What technology is needed for effective remote working?
The period of lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak has seen remote working move away from the domain of smaller, forward-thinking companies and become utilized by organizations of every size.
Many companies who previously shied away from remote working are starting to realise that remote working can offer a way to lower overheads without sacrificing quality or quantity of work being done.
It is anticipated that many larger companies will move towards a hybrid style of working, with some staff working in centralized offices, others working in small teams in satellite offices, and others working remotely and individually.
Regardless of what overarching structure is being used, successful remote working requires an underlying system that addresses four key areas.
These four areas are collaboration, security, communication, and productivity.
Without a structure that addresses each of these areas, remote teams will never be able to work as effectively as in house staff.
Fortunately, a well thought out technology strategy can make addressing these four key areas relatively easy for managers to do. Here guide on how software can be leveraged to facilitate the effective management of remote workers.
Collaboration across remote teams has been made very easy through the rise of cloud storage systems.
There are many free cloud storage programmes that allow people to collaborate on all different types of documents in real time. Managers can also add a level of “meta-data”, that is comments and instructions about the documents as a whole, to the documents to allow for easy course correction as projects go on.
Cloud storage platforms also allow for service based companies to give their clients 24 hour access to relevant documents. This can be utilised to facilitate around the clock reporting. Such transparency can be particularly useful for companies that choose to employ remote account managers, as potential issues such as time differences cease to matter since all reporting can be given as and when the client pleases.
One downside of using cloud storage as a company’s main way of storing data and documents is that it raises issues around security.
While cloud storage is more vulnerable to cyber attacks than files that are stored locally, having a simple, clear and easy to follow security policy should keep you safe from cyber attacks.
Cyber security policies live or die on whether they can be followed by your team. Therefore it is better to do the basics correctly then to implement more advanced strategies poorly.
Some security basics that all team members should be following include:
- Using individual passwords for every application
- Using individual usernames for every application (a username should act as a second password)
- Using 2 factor authentication wherever possible
- Signing off from company networks when finishing work.
End to end encryption software should be used wherever possible, and all cloud data should be backed up. There are several cloud backup solutions available to automate the backing up of documents in the cloud.
When teams are working remotely, email alone is not sufficient for effective communication.
Our email inboxes are so saturated these days that it is far too easy for essential information to slip through the cracks and go unread.
Fortunately there are project management softwares that allow you to set up many different lines of communication for different groups within your team. This can allow you to prioritise communication with certain teams and ensure that nothing goes unread.
Slack is an example of such software, and it also allows you to share documents with your different teams, as well as conducting conference calls.
For more complex projects, with several moving parts occurring simultaneously, a project management tool like Asana or Basecamp can help you organise your workflow and assign tasks to team members.
These tools essentially act as a CRM for tasks, allowing you to make all tasks within a project visible among your team and set public deadlines and reminders for your team members. This creates complete transparency and accountability within your team, something that managers often fear will be lost when companies transition to remote working.
Managers need to be able to monitor the performance of their team members without physically being able to see them on a daily basis.
While time tracking platforms have been around for a long time, mainly utilised by HR functions in order to monitor things like paid leave and overtime.
As remote working gained popularity, time tracking software merged with employee performance monitoring programmes. Recently programmes have been developed that let you see work being done by remote workers in real time. This is generally done by showing regular screenshots (the regularity of these can be adjusted) of your team members’ screens.
This can be incredibly useful in diagnosing and troubleshooting any bottlenecks that can occur in your team members’ workflow. Being able to see your teams’ work as they complete it can help you guide less experienced staff, no matter how far away they are from you physically.
Getting minute by minute screenshots may be overkill for some types of remote teams, however. One benefit of building out a satellite office is that you have a group of remote workers working together, helping each other and keeping each other accountable. In those kinds of situations, project management tools may be enough to keep up productivity.
Closer monitoring of productivity might be more appropriate for people working from home.
Author bio: Sam Maley is the Marketing Director of Bailey & Associates, an IT Leadership Consultancy in the UK.