The best ways to manage a remote team in uncertain times
It's all about leveraging existing infrastructure and employee engagement to build a solid work from home foundation for the business.
The impact of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, is being felt across the global business landscape. The presidential address on 23 March 2020 has placed SA in lockdown for 21 days. It's a step that’s aligned with global best practice but that’s set to change the working landscape for a long period of time. Organisations have to find new ways of working as employees are required to work from home (WFH) in order to limit the spread of the virus and maintain their health.
Some have moved slowly towards the WFH concept as their industries are more collaborative and hands-on. Others have dabbled, dipping their toes in the waters of WFH, allowing some employees to take their devices out into the world and work from wherever they want, whenever they want.
The reality is that companies and employees are used to working in an office and many prefer it, enjoying the collaboration and engagement offered by the office space.
The variety in approaches to remote working is as varied as the companies and industries people work in. Now, with the impact of the Corona virus, the changes in culture and ways of working that are required for successful remote working have become sudden and mandatory. For many organisations, this is a shift in gears for which they are not prepared.
A recent survey undertaken by @Workplace on Facebook found that employees in the UK and USA didn’t feel connected to their leaders: 86% felt more connected to their team than to HQ. It also found that 17% didn’t talk to head office and 54% said they felt voiceless. This doesn’t highlight the value of staying in the office. Rather, it underscores the need for technology and solutions that inspire deeper collaboration regardless of where the employees might be. And it is collaboration and information-sharing that are crucial to the long-term success of any remote working exercise.
In a recent analysis of the challenges that influence remote working, The Harvard Business Review points out that the lack of face-to-face contact with managers and colleagues can have two different effects. On the one hand, it can see some employees work harder and do more; on the other, the employees may feel out of touch with the company and isolated. They can also perceive a lack of information and visibility into colleague behaviour in negative ways, particularly if they’re an extroverted personality struggling with isolation and an introverted way of life.
Organisations no longer have the luxury of deciding whether or not to implement a WFH strategy. The threat of COVID-19 is very real. The right approach isn’t to just focus on the threats that could damage the business and employee deliverables, but to also focus on the technologies that can be leveraged to help organisations build a remote working infrastructure that overcomes these threats.
Even for those organisations that don’t have a robust technology-based infrastructure in place, there are tools that they can use to engage with their workers and collaborate across teams. These tools do not require an extensive learning curve, and they have the potential to empower your teams to become more productive and engaged while staying safe and healthy. Some of the most important factors to consider are:
- Business continuity management tools – solutions that can help business leaders futureproof the company and keep it moving forward while governments and businesses remain under quarantine and deal with the implications thereof.
- Modern workplace tools – solutions such as Microsoft Teams, Microsoft OneNote and Microsoft To Do that allow for close collaboration across multiple geographic regions, times and teams. If everyone uses the same toolkits, then they will find communication and information-sharing seamless and accessible, which is essential to ensuring continued work and employee morale.
- Remote working tools – solutions that blend business continuity, modern workplace management applications, and emergent technologies such as artificial intelligence, to create a vibrant online workforce that can engage and collaborate with ease.
- Information security – with people working remotely there is an increased risk of them moving information off of the company’s infrastructure onto their local laptops and other storage devices. This poses a real security risk for company information and can expose the company to large-scale breaches of legislation like GDPR and POPI.
Decision Inc. focuses on providing organisations with modern workplace solutions that are designed to get the most the available technologies on the market today. With an intelligent mix of existing tech and new innovations, Decision Inc. helps companies to step into the remote working landscape with confidence, regardless of how little infrastructure they have in place. The Decision Inc. Remote Working platform, designed specifically for organisations coming to terms with the impact of COVID-19, includes pandemic instruction manuals from Gartner, remote working toolkits and tips, entertainment guides for children so parents can work effectively, and regular updates from the World Health Organisation.
However, with the right information, a flexible approach and an empowered workforce, together we can face the coronavirus with an intent that will see organisations not just survive in the coming months, but innovate and thrive as well.