Remote working has been a popular theory for many employees, but not much of a practical reality in the workplace. Now that we've been forced to grapple with it, South African businesses of all sizes have discovered that empowering their workforce to operate from home has far-reaching benefits for everyone involved.
In fact, remote working can have a direct impact on many of your key business metrics:
Costs are reduced by saving on office space and other office provisions;
Staff retention and a broader hiring pool with relocation no longer being a factor;
Commute times (and stress!) are reduced, offering staff more time to be productive at work, as well as opportunities for meaningful activities before or after the work day.
There’s no doubt that when people have a better work-life balance, we are happier and more productive as a result.
But managing a remote workforce is an entirely different ball game and, when the time is right for you, it helps to know what you are getting into.
Having a remote workforce does bring in the complexity of securing your data and managing how your team accesses that data from locations outside of your complete control.
Your team and business needs to remain as efficient and productive with access to their line of business applications and other tools and resources they would normally have access to while at the office.
The cloud definitely enables your business to function with a dispersed team but it also has a myriad of services that ensure your data and users are secure while working.
Solutions like Microsoft Teams, Exchange Online, SharePoint and OneDrive all ensure that your data and communications are encrypted and secured to industry leading standards;
whilst Windows Defender, Advanced Threat Protection, Multi-factor Authentication and Azure AD are some of the applications and systems that keep your staff secure and compliant;
and Microsoft InTune is also a wonderful tool to ensure compliance across your users and devices.
We also thought of some illustrative ways that can help kick-start your team's ideas in easing the transition to connecting from outside of the office:
Save files to the cloud so you can co-author within the Microsoft 365 suite of products. Each team member should save individual documents and drafts in their allocated OneDrive account, where files are private by default but can be shared either with people in the organisation or outside - depending on your policies. Staff can also make use of shared document spaces in the Teams or SharePoint sites where your group works.
Rather than ping-ponging versions of the same document across email, share links to those OneDrive docs to make sure everyone’s always collaborating on the latest version of a document and no one is left behind.
Use Teams to its fullest. We tell people to think of Teams as a virtual office. Hold every call and meeting on Teams (and if some of you are attending from the same room, just be sure to mute!). Use channels, rather than email or group chats, to maintain transparency during team-level conversations.
For the human touch, turn on your camera (and make use of office-appropriate backgrounds and filters) to connect during meetings.
Use Live Events for larger gatherings.
If your organisation allows, record meetings to listen to and access the transcript later.
Teams meetings aren’t just for official work-related conversations. Use a Teams meeting for your informal “coffee break” or a chat with a missed colleague - and use the opportunity to play around with some of the more fun features of the platform.
Enabling a team to work remotely is an ongoing challenge, and we get that this challenge is different for every organisation. Give us a shout if you'd like to explore how you can simulate your company work (and play!) culture into your virtual office.