Remote working: the new normal?

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has triggered – through necessity – exponential growth in remote working and the need for more sophisticated and considered approaches to collaboration.  

Although it might seem straightforward for office-based people to simply head home, armed with a laptop and a mobile device, there are some wider implications that should be considered to ensure you or your teams can work effectively in this way, and sustain doing so for a potentially long period. For those unfamiliar with remote working, it may be a significant change.  

Today’s workplace technology forms the basis for remote working, and most organisations will have some systems in place. However, these may be fragmented and/or not fully understood and embedded. Below are some of the key things to consider in preparing for what could be the long-haul. 

Collaboration 

Microsoft Teams leverages the Office 365 suite to provide one place for Unified Collaboration. Functionality include status setting; instant messaging, 121 and group calling, online meetings, document collaboration and more. In taking Teams mainstream, consider the following: 

  • Are all users appropriately licensed? 
  • Does everyone know how to use the tool? 
  • What will best fit your culture? Is audio conferencing enough, or is a comprehensive Unified Communications tool including Calling, Video, sharing or file collaboration needed? 
  • Will people need telephone dial–in access to meetings where Internet access over 4G or WiFi is not available? 

Internal access 

People who normally work on the office network directly (as opposed to remotely) may need additional services to allow secure access to tools that are kept isolated from the public internet. Consider whether VPN (Virtual Private Network) or Virtual Desktop/Applications services are available, appropriately sized and licensed, and that people know how to access the services. 

Equipment 

Whilst you or your team members may already have a laptop and suitable mobile phone, others may have a desktop PC in the office and nothing at home. Early action should establish the devices people have, and any constraints (such as capped internet provision or low bandwidth at peak times). Some other considerations include: 

  • What are the Mobile Device Management (MDM) considerations for personal devices? 
  • How will people get support for broken hardware? 
  • Are there caps on internet provision? And if so, will there be extra charges as people consume and how will people be compensated? If your organisation is policy-driven, specific new policies or policy changes might be needed. 

People 

The psychological impact of sudden change to working practice, particularly under these kinds of circumstances, should not be overlooked or underestimated.  

Mechanisms to ensure people are supported, connected and engaged will become increasingly important as people experience a range of physical and psychological responses and pressures. Your organisation’s unique culture comes from its people and how they work together, so changing the dynamics will have both short and longer-term consequences. Placing your people and their needs at the centre of your organisation’s remote working strategy and support will have long term dividends. 

Environment 

Although technology is important, physical environment plays a large part in longer term remote working.  Sitting at the kitchen table is fine for when you occasionally need to dip into work, but long term, this can have consequences. A survey or other consultation exercise can help bring understanding of the infrastructure and capabilities people currently have to work from home to identify short and medium–term gaps or alarm signals. 

Be aware of: 

  • Physical space: privacy, ergonomics, lighting & power, health & safety, disturbance 
  • Access to resources: suitable internet, Wi-Fi, phone signal, impact on and of others in the apace 

Well-being 

Pressures and strains of personal lives will often be invisible to an organisation, but they will always be there for those working from home and can impact people in different ways.  Long term remote working can increase anxiety and loneliness as the lack of social interaction with colleagues can leave people feeling isolated. It may help if: 

  • The organisation maintains normal working hours, enabling people to structure their working day effectively 
  • During extraordinary circumstances such as these, there is flexibility for the care of others (e.g. children not at school, elderly relatives etc) 
  • There are regular meetings using video, so that people see as well as hear each other 
  • Appropriate changes are made to pastoral care practice, to take account of the changed situation 
  • The organisation openly acknowledges the challenges (including the impact of news and social media reporting), creating space for people to talk and share experience  

Interestingly, when working from home, people are less likely to move, take a break and take exercise. It’s obvious when you think about it – no travel to the office and no contact with others in different parts of the building. Part of caring about wellbeing could mean encouraging people to take walks, eat well and drink plenty of water. Very often, homeworkers feel even more tied to their desks than they would be if office-based, so giving this ‘permission’ can go a long way.  

Getting Started 

Cadence Innova can offer immediate help with our Rapid Response and Business Continuity services. Both look at what you can do to make this challenging time easier. 

Rapid Response 

If you have an immediate or urgent need for training and/or people engagement with Microsoft Teams (or Skype for Business), please contact us for a consultation. We can help with: 

  • Live instructor-led Training and support on remote working tools such as Teams or Skype for Business 
  • Live Q&A sessions for best practices on remote working including help with meetings 
  • High level technical review of your Teams implementation 

PeopleCentric Business Continuity 

The current situation is forcing organisations to act quickly. In the longer term, when time allows, it is prudent to think in broader terms about business continuity.  Traditionally, this has tended to focus on the technology and major incidents, such as a physical office location or critical services being unavailable for a short time.  Typically, this results in a technology-heavy MVP that doesn’t necessarily look to the sustainable longer term with inadequate emphasis on the impact on people.   

Our People-centric Business Continuity service not only considers technical or organisational matters, but also places a trained lens on wellbeing when working remotely. This includes: 

  • A comprehensive Health Check on your remote working and collaboration tools and services 
  • Communications and business changes services on how to effectively and sustainably work remotely 
  • Wellbeing impact assessment and tailored plan to help keep people stay engaged, connected and healthy when working from home 

As part of our Values Commitment to supporting UK business and the workforce, we are able to offer some elements of our Rapid Response Service free of charge.  

For more information please call us on +44 (0)20 3858 0086 or email us at challenge.us@cadenceinnova.com

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