After being forced to experience home-working en-masse through the COVID-19 pandemic, many feel that the days of the traditional office-based working are a thing of the past. Many companies have been forced to rush into implementing or extending home-working solutions at pace and, as such, have lived with several compromises to achieve employee safety.
However, as home working becomes the new norm, companies will need to iron out these compromises and deliver more strategic, permanent and capable home working facilities.
Regardless of your reasons for implementing remote working capability in your organisation, it’s important to take a strategic approach to be successful in the long-term.
Remote work offers unique challenges that companies must address to maximise the benefits that remote working brings. In this article, we look at the key considerations you should look at to make remote working a success.
The Key Benefits of Remote Working
To justify an investment in a remote working capability, it’s important to understand whether home working will truly benefit your organisation.
Interestingly, Harvard Business School conducted a study ‘Does Working from Home Work?’. It centres around the results of a nine-month work from home experiment for the call centre of Trip.com Group (formerly Ctrip.com International) - a 16,000-employee, NASDAQ-listed travel agency.
Home working led to a 13% performance increase, of which 9% was from working more minutes per shift (fewer breaks and sick days) and 4% from more calls per minute (attributed to a quieter and more convenient working environment). Home workers also reported improved work satisfaction, and their staff turnover halved.
Due to the success of the experiment, Trip rolled out the option to work from home to the whole company. This led to a productivity increase of between 20% to 30% and saved about $2,000 a year per employee that worked from home. About two-thirds of this improvement came from the reduction in office space and the rest from improved employee performance and reduced turnover.
Aside from this, you can recruit the best talent available regardless of location. As there is no need to commute to an office, the need to be in the same city or even country does not exist while working remotely.
From this, we can determine the key benefits of a company-wide work from home policy are:
- Increased productivity
- Lower staff turnover
- Significant cost savings
- Improved recruitment
Related Read: The company behind WordPress, shut down its San Francisco office and went remote. Simply because it made more sense to do that. Read more.
Understanding the Challenges of Remote Working
With modern technologies, facilitating home working is now pretty easy. But as with any digital transformation, user acceptance and adoption of that technology will be key to your success.
Remember, technology is just one part of the puzzle. People, process and technology all go hand in hand. Simply re-using your legacy processes with new technology won’t derive the maximum benefits.
Technology should enable you to streamline and radically improve your processes. Your people will need the skills and confidence to deliver these new processes exploiting the new technologies thoroughly.
Instilling the skills and confidence to communicate over technology will vital for success. As will the ability to monitor usage and adoption, identifying individuals, groups or departments which are struggling and intervening to help them on their journey.
A fundamental building block in any business is its culture. Embracing the technology will be key to cohesion, company culture and removing the feel of isolation. It can be all too easy to sit behind e-mail and avoid using the new technologies.
This will undermine the company culture, isolate individuals and reduce productivity. While we all find ourselves self-conscious on a video call, we soon get used it and even enjoy it.
It is important that you and your staff are comfortable in using that technology not only to deliver your day-to-day work but also to maintain the all-import social interactions between team members.
Enjoying your work is important in delivery productivity and comes through with interactions with your customers. Professionalism is also a key attribute to any business and maintaining that professionalism is just as key when working from home. How you dress, how you manage your routine and how you behave on calls all need to be considered.
Another challenge is to identify the needs of various, specific business functions. One such function is the contact centre buy there are many others. Contact centre agents need a set of facilities focused on effectively supporting customer interactions. Their supervisors need the tools to monitor and manage performance agents which are no longer in eyesight.
To start streamlining employee and customer communications, download our guide, ‘The Benefits of Having Unified Communications in Your Business (And How to Get There)’ for free today.
Technology Considerations for Remote Working
Standing up a virtual contact centre or enabling employees to work from home can be done relatively quickly.
The difficult part is having the right technology and strategy in place to maximise the key benefits we’ve talked about.
A good start is understanding the types of communication and collaboration that your staff undertake in their day-to-day roles and ensure that you have the technology, controls and processes to enable that to continue reliably, securely and easily when working remotely.
