Five best practices for implementing remote working

26 April 2020 Consultancy.com.au

Covid-19 has made home-based working an imperative for organisations of all stripes. But in practice, there’s more to making remote work than simply sending staff home with laptops and hoping they’ll get something done. Tim Sheedy, a Principal Advisor at Ecosystm, outlines best practices for implementing remote working.

In the past few weeks remote working has, virtually overnight, become the default modus operandi for organisations that are in a position to allow their employees to work from home. How likely is it those employees will be productive?

The short answer is, it depends. In our experience, organisations that do remote working well, don’t do so by chance. Rather, they have well entrenched practices and processes in place to ensure their employees operate efficiently and pull together as a team, regardless of where they’re located.

Five best practices for remote working

1. Applications that make the process easier

A worker is only as good as their tools. Giving your team access to the applications they need to keep doing their jobs, irrespective of where they’re sitting, is Remote Working 101. That means mobilising your email, commerce, communication and collaboration solutions so they’re available from laptops, tablets and smartphones, and putting security measures in place to reduce the risk of those systems, and the data they contain, being compromised.

Research from Ecosystm, a technology research and advisory firm based in Sydney, indicates this is already a priority for Australian businesses and the Covid-19 crisis is likely to make it an urgent imperative for many. 

2. Beam me in – reliable video conferencing technology

The digital era may have provided us with a plethora of options for staying in touch but face to face contact still trumps all of them. If that’s not possible, a decent video conferencing system is the next best thing. Working with the IT team to identify a platform that works for all users, including those not blessed with an abundance of bandwidth, and fulfils the organisation’s security and privacy needs is a must. 

3. Note it down – making documentation mandatory

Joint projects are all about information sharing and, when a team is clustered together, mostly that just happens. Not so though when its members are scattered across cities and states, as is now the case. Documenting activity and tracking progress, rigorously and consistently, can have a big impact on productivity, and an investment in systems which support this is money well spent. 

4. Collaboration – it’s about actions, not software

The term collaboration – the act of working with others to achieve something – is bandied about with abandon in the modern workplace but talking about it and making it happen are two different things. Numerous platforms exist to encourage the process but unless they’re employed effectively, their effectiveness can be limited. Experienced remote working organisations recognise this and develop protocols and processes to ensure these collaboration solutions become effective tools that help employees solve real business issues. 

Some go a step further, with the appointment of collaboration SWAT officers or teams – individuals with a remit to identify bottlenecks and other business problems which could be addressed via improved processes or more effective use of collaboration software. 

5. All together now – build a team environment

The switch from office to home based working can be a culture shock – particularly for individuals who enjoy the bustle and camaraderie of the office environment. Feeling unmoored from the mother ship can send their morale and productivity south. That’s why putting a real effort into building a team identity is critical. 

Encouraging the use of social and collaboration tools – think Teams, Slack, WhatsApp, Instagram and WeChat groups – can help create a ‘virtual water cooler’ where jokes and stories are shared and social bonds maintained.

Team building sessions shouldn’t be off the agenda either. Getting employees together at lunchtime for a virtual staff meeting, perhaps even springing for pizza or Uber Eats occasionally, delivered to their respective home offices, can help keep spirits and output high.

A status quo?

The rapid onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has forced scores of Australian organisations to make a sudden shift to remote working and many have been caught on the hop. Taking steps to make the practice more efficient will be of benefit in the challenging months of the lockdown which lies before us – but that’s only part of the story. 

Arguably, the most cataclysmic global event since the Second World War, the Covid-19 pandemic may effect an enduring change to the way organisations do business. Practices such as enterprise-wide remote working, which have been born out of necessity, could well remain the status quo for many businesses, long after the state of emergency has abated. Against that backdrop, getting it right may prove to be a critical commercial imperative in the post-Covid -19 world.


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