By Amy Robinson, senior brand development manager at telecommunications provider Esendex
Across the UK, millions of businesses have shifted their practices to remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic. Firms that already offered flexible or remote working will have been well prepared with the equipment and software their employees need to stay in contact with colleagues and clients, but for others, being forced to adapt their operations has presented a challenge.
To keep up, companies must harness this opportunity to grow and adapt their services in this new environment. Flexible working provides firms with a means to collaborate effectively, increase productivity and limit absenteeism, making it a key benefit for businesses.
With remote working on the cards for the next few months, here are some of the key target areas to focus on right now.
1. Provide multiple communication channels for employees and clients
Remote working can cause employees to feel isolated from their team, especially in a period of uncertainty. Virtual chats and video calls can aid in replacing the interaction which employees will be missing from their day to day role in the office, while communication platforms such as SMS can help to keep staff in the loop with important updates, such as the Government’s daily briefing.
Management holds a responsibility to ensure the communication channels between their team are open. Taking the time to stimulate collaborative conversations between employees will not only help to minimise isolation, but it will also maintain important social contact between the team.
Whilst instant messaging and emails are key, the use of video calls should not be undervalued. Video calls provide physical cues and gestures which are lost during non-visual contact. Team wide video calls should be scheduled regularly to ensure the context of any points is not lost through translation.
For clients, it is crucial to engage in frequent and transparent communication. Clients will be evaluating their own financial status, which is why it’s key that firms reassure their clients that their services will continue to operate. Regular contact is invaluable during this time, and with SMS you can abide by the principles of little and often to ensure people are kept up-to-date, without feeling overwhelmed.
Some businesses may find they need to utilise some of these platforms more than others, for example, those that run pubs, cafes and restaurants and are still offering takeaway may find themselves using text messages to communicate to customers when their order has been dropped off on their doorstep.
2. Focus on creating a secure IT infrastructure
Whilst the vast majority of employees in the UK are working remotely, the risk of a large scale IT breach has never been so prevalent.
The security level of a business’ IT infrastructure significantly impacts the ability of that firm to work remotely. Businesses must ensure their IT security practices are up-to-date and that they have invested in effective protection – ideally by gaining accreditation through the Government-accredited Cyber Essentials scheme.
Employees must be trained on the importance of security whilst they work remotely. Ensuring employees are using strong passwords and changing them frequently is a start, as well as taking measures to protect any documents from being shared externally. Firms who will be using chat rooms to communicate with their staff should ensure they are separate from those they may use in their personal time.
3. Schedule practice runs for remote working
With businesses around the country struggling with the shift to remote working, systems have been overloaded for firms that failed to prepare for the event of a full office lockdown.
To combat this in the future, management should consider organising remote working practice drills 2-3 times a year, with every employee working from home. This will allow for the identification of any flaws in IT infrastructure, communication, software or productivity and enable them to be improved upon in good time.
4. Draw up a business continuity plan
Firms should invest resources into preparing their employees and systems for unprecedented events which may occur in the future. As a crisis can range from something as seemingly simple as a power cut, to something much larger scale, like the current pandemic, they are more common in business than people think – it’s not a case of if, but when.
Business continuity plans are designed to assess the risks to the operations of a firm from a crisis and how these can be mitigated. With this in place, management will feel better prepared to stimulate their remote working plan when an unexpected event occurs.
5. Appreciate the benefits of remote working
Whilst many businesses were not prepared or keen on switching to a remote working environment, the current circumstances have left most with little choice. As this becomes the new normal, it can be helpful to reflect on some of the benefits remote working can have for a business.
With less time spent on commuting for employees, lower operating costs and increased productivity, remote working is widely documented to benefit both staff and businesses. Whilst the sudden change has been unsettling for many, the shift to remote working may just become a more permanent move for many.