The global Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many companies grappling with remote working tools to manage the move to working remotely, in an effort to maintain business continuity. For some, this may be the first time that teams have had to collaborate, operate and communicate virtually. Businesses are now strategically planning ahead for the new normal that's left in the wake of the coronavirus. They are considering how the big shift in workplace behavior will impact the future of work and what their employees can expect from remote working going forward.
Many believe that the move towards working from home will be more of a long-term change, rather than a temporary one. In fact, a recent Gartner report found that 74 percent of business leaders plan to move their previously on-site workforce to remote positions permanently post-pandemic.
Remote working doesn’t come without its challenges. A study from the United Nations International Labor Organization found that while employees are more productive when they work outside of the office environment, they're also more vulnerable to working longer hours, work-home interference, and, in some cases, greater stress. With remote working here to stay, businesses need to consider these challenges and take action in overcoming them to ensure employees can continue working safely and productively.
Work life balance
Prior to Covid-19, some businesses were reluctant to allow employees to work from home, as they feared staff would be unproductive or responsive. But, this isn’t the case. Employees working from home are more likely to overwork and neglect a suitable work life balance. When working from their living space, it’s much harder to switch off, take breaks or stop working at a reasonable time.
To avoid overworking, businesses can encourage employees to take breaks and set clear start and end working times. For example, setting reminders in their calendars to take breaks or scheduling appointments for the end of the day will ensure they are prioritizing a work life balance. It’s also really important to create a physical boundary between the living and work space. This may include closing the door to the dedicated office each evening or simply putting their laptop out of sight to limit the temptation of logging back on to finish a task.
Ease of communication is something that employees often take for granted. Communication is paramount when teams are working from home but distance can often make it much more difficult. Typically, communication from employees working from home is more purposeful and work-related, leaving little time for building or maintaining professional relationships.
To continue operations in the wake of Covid-19, businesses should create some protocols on how all team members should communicate remotely. This will involve establishing tools that everyone will use to communicate, which helps to ensure teams continue to function and remain productive. It’s also recommended to host video meetings as often as possible. When employees can see their colleague’s faces, it’s much easier for them to communicate and convey information that may be lost over email or direct message.
Whilst it’s already difficult to stick to a busy schedule or manage a lengthy to-do list when working as normal in the office, it’s especially challenging when working remotely. With flexible days and limited structure, employees need to be self-motivated as management teams aren’t around to monitor or manage their time for them. It’s very easy to get distracted, but in order to make a success of working from home, employees need to make sure they get their most important work done.
The biggest piece of advice would be to do the most important task or the one that employees are most likely to procrastinate on first thing in the morning. Once this is complete, workers can continue their day with the satisfaction of knowing that they have achieved a good result early on. It’s also vital to limit the number of tasks employees plan to do each day to avoid unnecessary time-wasting tasks and it creates a workflow for the day.
If a remote employee has a slow laptop, no access to the software they need for their job and insufficient hardware to work productively, they are set up to fail. Business leaders are responsible for making sure that their teams are equipped with the tools needed to succeed. This is especially prevalent with employees working from home for the foreseeable future, as productivity relies on reliable and good quality equipment.
Companies should set aside some budget for the tools that remote employees need and ensure their designated workspace is fully functional and efficient. Providing a proper computer set up with a laptop, desktop monitor and additional IT support will help boost productivity in the long term and makes them feel valued by their employer.
There’s nothing more frustrating than going to access a company’s network at home and not being able to. It’s vital for employees to be able to easily access resources from home, in order to complete their tasks effectively. In addition to managing the cybersecurity risks that come with remote access secure, it’s important for businesses to have the tools in place to allow remote employees to access office systems and processes from home.
Dongle servers are a popular choice for many, as it easily allows remote workers to access and share USB dongle devices securely via the network. With an encrypted point-to-point connection between the user and the dongle server, businesses can dynamically assign which user is authorized to access each dongle, ensuring everyone can retrieve everything they need. Employees can also request access as soon as a license becomes available, and once the software has been used by that individual, it will be securely relocated to the next in line.
Overall, remote working offers a number of different challenges to different people. With many people staying at home for the foreseeable future, it’s up to businesses to understand the factors that can make working from home especially difficult. Otherwise, they run the risk of employees experiencing declines in productivity, engagement and motivation. By addressing these challenges, employees are more likely to feel supported and have a renewed sense of focus on their work.
Alan Hayward, Sales and Marketing Manager, SEH Technology