According to data from the Office of National Statistics, over 1.5 million people in the UK work from home. With the onset of COVID-19, this new paradigm will increase, reaching more businesses and employees than anyone could have imagined just six short months ago. However, our new way of working is providing the opportunity for companies to look at how they can ensure remote workers experience the same communication, collaboration, and efficiency as being in the office.

Technology advancements such as device capabilities and increased internet speed have dramatically improved workforce communications and collaboration. Seamless collaboration across technologies such as voice, video, and messaging is making it easier for remote workers to communicate and get things done quickly and efficiently. While technology provides the backbone to open communication channels across geographic locations and enables remote workers to work more efficiently – it’s not enough.

Looking beyond technology

With the growing number of remote workers, it’s safe to say that a distributed workforce isn’t a trend – it is here to stay. Companies need to be able to connect with their employees, partners, and customers, regardless of where they are working.

Optimising the performance of remote workers, maintaining a consistent level of productivity, and giving employees the flexibility to work when and where they want takes deliberate effort. To truly foster a culture of collaboration, companies need to combine technology with four key elements.

To efficiently get the job done, remote workers require reliable equipment. Fortunately, there’s numerous options to choose from to ensure high-quality calls and meetings. To start, all remote workers should have a reliable and secure laptop and mobile device. In addition, you’ll need a strong network connection to ensure remote workers are able to perform their job functions without network disruption. From a security perspective and to ensure strong network connectivity, employing multi-factor authentication and shoring up virtual private network (VPN) resources is highly recommended. This allows remote users to gain access to the company’s network and other resources while mitigating risk of information leakage.

Best practices for a distributed workforce

When establishing a remote work policy, organisations, as well as remote workers need to take into consideration best practices to ensure productivity and collaboration.

Communication is key, as well as establishing schedules, remote worker eligibility, and compensation and allowance.

Communications:
Specific guidelines on communication needs to be clearly conveyed to remote workers to ensure expectations are understood and met. For example, employers may establish a policy that states remote workers need to be available via phone, email or messaging during business hours.

Create a schedule:
The remote worker’s schedule should be agreed upon between the manager and the employee. Although certain roles require specific times that the employee needs to be available, these should be limited to core hours. Having said that, managers should allow schedule flexibility as much as possible, which requires the manager to focus more on the employee’s results.

Determine eligibility:
Depending on the industry, the transition to remote work may be seamless. However, some companies may need to take into consideration an employee’s remote work eligibility based on job roles and responsibilities.

Allowance:
Depending on the state or country, there may be different laws and regulation when it comes to remote work. The best way to gather the information you need to make informed remote work decisions is to speak with your legal and human resources personnel.

From the perspective of remote workers, there are four best practices to achieve optimal results:

Establish a workspace
Once you have the necessary equipment, find a place that provides a comfortable work environment. Be sure to break up your workday by taking a walk, making lunch, or just simply stepping away from your desk for a short break.

Set a clear agenda for all virtual meetings to optimise productivity
When you’re the meeting host, you need to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly. To do this, set an agenda that you can share with the other participants in advance of the meeting. At the start of the call, introduce yourself, identify participants on the call and their roles, and review the meeting objective. These simple steps help participants get a visual sense of who is involved, what will be discussed, and prepare their talking points or questions. At the conclusion of the call be sure to share a summary of what was discussed, and the action items assigned to team members.

Video meetings
During video meetings, it’s common to look at the screen instead of the camera. For a more personal approach, speak directly into the camera so that it appears you’re making eye contact with those in the meeting. This will help show that you’re completely focused on the topic.

When to mute
Keep yourself on mute during video and phone meetings when you’re not speaking, especially if there is the possibility of background noise such as children or pets. You should do what you can to minimise disruption.

As businesses continue to feel the impact of COVID-19, we will continue to see an increasing number of office workers working remotely. To avoid business disruption during the transition from in office to remote, the best approach will be to put in place guidelines and best practices. This will ultimately help to ensure business as usual for your organisation.

Chris Conry is CIO at Fuze

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