There are several different ways in which communication is conducted in different scenarios.
- Perhaps the most obvious is one to one, (internal and external) communication, which is typically supported through telephony and (at least internally).
- Instant Messaging but it is worth considering video chat for internal communications.
- Internal & External meetings, when hosting external meetings, you open your work environment to the outside and so security and privacy concerns may dictate a different choice of platform.
The choice of platform may also depend on the nature of the meetings you’ll be holding.
- Audio-only conference calls
- Multi-party Video calls
- Document sharing and discussion
Meetings are likely to be more productive where video is used over pure-audio and documents such as presentations or whiteboards can be shared with participants.
Perhaps one of the most important modes of collaboration is (Project) Team collaboration, which is where the new front in technology has opened. Think ‘Teams’ functionality, combined with Unified Communications, which includes virtual workspaces, persistent chat, document sharing and collaboration. This Teams functionality is delivered by products like Slack, Microsoft Teams and WebEx Teams.
Probably even more important to Teams collaboration is customer interaction: Customer Service, sales, etc. Traditionally delivered through a contact centre, where there are a series of very specific toolsets for distributing contacts and managing service levels.
Cloud-based technology is naturally suited to remote working and often a key building block in your company’s wider digital transformation. However, technology does not need to be cloud-based to deliver all the benefits you’re looking for.
Communication is critical to ensure remote work strategies are effective and deliver on the benefits they promise. A successful remote working strategy often requires everyone to over-communicate, at least at first, until everyone’s comfortable and a level of trust has been established.
That starts with making sure you’re using technology that fits the needs of your business and workers.
Organisations need a remote working technology stack, so remote workers are armed with the right tools to be successful in their jobs.
There are countless tools available so filtering out the most useful ones or engaging with a communication partner to do it with you is the key.
Too often, organisations will jump into a technology implementation without first examining how it will integrate into current processes, as well as integrate with other technologies employees already use. That can hurt user adoption, which, in turn, negatively impacts productivity and engagement.
And, of course, the technology needs to work — and work consistently. Employees will quickly get disheartened and lose confidence in technology if it fails too often or they can’t work out how to use it.
So, having a partner who can design the technology for reliability, maintain it’s availability and manage change smoothly, is key to any technology deployment.
The Workplace of the Future
If you aren't offering remote and flexible work opportunities, you won’t be reaping all the benefits of higher productivity, attracting talent, and even greater engagement and connection.
For successful organisations, offering flexible working policies in the future will be considered the norm. Companies that don’t will risk being left behind because it will be an important factor when people are considering where they choose to work.
Employees are less stressed in a remote environment as they can ditch the stressful office commute and choose their own working hours and space.
Related Read: Harvard Business Review: “Work-from-anywhere: The Productivity Effects of Geographic Flexibility”
Remote working is an opportunity for organisations to change their way of working sustainably and reap the benefits over the medium to long term.
Think of less office space, less commuting, fewer business trips, shorter breaks and greater focus for employees. Studies on remote working all point to improved productivity and happier employees.
Remote working on a larger scale also offers companies the flexibility to deal with unexpected events in the future, such as the COVID-19 crisis. The size of the companies is irrelevant too with companies like Microsoft, Dell and WordPress all actively using remote working teams on a large scale.
Investing in remote working will have far-reaching consequences on the way we work in the future. Remote working is here to stay and will more than ever become an integral part of the way we work.
How Conn3ct Can Help
A remote working technology stack is far more than a toolset that enables your employees to collaborate and work better together.
For many businesses, past experiences mean that the benefits of remote working are clear but knowing how to adopt it successfully, cost-effectively and for the long-term for your business can be a challenge.
Conn3ct can help. We are a trusted communications partner that draws on over 30 years of knowledge and experience to solve complex challenges with simple solutions.
Our technology vendor-agnostic capability allows us to build the perfect solution for your business. We provide the technology services to enable your digital transformation by empowering your people streamlining your processes.
Our team are experts in translating your business requirements into simple, elegant technology solutions.
Talk with a member of the Conn3ct team today to begin your journey with us.