In recent years, the advances in technology have allowed us to change the way we work. We are no longer confined to our office cubicles and nowadays we can work from almost anywhere at any time, as long as we can get an internet connection. Heck, some businesses are set up and run entirely remotely with staff using technology to keep in touch.
And the remote work trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down, the result of which was that many businesses began to put systems in place that would allow their employees to work remotely some, or all of the time, depending on their situation.
Despite this, when the recent Coronavirus pandemic struck and professionals were asked to work from home, many businesses were unprepared. This is largely due to the timescale in which it happened, with the unprecedented lockdown going int effect in just matter of days. And while we pray that we will never see a global pandemic like this again, it always pays to be prepared for a day when your team may have to work remotely.
To help you out, we’ve put together this guide which will cover the five steps you should follow to set up a remote working team quickly.
Set up and enable online platforms for your teams to work in
As we’ve already mentioned, remote work has grown in popularity in recent years and as a result more and more platforms have been created to help people work in this way. From task management systems and cloud-based spreadsheets, to file sharing systems and video software, there is a platform for almost all your business needs and you may already use these on a daily basis.
But in order to set up your remote team, you need to give them access to the most relevant, efficient and helpful platforms so they can continue to do their job as best they can from their remote location. To do this, pick your core set of tools and make sure all staff know how to access and use these. For example, you may wish to use Google Docs for word processing, Trello for task management or Dropbox for file sharing.
Just be careful to avoid choosing multiple tools for the same job, otherwise staff may not know which platform is best for which task. This will slow things down and could cause confusion and potentially errors.
Choose the best lines of communication
On a similar note, it pays to set up communication tools that allow staff to continue working with each other and with clients. These could be video conference tools like Zoom, instant messaging platforms like slack and of course, email. Make sure that every employee is aware of these tools and how to use them for the most effective communication. Video conferencing software is particularly beneficial for being able to have longer, open conversations with your teams.
And try not to forget about the social element of work too. Encouraging your workers to set up fun chats like WhatsApp messenger groups is a great way to boost morale and help everyone to feel more connected despite working separately. A lot of companies are using shipping services to send care packages and equipment to their employees to maintain connection and morale levels.
Decide whether you need to set up a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) extends across a public one and it enables its users to send and receive data as if they were all directly connected to a private network – such as the one you might have had in your office. Why are we telling you this? One of the big worries about remote teams is that it can be a real cybersecurity threat if some staff are working on unsecured networks. This is especially true if your employees handle personal and sensitive data regularly.
As such, you might wish to set up a VPN that they can connect to as this can reduce the risk of a hacking. If you do this, just ensure that staff have this set up on their work devices ready to go and that you put together some simple guidance and instructions for using the VPN in case they are unsure.
Provide guidance and support
While it may require a quicker run around, it can be beneficial to get some documents in place outlining procedures for working remotely. These can include everything from how to set up a workspace at home to details about which platforms to use, how these work, how to stay connected with your colleagues and who to speak to if you’re experiencing any issues.
It also pays to send out regular updates to all staff to keep them informed on business news. This could include:
- Important news or updates about current events that effect the team – such as the Coronavirus we’re experiencing right now
- Any big changes to the business
- Any new software or platforms that you’re investing in
- Notable new projects or clients
- Any new staff benefits or programs
Prepare for a period of adjustment
Finally, you need to prepare for a period of adjustment. It might have felt rushed and kind of stressful getting your remote team up and running so quickly, but you aren’t the only one that is going to be affected. Remember, not all staff are used to working remotely and for some this may even be their first time. So allow them a little bit of time to get used to working away from the office.
While avoiding the commute, working in your dressing gown and being able to watch TV on your lunch break might feel like the dream, not everyone will feel that way. Sometimes there can be distractions and some might not have a suitable space to set up as their office. So do all you can to support this adjustment period and make sure managers are having regular catch ups with their team.
It might also be useful to give your employees some tips on working from home and encourage them to feedback on their experiences. This will highlight any ways in which you can help to make it better.