What was once considered a far-fetched concept, remote work has exploded onto the scene for businesses across all industries. COVID-19 has been the catalyst to this movement, but it was not the start to this idea by any means. According to many polls, one thing is for certain, remote work is here to stay long after the effects of lockdowns and social distancing from COVID-19 dissipate. Since remote work or commonly referred to as “Distributed Work Force” is here and should be seen as a benefit offered by your company, the question for all leaders should be “what are we doing to prepare for it”. This distributed platform can and will have an effect on communication and company culture; however, technologies already exist to help keep good communication and the company culture put in place prior to this push for remote work.
Before choosing the technology to assist in this new look for your company, leadership will need to decide first if they are going to be fully distributed or will embrace a hybrid solution. Hybrid solutions can offer many benefits that fully remote or fully brick and mortar cannot offer. The hybrid approach provides an office space for those that need the office environment to succeed but provides the flexibility to have employees work from home for those that excel working remotely. It is important that the employees know this is a benefit and not a right. For leadership, this distributed platform provides a greater talent pool from which to hire by going beyond geographical boundaries. For all these advantages, time and consideration should be put into this process because the hybrid approach is the most complex to setup for keeping good communication and company culture. Leadership must work closely with the IT Department and HR Department for building processes, best practices, and technology use to aid in this distributed work force.
Choosing the right technology to aid in communication will be a differentiator between you and your competition. Communication is done through many avenues when in the office; these same opportunities need to be available when remote.
Example Communication Channels
- Water cooler chats
- Random “drop ins”
- Team building
- Group think tanks
- One on one sessions
- Scrum sessions
These listed are still needed in a remote environment. To do this, leadership will need to adopt a multi-platform approach, such as chat clients like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Ring Central Glip. Leadership will need to have video chat available through programs like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Ring Central Meetings. Leadership should monitor email usage. It is easy to inundate employee inboxes with emails. Instead, think about moving most of the internal communication away from email and move it to chat, video chat, or an audio call. This will clear up your employee’s inbox for customer facing communication or for notifications from website traffic. It is important to utilize the communication tools available to maintain productivity, team collaboration, and company culture.
Recent studies have shown that productivity at home directly relates to the company keeping a successful, positive social interaction with the employees; however, this is a difficult task to complete for those remote. Using the same video conferencing and team chat software available, HR Department or leadership can keep employees engaged through one -on-one meetings, virtual events, virtual social hour, and other virtual engagements that were once done in person.
Moving to a distributed workforce will require changes to the technology used by the IT Department. If your company did not already support remote work or did so in a reduced capacity, it is important to re-assess your IT posture immediately:
- What technology is in place to secure the data in transmission (VPN solutions)?
- Are you properly training your employees to identify phishing attempts?
There are multiple articles showing employees are letting their guard down while working remotely. It is important to increase training and cyber awareness in this distributed workforce environment. See the blog COVID-19: Cyber Awareness for more information on being vigilant with cyber.
- What data backup solution are you using?
- Do they still backup remote employees work?
- How do employees access shared files?
Technology is not the solution to a successful distributed workforce, but no effective solution exists without the successful implementation of modern technology. It is critical to use the platforms available for sharing content, communicating between employees, and keeping the employees engaged.