By Fred Krieger, Founder and CEO, Scoro
It is unlikely we’ll be returning to pre-pandemic ‘normal’ any time soon — and, for many, that’s no bad thing. Only 9% of Brits want to go back to life as it was before, and some organisations have recognised this, already consigning office-first working to history; with Barclay’s suggesting that huge physical workspaces “may be a thing of the past”.
Of course, real-world workforces aren’t set to disappear. But with an ongoing need for physical distancing – and many companies discovering the benefits of more productive and engaged employees, reduced office costs, and a lower carbon footprint – it looks like remote operations will play a huge part in how we work.
For businesses, this means effective remote capabilities will be vital to ensure they thrive in the post-pandemic world. Makeshift measures must evolve into more robust adaptation, with processes and systems reconfigured for the new reality.
Building up from remote foundations
By now, most companies have covered the essentials; from setting up devices employees can use at home, to implementing cloud IT systems. But simply laying the founding blocks for remote working isn’t enough. As well as enabling teams to work from a distance, businesses need to ensure they can do so efficiently and productively; and the first step towards achieving that is providing the means to wield fast-growing digital toolkits.
Rising focus on staying connected has caused a huge uptick in the use of communications technology: video conferencing has soared, with Zoom holding meetings for 300 million people daily, and instant messaging apps such as Slack have seen record user numbers. For workers, this rapid expansion has brought more opportunities for collaboration, but also a constant stream of messages from multiple new platforms in addition to emails, texts, and video calls – which many find particularly draining. Add to this the tools powering other aspects of remote work — including document sharing, invoicing and time logging — and the result is a blend of confusion, fatigue, and distraction that makes it hard for employees to reach their performance potential.
Clearly, there is a need for simplification and businesses can do more to relieve the pressure by streamlining digital upscaling. Companies that turn to unified software to reduce complexity, with their major tech under one roof, can help workers regain control, time, and energy; leaving them free to concentrate on producing great results.
Mastering a different juggling act
Just as important as establishing a workable technical infrastructure is fine-tuning processes to suit the remote world. Obvious as it sounds, standard procedures that keep operations running smoothly in offices often don’t fit with home working realities, or the challenges faced by individuals.
That’s why step two is creating management practices that take the unique nature of remote work into account and allow employees to find their own personal balance. It goes without saying that specific guidelines should be adapted according to company needs. But there are several core factors the vast majority will need to bear in mind:
- Focus time is variable: While combining tech in a single system makes it easier for workers to coordinate, it’s still vital to acknowledge that the risks of distraction are now higher. Employees trying to focus on core projects may find their concentration is frequently broken by incoming messages from colleagues, as well as family needs. For companies, this makes it vital to present versatile solutions, such as offering flexible scheduling where employees can adapt their hours to align with childcare requirements. Or this could be encouraging individuals to set ‘do not disturb’ hours as a simple and effective way to create designated time for priority tasks.
- Demonstrating effectiveness matters: Too often, the urge to prove productivity can lead remote workers to put themselves under pressure by immediately replying to each message and attending every meeting. Addressing this issue calls for a blend of better communication and organisation. Businesses need to make it clear instant responses are not expected and provide employees with other ways to demonstrate their output. For instance, use of holistic time management tools can provide reassurance that managers are aware of the hard work employees put in; with the added bonus that they gain the oversight needed to maintain strong company-wide performance.
- Time should be valued: The advantage that time management platforms give to company leaders for supporting staff is crucial. With access to data about activity from across their organisation, leaders can quickly spot drains on employee time that could cause stress and send working patterns off kilter. In fact, they can even go further by appointing a dedicated ‘Chief Time Officer’ tasked with identifying areas where time is wasted and implementing ways to fix this.
The mass transition to remote working may have started with coronavirus, but it’s unlikely to end when the storm finally passes. For businesses of all sizes and sectors, maximising future success will mean being able to not just accommodate home working, but make it an integral element of their operations from here on out. Adaptive measures must therefore move past the basic necessities to implementing smart tools and helping employees flourish in the new reality.