasp the meaning of data instead of making flawed or incomplete interpretations that can cause problems down the line.
Supporting team members who work remotely may also require businesses to redefine how they measure productivity. Employees’ ability to accomplish tasks effectively and contribute new ideas and solutions are often a better indicator of their value than how many hours they are sitting at a desk.
One thing is for certain: remote work isn’t going away. Contact us to make sure your business has the necessary tools to support current remote and hybrid team members as well as to attract the best talent.
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