Remote working: Transition your short-term plan into an effective long-term strategy

When COVID-19 related lockdowns started earlier this year, businesses all over the world were forced to quickly adapt to remote working to help them stay afloat. But despite only initially being used as a short-term solution, many businesses are now wanting to make it a more permanent fixture.

From increased productivity to better employee retention to financial savings, the benefits of remote working have caught the attention of business leaders all over the world. In fact, recent studies have found that 54% of businesses now plan to expand and increase their flexible work options once the pandemic is over.

Some major companies such as Facebook, Slack, Upwork and Shopify have even taken this one step further by announcing their plans to allow their workforce to permanently work remotely from now on. While not every company is able to follow this lead, 74% of CFO’s have stated that they will transition at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanent remote positions once the pandemic is over, according to a recent Gartner study.

Thankfully, it seems that the majority of employees would welcome this change to the way they work. 77% of respondents to a Global Workplace Analytics survey remarked that they feel “fully productive” when working from home, with 77% also wanting to continue working remotely at least one day a week.

Long-term Planning

Remote working isn’t a new phenomenon and a lot of businesses had already started integrating it into their teams before the pandemic struck. However, there are plenty of businesses who had to do it out of necessity and have had to work it out as they’ve gone along. While a lack of planning, processes and procedures might be ok for a temporary, short-term solution, it won’t cut it if these businesses want to transition to long-term remote working and make it a success.

As restrictions are lifted and businesses start to reopen, now is the prime time for business leaders who may have been reluctant to embrace remote work prior to COVID-19 to develop a lasting remote working program. By having proper procedures in place, they can keep their employees happy and better prepare themselves to offer remote working to future hires.

Here are some simple things you can to do transition your short-term remote stopgap into an effective long-term strategy.

Establish a Remote-Working Policy

For many companies, there simply wasn’t enough time to get a formal remote-working policy prepared and in place before the coronavirus lockdown began. It’s likely that because of this, you were met with rising levels of confusion and frustration from your team. To make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to your longer-term remote working plans, it's vital that you take the time to develop a policy that provides clear guidance to your employees.

Your policy should include guidelines on which roles within your business are conducive to remote work and which ones aren’t. It should outline what their working hours should be, as well as how you will measure productivity and check their progress regularly. Your policy should also clearly state which hardware and software you want your employees to use as standard and the measures you are putting in place to make sure your company data is secure.

Cultivate Communication

For any remote work program, be it long or short term, to be successful, communication is key. Unfortunately, too many businesses make the mistake of continuing to use communication systems that are intended for on-site collaboration, rather than those which are better suited to a dispersed workforce. This can easily lead to crossed wires and miscommunications that could have been easily avoided had the communication systems were in place.

To avoid this mistake and to keep your communication seamless, consider using collaboration software and video conferencing and project management tools that integrate with your existing software. You might have tried some of these tolls out already, but if you haven’t, shop around to see what’s on offer. Many providers are offering free trials and enhanced features on their collaboration products at the moment, so it’s the perfect time to test some out to see what works for you.

Prevent Security Breaches

Having a team that works remotely can bring a whole host of new security concerns to your door. It’s likely that your remote working employees will be using personal devices and home networks, which are often less secure than the ones you use in the workplace. With countless COVID-19 related scams targeting remote workers sweeping the internet right now, your team could be vulnerable to security breaches that put your company data at risk. So it’s vital that you mitigate potential the risk of security breaches sooner rather than later.

Start by making sure your employees us as Virtual Private Network (or VPN) when connecting to WIFI for their work and set a two-factor authentication (2FA) for business applications. Instruct your remote workers to update all of their passwords so they are longer and more complex to make it difficult for scammers to crack. They should also update all of their hardware firmware and set their software to update automatically for increased security.

If it’s been a while since you refreshed your employees training on data security and protection, now could be the perfect time to create and roll out an updated training course.

Demonstrate Trust and Togetherness

It can be tempting to closely monitor and micromanage your remote workers, especially when you’ve got a wealth of technology that lets you keep tabs on them. But successful remote working programs demand trust and confidence in your team to get the job done and require goals that are measured by outcome. Your remote employees must reciprocate by providing timely updates on their progress, maintaining meeting commitments and by setting relevant availability statuses on their collaboration tools.

As well as demonstrating trust to your remote employees, you must also give them your support. Remote work can be isolating and lonely for some, especially if they don’t have regular contact with their colleagues. So don’t forget to promote togetherness in your long-term remote working plans by scheduling regular video calls and arranging activities that get everyone involved. Remember, employees that have fun together, even remotely when they aren't in the same workspace, work better together.

To continuously improve your remote work program, you’ll also need to continuously seek feedback from your employees. They are the best people to tell you what improvements need to be made, particularly when it comes to maintaining positive mental health and using various apps and computer software.

COVID-19 has made many changes to the way we work and longer-term remote working is just one of them. With no sign of the remote working revolution slowing down any time soon, it's better to take the time to develop a well-thought-out plan now so you can better prepare your business and its employees for what's to come tomorrow.

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23rd July