It's been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and it would appear the same principle applies to innovation. Without the presence of this global Covid-19 outbreak, many organizations would not be embarking on a massive work-from-home transition. And yet, this is now the socially responsible situation they find themselves in.
Our experience has taught us that planning, even a relatively small amount, can make the difference to the success of an effective remote work strategy. So, while there is often a tendency to leap into frenzied action in the early moments of a crisis, we recommend taking a moment to get it right. It is absolutely possible to do this quickly and effectively when the need is high and time is short.
For everyone out there working to execute a broad work-at-home strategy, we wanted to provide some tips on how to implement your plan with success.
There are three main categories your plan should fall into:
1. Secure access to data & tools
2. Collaboration tools & training
3. Scalable support for your staff
When people start getting focused on buying up whatever is available, be the calm in the centre of the storm and focus on what’s important. Start with a deep breath and an assessment of what you have.
Understanding all the tools in your kit bag is an important first step by taking inventory of all of the things that a business has that can support work from home. In addition, determining who is critical to the business and what their current capacity is to work from home is essential. That means what tools (hardware, resources, technology) do they use to do their jobs, and can they access them in a usable fashion?
Once an organization has identified its needs, the next step is to assess what is possible based on the available options.
Beyond hardware, it is important that people have access to all the platforms and applications they use in the office. Quite often, these weren’t designed to be accessed outside the safe confines of the in-house security network. If employees are using their home machine to remotely access work, the biggest concerns are about what other devices are on their home network and whether their home Wi-Fi is secure. If they are using a company provided machine, are there any threats of somebody being able to get into their network in some other way?
Ultimately, the question of security is the biggest reason remote work shouldn’t be rushed. It's crucial to know that all the business-critical information is secure and that you are not potentially exposing the organization to a serious threat. More access points to the network mean more paths to danger unless you’ve carefully sealed your doors and windows.
Let’s face it, we humans are as social in our professional lives as we are in our personal ones. And rightfully so. Quite often, our best work is achieved when we collaborate and build on each other’s thoughts and initiatives. This is why a critical part of transitioning to a work-from-home experience involves ensuring people can still collaborate and communicate effectively with each other and your customers.
The very first step is ensuring you have a platform that is cloud-based so it’s not dependant on any one physical location. Microsoft Teams is the industry leader and a great example of a cloud-based platform that allows you to make or join in on a video conference call, collaborate with a colleague in real-time on a document, or exchange ideas through an ongoing text conversation that moves with them from device to device.
Jason Evans is a Winnipeg-based Product Manager for Compugen, and his experience has taught him that there are three key planks of an effective modern business collaboration tool: (1) Is it simple? (2) Is it secure? and (3) Is it agile/flexible?
“For me, simplicity is the very first factor I would consider because, in this situation, you may have people who have used computers mostly for sending email, so getting them up and running on a new platform could be challenging if it is not easy to use,” Evans said.
The reason that collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams and Cisco WebEx Teams lead the industry is because they score highly on all three of Evans’ checkpoints. Teams, as an example, is a single hub platform where people can actively connect and collaborate virtually and in real-time, thus enabling them to work safely from home. WebEx is deeply integrated with mobile technology such as iPhone giving it a degree of simplicity and familiarity with technology that people are already using in their personal lives.
Both platforms have built-in security features that make it worry free for people to collaborate in the same way they would in the office. The inclusion of multi-platform capabilities mean that people can use the tools on a device of their choosing (laptop, phone, tablet or other). Add to that the versatility to work from anywhere at anytime and you may find that people are more accessible at home than they were in the office.”
Credit to: Jelena Danilovic/Shutterstock.com
Shifting to a work-from-home program may be foreign to some people, so a new environment with what is potentially a whole new work protocol is going to require support. Your staff needs to understand what the tools are, how to use them and the importance of seeking support when necessary.
Providing this support will be a multi-faceted effort, according to Dana Khashashna, a Service Transformation Director at Compugen.
“The best place to start is equipping your team with the tools to help themselves whenever possible,” she said. “If they are working with platforms, protocols or applications that are different from what they used in the office, you should provide access to comprehensive training so they are familiar enough with these tools that they can do some of the troubleshooting themselves.” When time is short, consider video-recorded training sessions that can be accessed on an on-demand basis, reinforced with online manuals that staff can review as required.
“The best place to start is equipping your team with the tools to help themselves whenever possible”
The next step involves creating an FAQ with answers to the most common issues that would come across a helpdesk or support-line. “This could include screenshots of the new equipment that they are about to receive with instructions like, ‘here's a snapshot of your new operating system and here are the ten most frequently asked questions about this environment,” Khashashna suggested.
If they are then unable to resolve the issue themselves and are precluded from conducting their work, it is important they have clear directions on where and how to seek support. This is where the hotline can come into play, or perhaps there is a live IM chat option they can use. Whatever the format, it must be made clear what the point of contact is and how to access it. The last thing you want is people stuck with no idea of how to get help.
Of course, supporting your remote team goes beyond just providing troubleshooting protocols. For many of them working from home will be a whole new world. They may struggle with the adjustment to working in an environment filled with distractions. It is a good idea to provide new remote workers with a guide of ‘tips and tricks’ to managing the transition successfully. Things like muting background noise on conference calls or making sure they are still dressed in a work-appropriate manner for video conference calls can help ease the transition. Quick check in calls with teammates or managers can also be a great way to kick off the day and uncover and overcome issues and concerns normally discussed by the coffee machine.
Remember, this transition to a work-from-home environment may seem ominous, but for many, like Compugen, it’s business as usual. Not only does a large contingent of our team work remotely, but we’ve also helped many other organizations make this very same transition smoothly and successfully.
So, don’t hesitate to reach out if you need a hand. We’re here to help!